Helping others while helping yourself
One of the painful realities of living with depression and anxiety is that far too often we get lost in our own distorted reality. We frame up the events and people around us in a manner that leaves us believing we are the victims of a world that is out to get us or that those who are closest to us just don’t get it and don’t care about us. I can almost hear my old depressed brain as I type this saying, “they just don’t get how terrible I feel” or “why bother trying to change when nothing goes my way anyway” or my old fall back “people and the world suck so screw it.” That last one drove the bus a lot more than I care to admit. But that last one is also the one that once I realized the true belief behind it (which was I didn’t like myself, the way I was acting, or the way I perceived the world) was that one that really helped me. The problem was that at the time it was far easier to blame others rather than acknowledge my role.
So how can you begin to move out of your own self-centered beliefs about how terrible life is? One way I have experienced personally and seen demonstrated by guys here at Face It successfully, is to help others. And while this is obvious, you must be acutely aware of what it means to help others and to understand your motivations. Purely benevolent acts are quite common, but when you’re operating from the toxic mindset of depression and anxiety, benevolence might be down the reason list for doing things. But that is okay! What is important is to begin to act in an outward manner, i.e. get outside of yourself and do something. This might be as simple as offering up a ride to a friend who doesn’t drive, helping someone out with $5.00, or just smiling and saying hello to a stranger.
If your reason for doing these things is to get noticed by others, to prove to yourself you’re a good person, or to prove that humanity is not lost, well I would be careful. Because in any of the examples above things might not go as planned. The friend might forget to say thank you for the ride, the person you loaned money to may never pay you back, and the stranger on the sidewalk might not return the smile or greeting. That’s life and these things happen.
But, if you’re trying to do kind things because helping others is important to you, because you’ve seen others find some joy in helping others, or maybe even more importantly because you just feel better about who you are when helping others, than have at it! Learning to let the act/deed be enough, without attaching expectations to it is a very important part of moving beyond your own self-serving ways. I have seen MANY men who live behind the pain of depression and anxiety who fail to see just how much they’ve framed up a world that owes them.
When we believe we deserve things such as happiness, a good job, a loving partner, obedient kids, etc. and those things don’t materialize, well the outcome is often one very pissed off dude who can’t look to himself as a source of the issue. I mean after all “they just don’t get how terrible I feel, and nothing goes my way so why change and see I am right, people and the world suck, so screw it all.” This is an ugly place to live.
My hope for you is that you can feel the joy in helping others just for the sake of helping others.