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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Friendships: Are You Helping Your Friend Or Enabling Bad Behavior?

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Nataliya Davis
Nataliya Davishttps://nataliyaspen.contently.com/
Nataliya Davis is a website Content Writer and Social Media Management Specialist. Writing short stories, poems and mental health and wellness-based content is something that she's loved to do since she was a child. She lives in New Port Richey FL and loves to watch psychological thrillers and YouTube videos during her spare time.

For most of us, it’s instinctual to want to go out of our way to help our friends and family. They mean the world to us, and we want the best for them. If we can do anything to help them most of the time we would go out of our way to do this in a moment’s notice. However, is this the best response in every situation, for all of our friends and family? Sometimes the act of helping them can be to their detriment and your own. In this article, we will go through some ways you could be enabling bad behaviors and how to avoid doing so.

We all have that one friend or family member who constantly needs something from us, whether that be a place to stay, money, advice, or extra time and energy toward a situation. Looking at the history we share with the person, your love for them, and the need that they have, most of the time you don’t think twice about helping them. However, you’ve noticed that their inquiries have become more frequent and the demands a lot heavier. You may have found yourself in situations where you didn’t want to do something but felt like if you didn’t oblige they would be upset, disappointed, or in a situation they couldn’t get themselves out of. Knowing you had the ability to help would weigh on you when deciding what you should do. Some emotions you could have been feeling in moments like this can range from guilt, anxiety, obligation and fear. With the people that we love, we tend to take on the idea that If you don’t do things for them you aren’t a good friend or family member. This thought can begin to weigh on us, making it easier for us to submit to the requests of the person asking.

Does deciding not to over-invest in the lives of friends and family mean you completely abandon them? Certainly not. Ways you can help out the people in your life without overextending yourself is through encouragement. Let the individual come up with a plan on how to fix their problem, and you can do your best to encourage them verbally to reach their goals. By doing this you aren’t leaving the person without support, but you aren’t directly fixing the problem for them either. 

Once the person has come up with a plan to help themselves, you can be a source of comfort by stating things like: “You’ve got this.” “You are strong.” “Don’t give up.” “You will figure everything out, just give it time.” 

Togetherness and helping your friend
Togetherness and helping your friend.

Despite this information, you may still be worried, thinking “what if they get upset at me because of my refusal to help them?” Most friends or family members who are used to receiving assistance or handouts in any capacity are likely to feel a certain way about you distancing yourself, it’s something to expect. However, try to think about it this way, the less you help them the more they learn to help themselves. Which is ultimately what you would want for them anyway! Will the transition be hard at first? Yes! You will struggle with indifferent feelings on your decision, but it will be rewarding to know that you offer less help will force them to make their own decisions in their own work to see results.

Another concern you may have is, what if while helping your friend he/she directly confronts you as to why you have stopped doing certain things for them? You may wonder how you would handle such a situation. In this case, the best way to handle this is honestly. Express to them how you are mentally and physically drained from taking on more of other people’s lives than your own, by being apart of situations that don’t directly involve you. You can honestly explain to them how doing this has affected you over time. This could cause the person to understand they may have overstepped a boundary and stop asking you for favors or over-extended support. Not every friend or family member will respond this way though. You will have some people who respond to you in a begrudging or frustrated manner. You will have people who will feel entitled to your help because they have been getting it from you for a long time. They aren’t used to you telling them no. 

In either scenario, you have to remember to do what’s best for your mental and physical well-being no matter how they respond.

Part of this transition is learning to value yourself more. A reason why we may enable others is a people-pleasing mentality we could have developed due to trauma, or other things. After you have cleared your plate of other people’s problems, take the newfound time and space in your brain to focus on yourself. It’s time to really focus on self-care and de-stressing! Do the things you want to do, relax, catch up on your hobbies and try to maintain a clear mind as best as you can. 

If you are trying to understand yourself better, analyze the possibility that you could have been giving more to others than you have yourself, and try to make up for that lost time. If you’d like to learn more about tendencies you have in enabling and people-pleasing,  it would be a good decision to go to counseling to best understand your mentality, and how you can focus on putting yourself first instead of others. The type of qualities you may possess may be helpful to others, but detrimental to yourself. Overextending yourself can be a sign of low self-esteem. Not being able to say no, or having fear of other people’s reactions to you setting boundaries. It’s important to recognize over being overly present for friends and family we can loose our sense of self very easily, becoming consumed in the lives of others. To avoid doing so set boundaries and stick to them. You will be helping yourself, and setting your friends and family up for personal growth and self-improvement!

Share your thoughts about friendships and other ways of helping your friend below!

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