More on help with my thing

I’ve written before about people who ask for “help with my thing”, and my own (incorrect) assumption that you can “earn” help and support by valuing other people’s time and not pulling too much bullshit.

Back then, I said I was planning to limit the amount of stuff I do to help with other people’s things. This hasn’t worked because I found it so hard to know where to draw the line.

What’s prompted this return to the topic? Well, last week I tried again to do a “thing”. I’ll spare readers the details. Suffice to say I put a huge amount of effort into it, because it was my thing. But I only got a tiny amount of the support I was hoping for.

Some people helped me organise and promote the event. Some people were there on the night, or sent apologies and good-luck wishes. Some people thanked me afterwards or contacted me to ask how it went. And if you drew a Venn diagram of those groups, you’d be dealing with a lot of overlap and a tiny handful of names. Most people I know just ignored the event completely.

I tried hard to be outwardly positive and focus on the many good aspects of the situation: great venue, brilliant speaker, appreciative audience. I chaired the meeting with a smile on my face and did an upbeat write-up the next day. But inwardly I was devastated.

I don’t want to take a point-scoring, tit-for-tat approach to support. My voluntary work is in a world with a culture of teamwork and sharing and cooperation. Point-scoring seems silly, not least because keeping track is exhausting: “You helped at my stall on the fair but then I helped you deliver those leaflets but you wouldn’t write a blog post for me…”

But I realised that my own hurt feelings were coming from the assumption that there should be some reciprocity, some fairness, whether you want to call it point-scoring or not. The people I was expecting to be there, or to shout about it on my behalf, were mostly people who had received similar help from me in the recent past (one of them the very same day).

My energy (emotional and physical) is finite. I think I would be healthier and happier if I stopped running myself ragged trying to support everything I’m asked to support. And limiting my support to the people who support me in the things that matter most to me seems as good a way as any of doing this.

The concept of finite-ness even applies, in a smaller way, to Twitter. I’ve gained followers through being interesting. Every time I RT someone who’s boring just because I think I “should” support them, I draw on the finite goodwill of my own followers and risk losing them. Why the hell should I do that for anyone who wouldn’t do the same for me?

Maybe I’ll be the poorer for this decision. But I’m going to try it. Shit just got reciprocal, people.

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One Comment on “More on help with my thing”


  1. […] Ultimately I think it’s just about having a fundamentally different atttitude to people’s time, attention and communication. If you only ask for help very occasionally, when it’s something that’s really important to you, you’re going to take other people’s requests for help more seriously because you “know” that asking for this kind of help is something that people only do when it’s important. And you’re going to be gutted when your own requests for help are met with indifference. […]


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