Overdoing Altruism

Image courtesy – Pixabay

Article by: Pon Vijayalakshmi P M, Junior Creative, Team AVTAR.

What is extreme altruism? Can someone be too kind? Too helpful?

                                      Altruism is the unselfish and selfless concern for the well being of others. Where the concern is not out of duty or obligation but purely for the welfare of others expecting nothing in return, not even gratitude. One should not confuse Philanthropy with Altruism. All Altruists can be Philanthropists, but it’s not the other way around.

                                     Even though Humans are often considered to be self-centered and have selfish motives, I believe every human has a bit of altruistic behavior in them naturally. We’ve all come across at least one person who puts a friend’s or family member’s interests before their own.  But there are people who adopt twenty children and fret over the fact that they can’t adopt anymore and people who live off of only a small fraction of their income, donating the rest. These people are called extreme altruists. They would go out of their way and compromise on their own welfare to help others. We’re not discussing about a man saving a drowning dog from a river, we’re talking about a man who can’t swim, jumping in to the river to save the dog from drowning due to his altruistic impulse.

                                 Altruism when in excess has its own downsides like every other human trait. Extreme altruism can bring life to a halt. People who exhibit this behavior tend to give up on their own wants and desires. They lose out on happiness and pleasure in day to day life. They also do whatever the other person wants them to do even if it’s against their own interest or will.

                              Why is this relevant to you? Most Moms are hardwired to show selfless care for their children, this is called Maternal Altruism. This is not just biological, but also because women have been viewed as and are the primary caregivers for aeons.

                Extreme altruism can lead to Compassion fatigue because of which altruists tend to overeat, worry too much, blame themselves for other’s suffering, feel helpless and powerless. These people struggle with guilt and often neglect themselves. Even though altruism is generally conceived as something good or even great, it has it’s own downsides when in surfeit. One needs to understand that one can’t be of help at all times to everyone ,it’s okay to draw boundaries, say ‘NO’ and put themselves first when it’s necessary.