I’m the son of a helper. Son of helpers to be more accurate. Let me explain…
Every group of struggling people tends to have a group that is trying to help that population of people. Some work to help the unsaved or the unchurched, some the homeless, some Guatemalan kids and some less fortunate kids. To those being helped, helpers are heroes.
For me, I was born to the helpers of “at-risk youth”. As the son of helpers, I grew up learning to help kids who were struggling with the difficult years of adolescence and who were hurting.
As a result, of being Son of a Helper
Growing up with a lot of subtle hints that, because I wasn’t a member of the group that needed help. I wasn’t really a priority or a part of the passionate pursuit of helping “at-risk youth.” I was a little less important because I wasn’t in the group that my parents were called to help. I was fine, right?
This led to me being comfortable with being deprioritized. While some like me turn to substances or to running from the population that needed my parents or internalizing the deprioritization by being a son of a…well…son of a something else. I chose (yes chose) to just live my life not needing anything from anyone else. My needs weren’t important and I looked at myself as unimportant and undeserving of help. Sadly, as I’ve gotten older, I haven’t been as good at denying that I need anything…or anyone. That part sucked.
In my quest for resolution, I came across the latest attempt to help others – and there are a plethora of latest and greatest attempts – self compassion. My experience with self compassion hasn’t been what I thought it would be. When I started, it sounded great. Meet yourself where you’re at and learn to feel empathy towards yourself and towards your experiences.
The thing is, I’d become so comfortable with deprioritizing myself that I’d taught most of the people in my life to be comfortable with deprioritizing me as well. I’m not unsaved or unchurched, not homeless, nor less fortunate, I’m not “at-risk” and I’m certainly not Guatemalan. I’m just a son of a helper who, at times, dabbles in being a son of a something else. I had and still have no reference for prioritizing myself or allowing others to prioritize me. It just feels awkward and uncomfortable and unnatural. It’s easier to just be a son of a something else and keep others believing that you don’t need anyone or anything…until you do.
Self-compassion sucks. It comes with needs and wants and boundaries and conflict and loss of some relationships. And it doesn’t quite suffice for the compassion of those that care about you most; but don’t know how to prioritize you when you’ve taught them not to and that you don’t need them or anything from them.
If you know the child of a helper, please take a moment in their life to make them a priority. They’ll react badly. Do it anyway. Teach them that they don’t need to be unchurched or unsaved or homeless or less fortunate or “at-risk” or Guatemalan to be a priority to you. It’ll mean the world to them…someday; hopefully soon. Their parents chose to be helpers. They didn’t always get a vote and you may be able to give them a voice and a chance and a reference point. With a little luck, their kids will grow up being comfortable being the child of a helper – and a priority. Thanks for reading my unofficial and unrequested TED talk on being a son of a helper who sometimes settles for being a son of a something else.