How to Go from Rescuing to Helping and Why It Matters

Issue 16. March 17, 2023 ✨ Higher Power Coaching & Consulting

Photo credit: Barb Nangle

When I first got  into recovery, I started to realize there was a continuum of helpfulness where one end was dysfunctional and the other was functional. Those two extremes of the continuum were easy for me to see, but I was lost when it came to where you cross the line in the middle.

Where do you cross the line from helping to rescuing?

I learned that it had to do with my motives. It wasn’t my behavior, necessarily, but why I was doing it. Someone suggested that I was being helpful so people would think I was helpful. I rejected that at first, but then realized – wait, that’s actually true!

I was helping to be helpful, for sure, but much of the time I was being helpful because I didn’t want people think badly of me. This was news to me!

When we do something for the purpose of getting people to think certain things of us (like that we’re helpful, generous, or “nice” which is what I used to think was my motivation – I was “nice”) that’s a called manipulation.

When I came to understand that I was being manipulative I was aghast! “OMG, I’m a horrible person! I manipulate people!”

I eventually realized that this was a pattern developed in childhood that served me back then, but  was no longer serving me as an adult. I was being inauthentic with others. And I was being dishonest as well. I want to be a woman of integrity, so this behavior had to change.

When I said yes to volunteering for things I didn’t really have the bandwidth for, that was dishonest. When I said no to things I really wanted to do because I didn’t want to disappoint others, that was dishonest.

Once I became aware of these patterns, I held myself accountable for it. Now, when I have the impulse to help, I ask myself, “Do I really want to do this?” If the answer is yes, then I ask myself why. If my motives are pure, then I go ahead and do it. If the answer is no, I don’t do it. I have my own back and follow through for myself on things I really want to do, and say no to things I don’t.

If you want more energy in your life, stop trying to rescue, fix and save people. That’s draining. Helpfulness is not draining. That’s another clue to figure out if you’re being helpful and kind

or manipulative and rescuing – do I get drained from providing help? Or energized?

Another clue is to ask yourself if the other person is meeting you at least halfway. If you’re more invested in their lives than they are, it’s a rescue mission! And rescuing is about you, it’s not about them. You’re trying to make yourself feel better, either by projecting an image of yourself, or you’re trying to keep the focus off yourself and your own problems.

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