In our day and age, many people do not see a distinction between being kind to other people and being a doormat. The idea that anyone should consider other people’s needs or best interests above their own when making decisions seems opposed to the notion of empowering ourselves to make choices that get us what we want. From every side, we hear the demand for rights and freedom; we almost never hear a call for us to lay down our “self” in order to raise someone else up.
Often a cry to serve the needs of the poor or to help the less fortunate includes a utilitarian invitation to feel better because of your “selflessness” in helping. Actually, helping others is tiring, costly, and thankless. If you think that helping others will make you feel really good and energized and will repay you with gratitude and respect, you may become deeply disappointed. You may have to wait a long time if your only reason to help is to get something out of it personally. If your goal is to get an ego boost or to try to win respect or love from someone, what if you get nothing in return? Do you do it again? How would you decide?
Helping others, with self in mind, will probably neither help self, nor help others. Helping others with a focus on your own neediness will confuse your inner motivations and the aims of your efforts, so that you might not be able to tell the difference between helping and hurting. Helping others without a focus on self is born from a confidence not based on how people respond to you, but solely based on what is truly going to help. When it is not about you, the help you give is based on appropriately meeting that other’s need—the only real way to actually do good for others.
Too many people serve others because they think that it will gain them the respect and love that they need as a human being. Such thinking is only a step away from believing that if they don’t do what someone else tells them, they won’t be lovable or accepted for who they are. When people think and act this way, they are subsuming their identity, their initiative, and their aspirations into the will of someone else, rather than exercising their own free will to confidently choose what is needed, no matter what. The first type of person is acting more like a doormat; the second, a kind and self-assured helper.