Some of my clients over the years have told me that they feel they are the ‘go to’ in their family/group of friends and are always expected to step up to sort out problems, organize events and generally be the ‘general manager’ of their world and the people in it. They come to me when they are feeling depleted and yet guilty, or wondering if they should feel guilty about not wanting to do this anymore.
How can you not help when you see someone in need? Good question. Of course we want to help someone have food, have a home, feel safe. But that’s not what we’re talking about here.
“I feel like a doormat!” one client wailed, “They walk all over me and when I say I can’t manage the time to do what they want, I get called selfish”. This example is more common that you might think. It’s an unhealthy unbalanced situation when the burden falls on one person who is always giving, time/physical or emotional help, and never getting back. I explain that at the most primal level, nature demands equalization. Over the long haul the giving and taking should be balanced. The responsibilities — load bearing — needs to be equally shared. At the most basic level even farmers know that a field needs to lie fallow every seven years to recoup and regenerate.
So what to do when you are asked, or expected, to step up, fill in, arrange, take charge or whatever the circumstances demand? How do you manage to
change the dynamic without feeling guilty or selfish.?
- Live from your values. Know what they are and use them for yourself. If your values include kindness, integrity, emotional well-being, start from there — start by being kinder to yourself, and take care of your emotional well-being. This explains how https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duKldqaL37k
- Recognize that you’ve been operating in an unspoken contract. Now’s the time to change it. Let whoever needs to know about the changes. You need more time for you. Take charge of your life, your time, your experiences and choose when and how much of all of these you’ll give away. And by the way, you might want to find a volunteer position in your community where your ‘giving’ is welcomed and they’re grateful for it.
- It might be hard to say “no” at the beginning…. so instead say “no, I can’t right now… maybe another time…but not right now”. You don’t have to explain why not…this gentle ‘turn-down’ allows you to feel guilt free and burden free. And you get to choose how you live your life and how you spend and allocate your time. Let others step up and take the load — it’s time!
To sum up… work on a new contract with yourself — give yourself a break. Be the door to new experiences.. not the doormat that people walk on. Don’t stop giving — just do it on your terms. It doesn’t make you any less kind or thoughtful to give on your own terms, just smarter.
Originally published at medium.com