Help yourself

Q: I am the type of person that everyone-family, friends and co-workers-turns to for advice. I like to help people out, so I feel bad when I can’t seem to point them in the right direction. What should I do?
–M. Hendricks, Virginia Beach, Virginia

A: The fact that you take the time to listen to other people’s problems and offer an opinion about them shows that you’re a caring, giving person. But perhaps you should consider that you’re giving just a little bit too much.

In her book, Smart Women, Smart Choices: Set Limits and Gain Control of Your Personal and Professional Life (Golden Books Publishing, $21), management consultant Hattie Hill speaks to a behavior she calls “carrying,” in which an individual takes on the burdens-emotional, financial or professional-of others to his or her own detriment. In doing so, these individuals neglect themselves and stunt their own progress. You need to see if this applies to you.

If it does, getting back to yourself should be your first priority. This means making sure your own mental and emotional reserves are intact and strong, and that you’re working out the problem areas in your own life. Second, you’ll want to set limits for yourself in dealing with the problems of others. If you are truly unable-or unwilling-to be the “problem-solver,” say so and stick to it.

It’s one thing to gladly offer advice every now and then. It’s another thing to feel you must have all the answers to everyone’s predicaments. If you really want to help out, encourage your “patients” to look within themselves and search for answers on their own.

Mail your self-empowerment questions to In The Know, black enterprise, 130 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10011, or send an e-mail to

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