In the UK in 2020, 750,000 people signed up to join the “volunteer army” to support the NHS, and many more stepped up to support their neighbours and communities during the pandemic. Maybe you were one of them?

As a psychologist and coach I’m fascinated by people who love to help and be useful to others.

Do you know someone who puts other people first, or goes out of their way to do things for others, even at the expense of their own wellbeing?

I call this type of person the “Super-Helper”. Perhaps you are a Super-Helper or you know someone who is?

 

Identifying the “Super-Helper”

 

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You spend lots of time supporting others in myriad ways.

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You feel guilty taking time out for yourself.

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You often put other's needs before your own.

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You sometimes give too much of yourself, or your time, and feel stretched.

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You find it hard to say 'no'

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You rarely voice your own needs.

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You prefer to ask the other person how they are feeling than talk about yourself.

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Other people turn to you when they are in a crisis

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You tend to take things personally and find it hard to relax or unwind.

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You’re super self-critical and feel you ‘ought to be doing more for others' or 'should be coping much better’.

 

If you ticked four or more from this list you can probably identify with the Super-Helper.

To verify this, it’s likely that someone in your life has told you to stop offering to do so much for others. Your response was something like: “But I like helping others”, “It’s nothing really”, or “Anyone else would do the same”.

Over the last twenty years I have come across a lot of people (mostly women) like this in my work. The sad irony is, that these are the people who need support the most, yet they are the least likely to seek it, and even less likely to ask for it.

 

How can you support the Super-Helper?

 

Don’t wait for them to ask you for help. Instead, offer your support frequently and gladly.

While they might say  “Oh I’m fine” when you ask them how they are, gently probe if you think there’s something going on.

You could offer them support. If you ask how they are, they are likely to divert the attention back to you, so try to ask specific questions about them and their life. This is best done in a one-one conversation.

Take time to really listen to their answer and to probe, because they’ll be busy painting a rose-tinted picture. Not because they like to lie, but because they don’t want to depress you with the reality of their stress or anxiety,

Try demonstrating your acknowledgement and, or appreciation for what they do, by doing something lovely for them or sending them a thoughtful gift.

 

 

If you are a Super-Helper…

 

Allow yourself to take a break. Find something to take your mind off your worries and you will find it easier to relax.

Remind yourself that having your own needs is not a weakness; to acknowledge them is actually a strength.

Take time to reflect or journal on what is important to you and what it is you need in order to satisfy your own wellbeing. (You might not know what you ‘need’ because you are not used to being asked what you need or asserting your wants, wishes or desires. This is normal for Super-Helpers).

You could draw yourself a bath, and instead of worrying about all the things you could be doing in that time, allow yourself to sit back and relax.

You could contact someone you love and trust and ask them to listen to you while you off-load your stresses. But, remember that they are used to you asking how they are, and they might not have your expert listening skills. A really good friend will be patient and put your needs first.

 

Learning to help yourself 

It’d be wonderful if you could recognise the importance of giving yourself some of the love and attention that you generously share with others. You deserve it. You really do!

Giving yourself even more compassion and re-energising in this way will actually enable you to give more to others.

Depending on what you need right now, you can book yourself in for a free 15 minute one-one session to discuss how you feel and what you can do about it.

Or checkout my reels, videos and mini-blogs on Instagram here

P.S. It’s not selfish to meet your own needs, it’s essential.

 

There’s so much more that I want to say on this subject, which is why I’m writing a book – The Super-Helper Syndrome: A Survival Guide for Compassionate People. Coming in 2022!  

Jess Baker Psychologist Coach

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