What is it that has us feel responsible for another’s well-being and success? You know – that feeling we get when another is unhappy or dissatisfied…When we feel compelled to jump in to make it better for them. When did we decide it was our job to focus on what is best for everyone else instead of ourselves?
Most of us were trained to do what our caregivers asked as a way to get our own needs met. It happened in benign ways – We learned to sit up straight. Say please and thank you. And, in doing that, we were rewarded with praise, approval, or less criticism and control. Whatever the reward was in your upbringing, it shaped the belief that taking care of another’s needs (e.g., doing what another wants) is the way to getting your own needs met. The strategy goes ‘if they are happy and fulfilled, they will help me become happy and fulfilled’. The ‘pleaser’ personality is formed after years of this repeated interaction with others.
It also forms the belief that the other person is not capable/able to be happy and fulfilled on their own and needs our help. This keeps us locked into trying to save them so we can ultimately get our needs met. As adults, we can meet our own needs. We are physically, mentally, and emotionally able to focus on what we want, why we want it and invite the universe to deliver it to us in wonderful ways. Yet, this can only happen when we take our focus off of another’s journey and bring our focus back to ourselves.
Even when your adult child is abusing drugs, your sister is broke and miserable, or your friend is going through a messy divorce, you do not need to save them. The struggle is a part of their journey. What we can do instead is find ways to empower them to save themselves and focus back on our own journey.
Recently, my husband’s health crisis has had me look deeply at this old belief as I desperately tried to make his journey better. I exhausted myself and stayed in a state of fear hoping he would be OK so I could get my own needs met. As I allowed myself to shift my focus back to my own journey, and do what felt best for me, my old suppressed feelings from childhood about feeling powerless and not knowing what was real, came flooding up and out ready to be recognized and released. These were the emotions I was avoiding by focusing on his journey instead of mine. Now I can let go of being responsible for his experience. Now I can see him as capable of tending to his own journey, while I do the same for myself. From here, we can live a balanced life that works for us both.
Ready to focus fully on your own journey?