The Difference Between Being Helpful And Being Used

We Need To Redefine The Line Between Being Helpful And Being Used

That line can become blurred and it's those tough situations that make that line clearer again.


I had an interesting discussion with one of my professors right before spring break, after my midterm exam. I'm taking a course this semester called Communication and Negotiation. I took my midterm exam in a separate room since I struggle taking them in-class. If I take them in-class, I feel pressured by other students turning in their exams, even if I'm not actually done yet. It causes me to feel self-conscious that I'm taking so long, even if the quality of my work is better.

An hour into the exam, and a minute after I had just finished my exam, the professor came to check-in with me. It was perfect timing and I told her that. She had taken my backpack with her to her office since the rest of the class had finished the exam and left, so I walked with her and we exchanged small-talk.

When we got back to her office, she asked me how the first half of the semester had been going for me. I could honestly say that it was going really well and that the class I once was terrified of, had become my favorite class to go to this semester. We all had to choose a buddy since this class is skill-based and attendance is of utmost importance, and she asked me who mine were. I told her and she made a comment that really struck a cord: "Don't let others take advantage of you. Find out what they can do for you, too."

I view myself as a person of integrity. I aim to do the right thing in all situations, as much as humanly possible. Integrity is one of the values in my sorority, and a principle I hold dear to my heart. In the Social Work Code of Ethics, a lot of emphases is placed on integrity. However, there is a fine line between doing the right thing and being taken advantage of.

This line has become blurrier and blurrier as the semester has progressed and I've agreed to more and more tasks, taking on more and more responsibilities, in organizations I'm involved in, in some of my classes, and in certain relationships. Helping others makes me feel good and that I'm making a difference in someone else's life. That may be selfish to some degree, but if I'm able to, I'm happy to help.

It's in those moments that I feel like a doormat being walked all over, or a dish rag being used then thrown away, that breaks my heart and makes the line that had become so blurred, clearer. It's when I start to feel awful about myself, about my life, about how I'm treated, that I know I've been taken advantage of.

That's how I'm able to redefine that line. I'm thankful to my professor and for my best friends for helping me realize that that line needs to be acknowledged and reevaluated. I'm starting to get more comfortable setting boundaries and saying no, which is progress. Communication and Negotiation has helped me find my voice and learn the skills I need to stand up for myself, be assertive, and put my needs first for once, and that's really cool.

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