Each and every one of us has accepted at least once, help from a friend, an acquaintance or a relative. Either it was a small thing like borrowing the car or accepting a free lunch, that person assured us every time that everything is ok and ‘it’s on them’. At first, you feel glad or relieved, you thank your benefactor and then start thinking…how much do those free favors really cost?
I will tell you a story from my life, which actually determined me to write this article. In high school I used to have a great girlfriend who had more money than me. I was a middle-class girl, dressed normal, while she was a real Diva who used to change her outfits, shoes and accessories daily. One day she bought me a pair of nude pants and gave me from her personal shop, a chained belt and a purse. Together they made an excellent outfit, for that time. Once I got home, my mom started asking me where are those things from and where did I get the money to buy them from. I told her that they were given to me by Ella and that she doesn’t want anything in return. My mother was intrigued by my answer and insisted immediately to pay for them. I ignored her advice.
My friendship with Ella went on for 15 years, time through which life has been a though and needy road for me. I started working while I was still in high school and despite the fact that I had a pretty good salary, I couldn’t handle all the nights out, daytime coffees or holidays that Ella and other rich girlfriends wanted to have. She was always generously asking to pay my check at a café, a club entry or even a part of my holiday expenses. I accepted her help a few times and I slowly became more and more indebted, taking food, clothes and money from her, sums that I could never return.
Meanwhile, our friendship became a dependency relationship, making me one of her subordinate. I was always trying not to upset her and she was always noticing me when she considered that I was trying to step up in front of her, with expressions like ‘What, you’re too good for us now?’. She has never directly reamed out or asked for any actual compensation for the favors she’s been giving to me through all this time. I finally got to the conclusion that this was the type of relationship she was looking for, that being one based on dependence and subordination.
With some efforts, I managed to get away from this vicious circle and no matter how hard it got to be, to never ask her for help. Once I made this effort, my self-esteem started to boost and I got to promote in my career and to become truly independent, especially financially.
Years have passed and our relationship got cold, but Ella is now back with various requirements of free favors, minor or even more important, that have to do with my working field. I helped her and I am planning on always helping her unconditionally because deep down in my soul, I still feel indebted, for all those favors from the past.
And now, here comes the question again…how much is the free stuff really worth? When will I be totally free of debt in front of Ella? Can the help I’ve given to her be put in balance with her favors? Honestly, I think you can never draw a common line that we are even. All these things happen because I have accepted from the very beginning to make an uncountable compromise.
Here’s some advice that will help you to never get in my situation:
- Don’t accept help from other people than those who are really close and love you unconditionally – parents, brothers and sisters.
- Don’t try to be something that you’re not by making efforts bigger than your powers, just to be part of a group.
- When someone gives you something for free, always ask yourself what is that person thinking, what they want in return and how much does that free thing really cost.
- Always try to pay your debts in good time to those who helped you and to always mention it. (Ex. If you accepted a free lunch, the next time be sure to pay and to say something like ‘The last time, you paid so now it’s my turn!)