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Polite way to tell friends and family I can't help them all the time.


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Hi all, sorry this is a bit long and a bit of a rant.


I am 25 years old and for whatever reason feel as though I've reached my limited in helping people out. I almost feel as though the pressure of being a nice guy is starting to make me crack. I am by no means a push-over, but in many ways I feel as though I have a large amount of people who are dependent on me, and its getting to the point where I almost get mad when people ask me to do simple favours because, I only have so much to give.


I am currently living with my grandmother and have been since I started university. I love her, and think she is an amazing lady for being 93 and for the most part independent. However, I often come home from work (or what would have been school in previous years) with a just small things here and there that she needs help with. Yesterday for the first time I noticed some strange things going on with her health, so today I had to take the day off one of my jobs to take her into the doctor. It turns out she is ok, and im glad to help her out.


I have a few different jobs in which I have people who are constantly needing my attention and care. One of which is working at a seniors home where I work in physical rehabilitation, the other is coaching kids and teenagers at freestyle skiing and the last is working at an after school day care. All of these jobs I love, but its exhausting being compassionate all the time and I constantly have to have my guard on for others safety.


Because I have my life together I find my friends and family often turn to me for guidance, which, in many ways is an honour. My younger sister, who I care for, is a bit of a lost soul, she is becoming more independent but often needs my help with minor things in her life, I have told her to limit her asking my aid for important things because I can't always be there 100%. My friends often ask me for help as well, like nothing major, but I don't always have the energy for it, nor do I want to seem rude. I get frustrated because I have my stuff together, why can't they? A few months ago I went through a BU with a girl who I had been dating for 2 years, and I found when I turned to friends for some help it just turned into them needing my guidance in their lives.


I have a lot on my plate, as mentioned I work, I am in process of sorting grad school for next year, I am hoping to go traveling in the spring as well. So maybe that will give me a break from other people.


I guess I understand friends help each other out, but how can I be a little bit more selfish without burning friendships or coming off as rude?

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I think a lot of people have problems saying no. I think the best way to do this is to create boundaries with people. I know this sounds crazy but I think I was in a similar situation and if I tried to say "no" to someone, they would actually use some detail I might have told them about against me. I hope you get what I mean, it would be like this:


them: can you take me to the airport on sunday?

me: no. I can't I have my art class.

them: I know you don't like the teacher of that class, just blow it off.


That was a fake example but I think you get the gist. Now, I protect my personal time and how I spend it. I don't let people know where I am and what I am doing every second. It's helped.


But I will say, you should be there 100% for your grandma... you live with her and she needs you. She is getting up there in years and you should value the time with her. As terrible as this sounds, it will make things easier when she is gone..... When I lost my Gram, it comforted me to know I did everything I could for her. Just sayin.

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I completely understand how you feel. What I've come to realize is that a lot of the time it's a personality difference. Some people are just the helpers, the givers. Others aren't. And then there's a whole spectrum in between. But unfortunately we can't expect what we give out to others will come back to us. And when you find someone who is giving like you, then you know it's someone to keep around in your life. It's sad but a lot of people are much to invested in themselves to realize that the friendship is unbalanced.


I think that you need to feel OK with saying no and that is the biggest struggle. Don't feel guilty. You can't do everything for everyone. And you can't take care of others if you aren't taking care of yourself. Everyone will be fine if you say no sometimes. And if they make you feel bad for it, then they aren't a friend who you want to keep around. What you want and need matters too.

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Appies I think you have a number of options to lighten your load and I've totally been in your shoes and have been working at getting out. Let's start with your sister. Ok its great that she's slowly starting to get her life together, but a huge part of that process is learning that you can't always be her go to guy. When she asks for help you need to direct her to sources that she can use on her own. Here's an example from my own life. My mom has always been very dependent on me for everything from driving her around (she's never driven), creating and sending her resume, finding anything on the internet, filing her taxes, etc. So over the last few years I've strong armed her into making her life different. I talked her into moving to a place that is centrally located so using public transit is much easier for her. As for all that resume help and internet research, guess who's paid to help with those kinds of things? Librarians! So that's who I directed her to. As for tax filing, I directed her to a list of companies that help persons with modest incomes file affordably. You see where I'm going here? When my mom asks me for something that I really don't have time to take on or simply don't want to take on I direct her to where she get such assistance and therefore force her to help herself. You can do the same thing with your sister.


Now lets talk about your friends. Here you can just say NO. Practice it in a mirror if you must. You know the difference between a friend who is really in a jam and desperate versus a friend who is just too lazy to get it together and help themselves. The former you go out of your way for, the latter you say NO. Those friends in the latter won't be around when you really need help anyway, so there's no need to feel guilty.


Now lets talk about your grandmother. She's 93 and at some point she is going to need more help then you can provide. I do a lot of work with seniors and it is very important to look into getting help early. You need to start looking into social services in your area that can help her with things like medication reminders, getting to appointments, companionship, running errands, household tasks, etc. I'm not sure where you live, but if you are in the United States then you should be able to call 211 and they can connect you to a variety of resources to help your grandmother now while shes independent and in the future when she needs more help. Is your grandmother part of any groups or a member of a church? If so perhaps you can reach out to them and find out if there are social groups or people that volunteer to assist the older members with little things. Your grandmother may resist having others pitch in to help her at first, but you'll just have to keep pressing the issue and eventually she'll relax and adjust to the change.

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