Altruism 2.0 for Helper Professionals

al·tru·ism

ˈaltro͞oˌizəm/

Noun

  • the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others.

When I started my private practice I wanted to help everyone. I defined helping others as my highest purpose at the time and had a stop-at-nothing/ heal-everyone-who-walked-through-my-door philosophy. I developed ways so everyone, from every walk of life, could afford my services. I worked long hours after my regular day to interpret lab tests, sacrificed seeing my friends and family, and skipped working out so I could help patients heal. I thought, “If I don’t do all of these things to help my patients, who will?” I convinced myself that if I didn’t help them, they might end up suffering.

I ended up tired and overworked, and as a result started to suffer from serious adrenal fatigue from not working out and working too long of hours. I was also barely getting by because I had made so many financial concessions for people so they could afford my services. The day I experienced resent in relation to a client was the big signal I needed to make a change– I was in self-sabotage mode and didn’t realize it. My philosophy of altruism was backfiring on me. I thought, “Wait a minute… I want my patients to be healthy more than they do; I can’t want it more than them– my wants aren’t their wants or needs!”

Can you relate? If you feel like you might be reaching your tipping point, it might be a good time to ask yourself if your Gandhi-like, altruistic philosophy is sabotaging or enlightening your personal growth.

Now that I’ve been consulting for almost two decades, I realize that all of us helper professionals go through this at some point (or points) in our careers. I consider it a beacon that signals us to explore what’s truly going on inside, whether that be something we might be avoiding or wanting to close off, or something we just don’t feel like dealing with at the time. In this way, self-sabotage can be enlightening. That is, if we identify it as such and transform it.

Lucky for us, self-awareness and self-care are in. We know we need to attune to our own needs to fully be of service to others. Where our learning curve remains is how to maintain this balance. Our passion-driven, innate wish to help everyone we can must be tempered by our commitment to ourselves to care for our health the way we care for others. If we stick to our self-care guns, yet remain open and flexible, knowing that helping others and being of selfless service will generously flow.

‘Balancing Selflessness and Altruism with Self-Care’ Toolkit

Ask yourself these questions:

Do I want it more than they do? Whatever your helper-profession may be, this is a great check-in if you’re feeling push-back or if you sense your own needs may be suffering at the expense of helping others. It may sound like a no-brainer, but many of us are in denial about this– the denial can often show up as avoidance. We avoid taking care of ourselves or looking inward “for the greater good of others.” But, how “good” can we really be towards others if we’re not being good to ourselves?

Am I being good to me? Letting go of ego, being selfless and helping others is noble, but not at the expense of your own health. Even more, it’s a form of professional irresponsibility. Yes, we’re all going to get busy, but if we forego our own wellness, the commitment we vowed towards when we entered our self-help professions ultimately goes to shit.

Am I a highly sensitive person, aka, a HSP? Both a strength and a weakness often observed by this “temperament” or personality type is that of being overly altruistic– always putting others needs before his or her own. If you find yourself overflowing with a giving nature, yet also moody, tired and “overly” sensitive, this might be you. By nurturing your own sensitivities with self-care you can likely hone your ability to be perceptive to other’s needs intuitively.

How have you cultivated balance between a giving-it-your-all philosophy and a giving-it-what-you-need mentality in your professional lifestyle? Start a discussion below in our comments!

Christine has dedicated her career to helping others understand the science of happiness and its powerful effects on everyday human health by harnessing the power of the epigenetic landscape. She is available for both private and professional consultations. Please contact her here.

Artwork by Michelle Favin of Whys LA for Poppy & Seed. Connect with her @whyslosangeles.

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