In a previous blog I mentioned helping others. I did kind things and encouraged them. I tried to love people—that was genuine—but sometimes for the wrong reasons.
Although unconscious of the truth, I served them because I wanted their acceptance and love. I believe they needed and often benefited from what I did, but this is an attempt to be candid about misperceptions about myself.
My friend and a man with whom I wrote two books, Gary Roe, has also struggled with some of the same issues. “I was afraid of what other people thought, afraid they wouldn’t like me, or worse, I feared their anger.” He added, “I also worried that if I didn’t do whatever I could to make them happy, they’d abandon me like many others in my life. If I performed well, their response would get me what I needed.”
I needed to be loved. Helping them made me feel worthwhile or significant. I became so enmeshed in taking care of others, I had few thoughts about self-care.
I still help individuals when I can, but my motive is improving: I do what I can because it’s the right thing to do. Now I see it as a privilege and opportunity to share what I have and not to gain anything from them.
That change began one day when I felt worn out from helping and asked my wife, “Would people still like me if I didn’t do nice things for them?”
“But that’s who you are.” She added that it was my nature to help. Even though I spoke about my need to give so they would value me, she said, “But it’s still who you are—you care. You give of yourself.”
Shirley’s affirmation pulled me back to reality. My motives weren’t always pure, but I was still doing what I could for others.
Since then, I’ve realized I truly, genuinely want to help others. I gain deep satisfaction from that.
And as my wife said, it’s who I am.