At first glance, one naturally assumes “What’s in it for me?” is a selfish thought, but one should look at the circumstances before they make any judgment. Is it acceptable to say or think this without being selfish? I say this having been put in an awkward position, torn between doing the right thing and being taken for granted. Thus, this has given me a fresh and alternative perspective on the phrase, “What’s in it for me?” and whether it’s such a bad thing?
I do believe in helping and doing things for others without thinking about ‘what’s in it for me,’ or to do something and expect that favor to be returned at a later date. Yet, the human side of us will subconsciously note that favors maybe owed if the occasion arises. As much as we like to deny it, many can’t help but think if you’ve helped someone out then it’s natural to assume if you need help they will offer. Sadly as I have learned in life that is not always the case, yet that should not deter you from helping others because you wish to. You should do things with a good heart, and if it’s appreciated great, and even if it’s not. yet I do draw the line at being taken advantage of.
There is a line though; helping someone in need is commendable, but what if the receiving party starts to take it for granted or that they assume the help given is something they are entitled to? Are you really helping them then, or are you being used and is your good nature being abused? How do you make that discernment? Should you continue to help even if you know you are being taken for granted? Is that the right thing to do, and if so who for?
This has happened to me as I have been helping a neighbor who has MS. She has no siblings and is a spinster, but she does have a small handful of friends and some cousins. Apparently the family used to help her but stopped, and that’s because they discovered she had left everything in her will to a good friend. He wasn’t a partner, but she had hoped he would be. Then suddenly he died, and she had to change her will and the family found out that she had not left them a penny despite taking her to hospital numerous times and running around looking after her. She also assumed the friend would have left everything to her, but in fact he gave it all to charity and didn’t even leave his sibling anything and who was using food banks to survive. Somehow, it doesn’t look as if either had sound judgment.
One assumes that the neighbor would now rectify things and leave something in her will to her cousins, however, it seems she has decided to leave it all to her godsons who turn up once a year with a Christmas card for about 10 minutes. You see, she has this idyllic belief that because she is a godmother it creates a bond. Quite simply put she has bought them cars and that was the last she really saw of them, so is she that dim or wrapped up in the romantic notion of the title of godmother? The fact is her friend asked her to be godmother because she knew she had money. Regardless of all that, I still help and make sure she has food in the fridge or freezer, and that cold call scammers are told to go away several times a week. I don’t ask for anything, but I don’t like my help and time to be taken for granted or abused.
The irony is when she was ill and I called to arrange an ambulance to pick her up, her next of kin is still her cousin who she is leaving nothing to, so these godsons have all the benefits with zero responsibility. Now is that right? I can see why the cousin is reluctant to help, as she has a right to ask, “What’s in it for me?” if you are going to be responsible for someone else when they are ill.Yet, the executor of the will is the godson’s mother, and to be honest I don’t want to get embroiled in any of it, yet I observe from a distance because I don’t wish to see an elderly neighbor struggle to make a cup of coffee or to undo the lid on a carton of milk (both of which she struggles to do).
Recently though I had to say ‘no’ when she called me at 9.30 at night to ask me to help her fill out a prize draw contest form she got in the post because she couldn’t read it. It wasn’t an emergency and she expected me to stop what I was doing to come over, and it wasn’t on. The same happened when one day when I was over dropping off some shopping when she wanted me to look through all her cupboards for a book. Her home help was coming the next day, and I told her to ask her to do it when she comes as she gets paid £20 an hour to do whatever she needs help with. The government also gives her a tax free allowance of £7k to pay for help, but she uses it instead for a hairdresser to come weekly and bought a new set of fitted wardrobes. She should be using the money to pay for help and not depend on the kindness of neighbors whom she expects help from.
So why do I feel used and and my good nature abused? Because she has decided to give her godsons an annual tax free lump sum, and she did it in front of me while I was preparing her dinner. I did it because I know if I didn’t she’d forget and when she forgets to eat, she doesn’t take her medication and then she ends up falling and calling the paramedics. I ask myself am I helping or enabling, and then what is in it for me? It was a slap in the face for me, and I felt stupid and used.
One may wonder why she is giving money to people who don’t help her and who don’t even care about her. So as others say, let them look after her if she is going to leave them money. Her home help became a friend of mine and she told me that you cannot get emotionally involved when helping people. She was right, and it’s not a case of ‘what’s in it for me?’, but ‘what’s in it for them?’ If people want and need help they need to either pay for it or appreciate it and not take it for granted.
Now, if the neighbor had decided to leave all her money to charity, or had none, then I’d have no problems helping her at all, but to leave it to others because you think the title of a godson confers some kind of bond is quite frankly dumb. You can’t buy family or friends, and I took a step back and thought why am I helping this person a couple of hours a day out of the goodness of my heart (and putting off my own needs such as writing and housework) and not wanting anything in return, and to my face she arranges a financial advisor to come to the house (and she calls me to come over) and signs papers to give the godsons and their mother a tax free lump sum annually when they don’t lift a finger to help her. I then had to ask myself, “What’s in it for me, and am I being used?’ Even when I do her shopping, sometimes she rounds up and lets me keep the change and other times she gives me the exact amount. We’re not talking the odd loaf of bread or pint of milk, but a full on weekly shop that is heavy to carry and time consuming to buy. She has some ready made meals delivered once a month, buy not enough for the entire month and is always at least 10 meals short, and I make sure she always has spares.
Its not about money, but being appreciated, and that is lacking now as what was grateful assistance has turned into expected help. So, sometimes asking, “What’s in it for me?” isn’t necessarily selfish if you feel you are being taken advantage of and your good nature is being used. We all have life lessons, and learning to accept help graciously and to appreciate it is a lesson too.
I thought to myself, isn’t she ashamed or embarrassed of signing over lump sums to people who don’t even visit her on her birthday, while some days I’ll spend a couple of hours helping her change her bedding (because she wet it by accident) and tidying up things around the house because she can’t and sometimes I get a thank you? It’s not as if I have time, but I make time to help someone, but now perhaps I need to stop so she can learn to appreciate the help she had? I will still help her in emergencies, but she has a government allowance to pay for help (which she doesn’t use but squirrels away) and if she can freely giveaway lump sums to people who don’t even visit her, then she needs to learn to use the funds for their intended purpose and not to waste the money on ornate items around the house. It does mean if she falls ill and ends up in a home then she brought this on herself by failing to appreciate the help given. I even tried to get the home help to come more than once a fortnight, but she is too busy. So out of the £7k yearly allowance the government gives my neighbor to pay for help, she spends less than £1k on her home help a year, and the other £6k is frittered away. Is that right too? Have I enabled this accidentally?
Today in society, millennials in particular have a curious sense of entitlement, but asking, “What’s in it for me?” isn’t as selfish as it sounds under certain circumstances, because if you are being used, you have the right to ask if you feel you are being taken for a ride. Showing appreciation and gratitude isn’t about money, but can come from words and gestures and that’s what matters more. At times, the right thing to do is ask, “What’s in it for me?” because being taken advantage of creates negative energy, and leads to resentment. There is absolutely nothing in it for me when I help her except to know I am helping a disabled, and elderly woman who is alone and to make her life more comfortable, yet, I will no longer do it at the expense of my own needs. What I have chosen to do is limit any help to a minimum now, and to only help when it’s convenient for me. While I know my neighbor appreciated the help from time to time, the ‘slap in the face’ was the final straw, and maybe this is a lesson she needs to learn the hard way?