I am addicted to helping other people. Doesn’t sound like an awful thing, right? Not always, no. But when one takes on more than they can handle, not being able to say no can become a problem. You know when you go into an interview and the people on the other side of the table say “…so name one weakness”, and you might do the whole positive weakness like too honest, or works too hard – don’t use an addiction to helping others as your “weakness”, because after several years of being the person who will put everything but his own needs as a priority, I’ve gathered enough experience to tell you what it’s like to be a person who craves helping everybody else’s, and why it’s not worth it being me.
I know there’s a lot of people out there who would be the same, someone mentions they need help with something, and sure what harm is it in helping, right? I realised very quickly last year, when as a Sociology class rep, that responding to roughly 25 emails and messages the night before my exam might not be the best thing for myself – I think I spent more time helping people with their study than my own that day, and the sad thing is that I was happy to do it. I would have liked to have prioritise my study, but I couldn’t and I do think that’s a problem. But this whole giving up time for others, isn’t so I can give myself a pat on the back, or a whole doing a good job so it can be on the CV – it’s purely an obligation or an addiction to making sure that other people are happy.
It sounds nice, but it takes its toll – you help others until you physically can’t do it anymore, and even at that you’ll try to keep going. Raise & Give Week was that time for me recently, I skipped meals and eating so I could shake a bucket and raise as much money as possible, and I did raise a good bit – but come Wednesday morning I came down with a miserable flu, and as much as I tried I couldn’t do it anymore, I couldn’t bring myself into college, and I was so annoyed with myself. In hindsight, being annoyed with myself for stuff outside my control is a bit stupid (yeah, it was very stupid, but not as stupid as skipping meals), but I just didn’t want to be the person who had to disappoint someone and say I just can’t do it, I can’t help you. I was at the UCC Works Award ceremony last Wednesday, and all I could think during it was that a large majority of the 300 people receiving awards were like me, addicted to doing things they don’t have to do. I was talking to someone who received five awards, and they were a student in a Med & Health course, and all I could think was wow, where do you find the time?
Why did I become like this? It’s kind of like an infection – I’ve grown up around people who are the same breed as me, and I’m convinced they’ve molded me into what I am. My dad is the prime example! My Dad works non-stop, like 7am every morning he’s up to go and do some job (at this point I should probably mention that he fixes boats and the like), and isn’t home till 6pm a lot of days. As well as this, if I was going out or anything, he’d say to me do I need a lift home later or anything (which I recently availed of after the Clubs & Socs Ball). Being in an environment where someone was regularly looking out for others subliminally made me become that myself. Coming to UCC and meeting people who were also like this pushed me to be who I am, like I felt that I had to give back to those who helped me. So, when I went for the Express last year (I’m the Film & TV Editor if you don’t make to Byline), I mainly went for it to give back to Rob (the Editor) because he had helped me out in First Year – but I ended up liking the job, as much as there’s pressure on me sometimes.
In my head, it kind of freaks me out that I might fill that role of influencing others to be like me. During the SU elections this year, the idea that three people wanted to replace me worried me a bit, because you come out the other side of this (well for me as CACSSS Rep anyway) a bit battered and bruised with bags under your eyes. I pushed myself to be there all the time for everyone, and while that might mean a few people think “that guy is sound enough for replying to my email,” if it means that I’ve caused other people to take on that burden of helping others too much I am so sorry. It’s nice that people like helping, but the thought of them having to do the likes of class rep elections for around 180 classes, just gives myself stress, it’s too much on one person. It will torment you, and I was happy to do it – I was happy to spend the first half of my semester torturing myself over which classes had reps or not, and getting to know them. At the end of the day people do appreciate effort put into things, but when it goes to a level where you can’t stop until you’re happy (and level isn’t reached much) there’s just no point.
We do this because we make ourselves think we like it, but I always feel like the only reason I do so much is because I can’t stand disappointing others, or seeing them under stress, and other negative emotions. That’s lovely, but it’s transferring the issues they had onto you, and even the strongest minded of us can’t hold all of this. You can be this person if you want to be, and you will meet so many like-minded people (which has been the main positive out of all this), yet it’s a question of can you ever tell yourself to stop? I seek out those in need of help, because I couldn’t imagine them unhappy, and I feel that I’m obligated to help. This isn’t a choice of whether I want to be this person, I’m in too deep now, but it is a choice for most of you out there – if you think “I’d like to get involved”, where does the line stop when you’re involved enough because I don’t think I’ll ever reach that line.