Sometimes I feel like everything would grind to a halt if I weren’t keeping things running, and that no one appreciates me or what I do. Do you ever feel this way?
I don’t actually feel this way too often these days though in my younger years I used to feel like this was more often true than not. I felt that those around me were needy, were unable to take responsibility for themselves (well, some of those someones were children), and that I had to do everything without thanks or acknowledgment. I felt powerless to change it because even asking for help or improvement seemed to make no difference. More importantly, asking for help also required that I admit to myself that I’m not Wonder Woman. I felt powerless and trapped.
The feelings that ensued included resentment, anger and despair. Such negative emotions are good because they signal the need for a change. I had to have a mega-ton of negative emotion before realizing that I was unable to change their behavior, so all I can do was change mine.
First, I had to recognize what I can and cannot control and influence. Though I was successful to some degree teaching my children to be self-sufficient, with adults I have to rely much more on influence. Either way, I had to learn that my ability to control others was zero and that it would be a responsibility that I would not want anyway.
Second, I had to realize what role I was playing in others’ helplessness. The more that I did for others, the more that help became expected or needed. Stepping out of the way and allowing others to be uncomfortable, fail, or flounder permits them to learn their own lessons. Stepping back also provides me a little sanity once I can find the balance of (mostly) avoiding Told You So with compassion for their struggle.
Third, I had to learn to acquire some perspective on my expectations. Is it the end of the world if someone forgets their homework, doesn’t make an A, the event isn’t flawless, or I look or appear less than perfect? Going from 95 to 100% is not worth the resulting exponential increase in stress. Consider the cost to benefit of “settling” for 95%. I believe those around me feel it’s a good trade!
In short, I learned to stop being a martyr (that’s what it is) and quit doing things that would cause me to become resentful. Most of the time, others were not even asking for my help. I just did them and then got mad at others because they were not sufficiently appreciative of my sacrifice. Who is the needy one now?