Throughout my life, I’ve been the advice friend. The person you seek when you’re looking for a reality check, or you need someone to put you in your place. I’m basically the friend who isn’t going to say what you want to hear, but rather what you need to hear.
Unfortunately for me, that means I’m usually exerting more energy into everyone else’s problems than my own. Perhaps I do this for one of two reasons: I find whatever obstacles I may be facing as too difficult to want to make any attempts towards a resolution, or I take pride in being the unlicensed therapist for those in my life. It’s likely that both of these reasons play a factor in my quest to fix everyone else’s lives but my own.
I’m basically the friend who isn’t going to say what you want to hear, but rather what you need to hear.
Eventually, I started to notice the lack of attention towards my priorities had begun to have adverse affects on my life. I am usually anxious once the tasks begin to pile up, and do all that I can to avoid confronting them. It isn’t until the pressure or stress has built to the point of near combustion that I make a genuinely focused attempt at tackling these tasks. For example: the bills have been neglected long enough, the islands of clothing scattered across the room aren’t going to pick themselves up, and you still need a real job, etc. are all conscious thoughts that flow through my mind on a daily basis. But until the day comes where it all seems too overwhelming, I am more than welcoming of distractions.
I am usually anxious once the tasks begin to pile up, and do all that I can to avoid confronting them.
Something that I’ve learned from being in a long term relationship (as well as some shit friendships) is that you have every opportunity to learn about yourself. My initial thought is that by helping others, I can learn something knew about other perspectives and in turn, learn something about myself. Although that’s true, it can still be a draining experience.
The Telling Signs That You’re Doing Too Much
Reaching out to your friends for a nice vent is nothing short of cathartic, but if you’re somewhat empathetic and on the receiving end, then the frustration or stress that your friend is carrying does transfer. Now all of a sudden you’re heated for some reason that has nothing to do with you, and you find yourself racking your brain for any means of a solution. You then offer that solution up as an option for your friend to move forward.
The perfect scenario would be offering some guidance, the person takes it and actually follows through. If the result of that is absolutely horrible, then that’s on you, but now you know you probably aren’t warranted to give the advice you gave. If everything works out exactly as planned then hey, there’s the validation you and your judgment needed and your friend has built more trust in your problem solving abilities.
Sadly, not everyone wants to be helped, and not everyone is willing to accept the advice that’s been given. If a constant back and forth is at play with no progress to show from it, that is a clear sign that whatever you have to say has fallen on deaf ears.
There may be more of a complexity involved. Whoever you’re helping may genuinely agree with what you’re saying, but have the pride and confidence to see if they can handle it on their own—which is their right. The only relevant downside is if their judgement has been proven to lead them into self destructive situations in the past, and they have made it a habit to run to you in hopes of a resolution. If this is the case, that is another giveaway that you’re probably exerting more energy into this person and their issues than necessary. You may also be enabling their habit of relying on others to solve their problems for them.
Their actions following your diagnosis (ha therapist , remember?) could range from agreeing and accepting that advice—ultimately trusting your judgment as being better than theirs and move on, they could listen but not acknowledge the approach you’re taking in disagreement, or they will just hear you and do the exact opposite. None of these reactions are bad considering it isn’t your life, and it isn’t your business. The common denominator in these scenarios are that the chances of your friends asking for repeat service are high. Now, unless you had given some really shit advice in the past and they haven’t even attempted to reach out about their issues then this isn’t about you. This is for those who feel as if they’re constantly giving and leave their own needs neglected–that feel as if they listen to everyone else, but have no one to listen to them.
Being the unlicensed therapist is draining. Try to recognize that it’s okay to take a step back and say you cannot help. It’s not that you’re incapable of helping or that they’re incapable of receiving help—the timing might just be off. For the sake of my mental health, I had to re-prioritize what I was going to emotionally invest myself into. The frustration of witnessing someone you care about self sabotage whilst confiding in you constantly is in no way beneficial for anyone.
Not everyone wants to be helped, and not everyone is willing to accept the advice that’s been given.
Frankly, you can’t help anyone if you can’t help yourself. If you find yourself in the position of constantly giving but haven’t seen the effort reciprocated, give yourself the permission to let it go, allow them to learn in their own time, and take care of yourself. There are people who do want to reciprocate the amount of energy you give to others, and sometimes it requires disconnecting from the ones that drain you to find them.
I’m not saying to burn any bridges, but maybe building a little draw bridge won’t hurt. Everyone needs space after awhile, and if you can’t help yourself, how in the are you gon help anyone else?!