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Do you do too much for them?

When we take on certain roles in life, it influences our mindset, affects the way we behave and interact. Titles and roles determine our approach to life, which in turn educates our expectations of how we should treat others.

If we are a father, son or daughter of perhaps sick elderly parents, a mentor, employer, good friend, we may feel that it is incumbent upon us to be responsible, supportive, selfless when it comes to their needs and requirements. Doing this may be fine for a while. We accept that our help and commitment is crucial for them during the duration.

We can become the self-proclaimed supervisor, but it can lead us to do too much for others out of habit, guilt, and become a default automatic response. Think of those moments when someone constantly says: ‘leave me alone, I’ll do it, I’ll fix it’.

Isn’t it tempting to sit back and let them move on? Over time, we may even lose the ability to think for ourselves in certain situations. We begin to sit back and opt for the easy life, relieved that we don’t have to think about that particular decision or issue. We can even expect the other person to take care of that matter; It’s his job, they always do.

But when we are the usual provider of support and our input is increasingly expected and taken for granted, we may start to feel resentful and unhappy about the lack of recognition, acknowledgment, respect and appreciation for all that we are doing. We may feel that it is reasonable to receive at least a ‘thank you’, when we are being so considerate and involved.

However, sometimes we need to pause and reflect on our approach. Eleanor Roosevelt said, ‘we teach people how to treat us.’ When we allow another person’s behavior to continue unchecked, tolerate disrespectful or inconsiderate treatment, or always try to please others, we have to accept some responsibility. Perhaps at first we did not care or try to understand their bad behavior, but over time we have taught them that we will put up with their treatment, that it is acceptable.

Others may not realize the strain or the effort we’ve gone to help them. Sometimes our responsibility might be to make people aware of what our support really means in practical terms. We agree to help, but it may mean we have to cancel, delay or reschedule existing plans. Significant effort may have been required, although we are happy to oblige. We cannot expect others to be psychics and know what our agreement to do so much for them entails.

And in reality, when there is no reciprocity or appreciation for what we have done, it is unlikely that we are doing the other person any favors. Respect, empathy, and good manners come from seeing things through the other person’s eyes and appreciating what has been done for them. If they have lost that ability, we may need to teach those colleagues, children, new relationships that there is no bottomless pit of love/money/time/attention; we need them to learn to respect our limits.

It is important for people to be independent, grow in skills, sometimes make mistakes, and maybe even fail. We can be there, supportive and ready to help, but making mistakes sometimes leads to important lessons about independence, the best lessons of all. Be better educated, acquire new talents, learn about resilience and how strong and resourceful we can be.

Such things are rarely learned when we are being ‘supervised’ or constantly managed, advised and instructed. Sometimes experiencing hard things firsthand is the first hands-on experience of trying it independently, the difference between being taught to drive by an instructor and hitting the road only after you’ve passed your driving test.

We may have to ask ourselves how this situation has come about, how we have come to feel aggrieved for doing so much. Perhaps we have shrugged off the comments of appreciation and gratitude, we did not want them to feel contemplated or indebted to us. Perhaps we are embarrassed by your enthusiastic praise for our help. Smiling kindly and simply saying “thank you” are simple good manners and often enough to acknowledge your compliments.

When we are doing too much for others, especially family, we can end up not loving them very much, although of course we love them. We need to acknowledge our part in how these circumstances have arisen. Start by becoming more aware of your triggers. Are they rooted in guilt, wanting to get involved, reluctant to delegate?

Pay attention to the prompts you are responding to. Then you can learn to gradually turn them into something more respectful and mutually beneficial, and thus feel happy for everything you do for them.

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