I’ve been helping someone.
And helping. And helping.
And now I seriously want to stop.
You might think, Nilofer, girlfriend — this is easy: Say NO to the next request, and be done. But, you see, I’m in conflict.
I like seeing myself as a generous, helpful, and kind person. There have been times in my life where I walked over or on people in order to get what I wanted. Really. I didn’t like who I had become. I was often ‘right’ and driven, and successful….but I wasn’t kind. So I made some huge changes in my life — most of which I haven’t shared on this blog, but perhaps one day — and for 10 years now, my intention is on being kind and compassionate and generous with these gifts that I’ve been given. Success” was redefined from money alone to a state of being. And, being generous fits that idea of who I want to be.
So this person I met several years ago at a conference has been asking me for advice to help save something near and dear to her. I’ve treated her like I do friends; helping where I can. Plus, I had ideas of what to do… so that kind of worked for me. I gave advice. But then I got asked again. And again. Each time I got called on, the needs were greater. I moved my schedule. I juggled other priorities. I connected resources that I had fully vetted so other people could get paid for helping, while I did not. I set out a strategy, developed an action plan, organized resources, and then thought I was done. But then I started getting emails from this person’s telling me I was going to do more. Yet, no note of thanks from “my friend” saying thanks for the generous time and great advice.
I knew then that something was amiss, but I still felt conflicted. I was asking myself: When is it enough? When does doing a favor stop being about kindness and start being about a doormat? I’ve been asking myself that question for the last five days, and today an incredibly wise friend offered an answer (in the form of a question):
Are you getting your own work done?
During these last few weeks where I have been saying yes to others’ projects, my two nascent ideas have been ignored. Without me championing them, tending them and helping them come to life, they likely will never see the light of day. The ideas, unlike children, cannot even cry out for attention. They have no voice yet. They need me to care about them. And I’ve not been. I’ve been caring about someone else’s passions and not my own.
Yet everybody’s work is equally important. Even my own. Even your own.