How To Help Yourself When You Can’t Help Others

For this article by Jo Ilfeld, Executive Leadership Coach on help yourself first the image shows a young Black woman smiling and looking in the mirror.

Have you ever had someone come to you for your help, and you really wanted to but weren’t sure how? It can be challenging when you genuinely want to lend a hand but realize you’re not in a position to do so. It can weigh on you. So how can you look at things in situations like this so you can help yourself and not feel frustrated or powerless?

One concept I want to share with you that I have found to be helpful is the notion of different buckets: “my bucket,” “your/other’s bucket,” and “God’s/nature’s bucket.” This perspective, inspired by Byron Katie, recognizes that suffering arises when we attempt to interfere with matters that belong to someone else’s or the realm of nature. Acknowledging the limits of what we can control and where our influence lies can be immensely liberating. It helps us recognize that not all problems are ours to solve, allowing us to focus our energy on what we can genuinely impact.

Another tip is to effectively communicate your boundaries to those asking for help. While you may genuinely care about others and want to be useful, it’s crucial to make it clear that your support may involve listening, helping them plan their next steps, and considering alternatives. However, intervening and taking responsibility for their challenges falls into their respective buckets. By setting these expectations, you can establish healthy boundaries while still offering valuable guidance.

Read More: Self-compassion Is Hard

Jo Ilfeld, PhD

An executive leadership coach, Jo helps C-suite leaders, executives, and high-potential managers develop the flexibility, skill, and frame of mind to meet the challenges of the next five, ten, twenty years…. and beyond. She works with individuals, teams and organizations on four core areas of leadership development. Check out Jo's bio page for more information.

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