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How to Help Someone Who Won’t Help Themselves

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UMKC chapter.

College is a difficult time for everyone. It takes immense mental energy and discipline to survive just one semester. So, how do you handle your own burdens as well as the burdens of someone you care about? When you desperately want success for both yourself and a friend, it can be tough knowing how to help without hurting yourself in the process. You especially don’t want to cause them more harm than good. Codependency is a real thing, and sometimes the best solution is the hardest pill to swallow.

I’m sure we all know someone like this: they skip almost every class, don’t study for the exams, and turn in half-finished assignments a week late. Life can be hard, but sometimes you wonder if they’re even putting in any effort at all. I lived through this once with someone I dearly loved. I didn’t want them to fail, but the problem was, I wanted success for them more than they wanted it for themselves.

In an effort to help them, we signed up for classes together. I tried to wake them up each morning. I reminded them to study frequently. I did everything in my power to drag them through the semester. I invested so much time and energy into them succeeding, that I suddenly realized my own performance was suffering because of it. On top of it all, everyone I knew expected me to be accountable and responsible for my friend’s actions. If they showed up late or didn’t complete an assignment, professors would call me out for it. Before I knew it, I was feeding into the toxic cycle of codependency. Before it manifested into something worse, I knew changes had to be made. I couldn’t fail in my own life simply because I was helping someone who wouldn’t take responsibility for theirs. As much as you love that person, there comes a time when you need to let go.

The best way to help someone who won’t help themselves is to let them face the consequences of their actions. This is a tough lesson to learn. It can be hard to stomach, especially when you care deeply about someone, but you should never sacrifice your own success for someone who won’t put in the work. You especially don’t want them to become codependent on you.

Let’s face it—failing is awful. It doesn’t feel good, but the greatest help you can offer someone like this is to just let them fail. Never sit back and say I told you so, but instead, be there for them. Comfort them and support them. Love them as much as you always have. It takes failure in life to grow, and you do not want to hinder someone’s opportunity to learn and evolve. When someone won’t put in the effort to succeed, don’t drag them across the finish line. Let them fall down and learn how to pick themselves back up.