This week my client, Melinda, came to me with a classic example of burnout & people-pleasing, when she reported that she was burnout because, in her words, “everyone expects me to drop everything.”
Melinda explained that for the last 3 weeks, she had been single-handedly balancing the dizzying responsibilities of her full-time job while acting as the full-time care taker for both her adult son with Autism and mother in law with Muscular Dystrophy.
She was ready to explode and feeling very angry and resentful because, “everyone expects me to drop everything.”
Maybe they did.
But the fact is that Melinda also believed, on some level, it was her duty as a good mother, wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, sister and sister-in-law to drop everything for the people in her life, no matter how inconvenient, unappreciated or unreciprocated her sacrifices were.
Women Are Socialized to Put Themselves Last (or Never)
Melinda is not alone. In fact, she is in the company of the millions of women who have been socialized since birth to be in service of and put other people’s needs before their own, especially if those people are their children, spouses, parents and siblings.
This socialization tells us that it is selfish to set boundaries and that other people being upset with us for not dropping everything for them is something to be feared and avoided at all cost.
So we do.
We pick the pain of doing more over the discomfort we will feel if someone else is upset with us or, OMG, thinks we are LAZY!
And the result of this insidious and often unconscious belief is that we drop ourselves.
Our Thoughts Create Our Results
During our call, I used the self coaching model I learned during my certification with The Life Coach School to show Melinda how her unconscious belief that she should drop everything for the people in her life was resulting in her dropping herself.
It was not the family member asking a favor that caused Melinda to feel obligated, or caused her to say yes when she wanted to say no. It was her belief that other people expected her to drop everything and her fear of what other people would think if she set a boundary.
This is good news because, when we view burnout as being caused by other people asking us for favors, then our mental, emotional and physical well-being is completely out of our control.
This is not the case. We have agency. We have choice. And, to exercise it, we first need to become aware of the ingrained patterns of people pleasing that result in us saying yes to others and dropping ourselves without a second thought.
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