There are many women I know who are natural helpers. They intuitively see a need and take the brave, kind step to meet it. I see it in the smallest ways when my daughter helps her brothers find their shoes or wallet. And I see it in beautiful friendships and marriages – a woman giving of herself for the benefit of others.
It’s a privilege to be on the receiving end of a woman who helps. There have been countless times, when women friends have offered to bring a meal, watch my kids, help paint my house, share wisdom and encouragement, or give me a ride.
I think it’s just innate in women, perhaps something that’s been modeled to us through the years.
As a helper myself, though, I do see a potential downside to it all. Sometimes, when women are so busy looking for ways to help others, we don’t take time to think about or help ourselves. Over the long haul, if we only keep focusing on others, helping and pouring out, there comes a point where there is nothing left to give. We can feel burned out and empty, sometimes even resentful or insecure. That’s not a fun spot to live.
We often say, “You cannot give what you do not possess.” If you don’t have that strength or don’t feel loved yourself, it’s very hard to give love or be strong for others. There’s a part of me that believes that even in our own weakness or brokenness, something supernatural can shine through to bless others, but that’s not what I’d like to focus on here.
As someone who’s been traveling this life journey as a “helper,” I’ve noticed a few things along the way that have allowed my heart to stay not only happy, healthy, and confident, but to be able to keep giving to others. I realize that not all women fit this “helper-type” profile, but I think there some of these insights might apply to us all at different seasons of life or in particular relationships.
Have Confidence In Our Hobbies
I have always loved people, pictures, writing, music, and the outdoors. I love the concrete things in front of me and the meaningful experiences created from them. I’ve met women with all kinds of hobbies – including reading, birding, playing tennis, learning new languages, yoga, home decorating, fiddling, painting, writing, running, finding natural remedies, modeling, or following politics or professional sports.
While you might be like me and feel like your hobbies are not as glamorous as interests in scuba diving, international law, or ancient architecture, we should never belittle or deny them. Those hobbies are so important to who we are! Most of the time, it’s impossible not to do them, but helpers often put aside their own interests for the interests of others – especially during the early years of motherhood. But while there might be seasons of life when we do not have as much time to pursue them, we should not table them completely.
These are the things that feed our soul and allow us to breathe deeply. We usually feel recharged from them. They keep us learning, growing, and connecting with others.
These hobbies and interests are also those things that could lead to new opportunities – professionally or relationally. Most people like doing business with others who share common interests. Also, many new businesses springboard from these things we are most passionate about.
Helpers need to give themselves permission to pursue their hobbies.
Take Care of Your Family, Including Your Marriage
I used to try and volunteer to help out whenever I saw a need arise. As a single woman, I had more time to do these things. I would make time to get together with many people, all throughout the week. And so I carried that habit into our marriage.
But there are only so many hours in a day or week, and I learned quickly, that in order to keep a strong marriage and have that feeling of connectedness as a family unit, I couldn’t be running around committed to so many groups or stepping in to help at every whim. It was coming at a cost to those I held most dear. Over time, I learned to find the ways I could help that did not add an extra burden to our family or to look for situations where we could all help together.
I remember one season of life when I thought it was my main mission in life to make my husband happy. We had just moved to a different state, I had left my career and was pregnant with our first baby. I was already feeling unstable in my identity, but instead of taking that time to figure out life and myself again, I just focused on Don. “What can I help you with, Dear?” Well, that wasn’t really healthy for me.
Over time, when we do that as helpers, I feel like we become a non-person, a shell of a woman.
Marriages work best when there is mutual respect for each other. When we are learning, growing, and doing cool things, our confidence and self-respect grows. Husbands notice. When we helper-types invest in ourselves, we are also investing in our marriage.
The same parallels can be made for our role as mothers. We can best inspire our children to learn and grow when we model it for them, when they see us getting excited about and making time for our own interests.
It’s Okay to Be Passionate About Helping Others
So let’s say you aren’t passionate about making gourmet cupcakes, coding, or earning a PhD in biomedical engineering, and in general might just have a hard time articulating your hobbies, interests, or passions. What do you do? I’ve been there. I remember reading a book once about pursuing my dreams. I thought, “Well, if I could just figure out what my dream was, I’d love to go after it!”
And from what I’ve noticed, this is common among women who are “helpers.” Either we genuinely don’t have many big dreams, or we don’t feel confident enough to label them as things we could be passionate about.
I really believe that for us helper-types, though, we are “designed” to help. We’re wired to do it. And to find real satisfaction and purpose and fulfillment in helping.
And I think that is a beautiful thing. There are many amazing things we can pursue as helpers. I’ve been able to grow a business by helping others launch their own businesses! Many helpers start non-profit organizations that make a significant impact on their community. Other women helpers use their natural interests and expertise to offer training, advice or services as a business.
I just think it’s important for women helpers to truly understand the value of the help they offer, and to know that it is their choice to offer it and can even charge for it. Then it can be rewarding to all involved for the long-haul.