I was feeling nostalgic. I cleared out the middle of my bedroom floor. I mustered up enough strength to pull a large, blue, 50-gallon plastic tote from the back of my closet. This tote contains some of my most prized possessions including autographed sports memorabilia, my vast coin collection, photo albums, and so on. I put everything in this tote following a house fire when I was nineteen years old. I rarely took these items out of this tote. Part of it was the convenience factor of keeping it all together during the frequent moves associated with my college years. The other part of me thought it was cool to have a designated box for this kind of stuff.
So there I was sitting Indian style of my bedroom floor sifting through my collection. A flood of memories and sentimental moments sprawled out in front of me. Moving through the pile one item stood out. I looked down and picked it up. It was my college application essay I wrote for my senior year English class. To this day, it was my favorite personal essay to date and for several reasons. I hated English throughout high school, and I received high praise from my English teacher for that essay. He told me that he bragged to the other teachers about it. After I spoke to him one-on-one after getting my grade back, I could see why. I poured my heart into that essay. I wrote that essay during a a particularly tumultuous time in my life. That essay though was a testament to my true self. Reading over it provided a much needed reminder of who I was and am. Even amid tough times and life’s chaos, I put others ahead of myself. I found peace of mind in helping others. It helped me to help others.
People greatly underestimate the power of helping out a fellow human being. When it comes to self-care, being there for others carries with it extraordinary benefits.
- Building social connections. Human beings are social creatures. Dating back to our ancestors, we relied on each to hunt, gather, and for support. Nowadays, we depend on each other even on a basic level for someone to deliver food to the local grocery store or for someone to ring us up at the cash register. By helping someone else out, you now share a common experience. You shared a happy moment together and one that could lead to something bigger in the long run. You also never know when you might need the favor reciprocated.
- It’s contagious. This is best reflected by the idea of “paying it forward.” The concept is that when you perform a good deed that the recipient of said good deed will pass it along to the next person and so on. It spreads the mindset that goes from one person to the next.
- Sense of purpose and belonging. Altruistic behavior adds meaning to life. Foremost, when the decision is made to help someone, they demonstrate autonomy. An individual made a conscious, independent decision to assist. Often times individuals will seek out specific forms of help too. For instance, if my car starts making a noise, I am likely to ask my good friend who is a dealership mechanic for his expertise, or someone might seek my suggestions pertaining to mental health due to my counseling background. It provides the “giver” with a sense of competence when someone seeks out their knowledge, service, or assistance. It is nice to know that you are needed, providing a much needed boost to one’s self esteem.
- It feels good. Once they are engaging in the act of helping, I seldom see someone unhappy to be there for another. Smile and positive feelings ensue. This is because helping serves both as a selfish and selfless act. On one hand, the giver possesses their own motives including the aforementioned points of purpose, belonging, social connections, and the contagious mindset. The other individual is on the receiving end of a good deed. It feels good to help and to be helped.
Help someone in order to help yourself.
-The Caring Counselor