When we take our strengths too far, they can become a weakness. Empathy, compassion, a desire to help. These are all extremely beautiful gifts that many of us love to share with the world. It seems to me, especially women, seem to sometimes take this beautiful gift of empathy and turn up the volume on it so loud that it actually distorts it, and it can become self-sabotage. Especially if we have even a little dose of low self-esteem on board.
I was recently listening to a interview between Matt Kahn and Christiane Northrup on the subject of emotional energy vampires. Matt said something that I had to rewind and replay several times. It was basically; People with high degrees of empathy, can sometimes have a co-dependency on the low energy of other people. They place their own value on the ability to make things A-Okay for those who aren’t doing it for themselves. Often we can perceive other people’s lower emotions as their opinions of us. We believe that when THEY feel better, then WE can feel better, accepted, okay. We can relax.
Ya know, I think I’ve spent a lifetime believing that when someone is unhappy, grumpy, blaming me, you name it – it was MY responsibility to “FIX” it for them. That if only I can get THEM to feel better, then I’LL feel better. This endless effort to cheer people up, help them with their pain, and all very often to the point of abandoning myself and what I wanted or what was best for me. I no longer believe that this is the path to love.
Even those who don’t seem to want the best for us – when they don’t understand us we can take on this responsibility to “FIX” that view they have of us. Explaining, justifying, defending, rationalizing - these are all attempts to FIX. We all just want to feel validated I suppose. But the most empowered woman is the one who no longer needs validation.
Now, I could decide to try and make some adjustments to my behavior, and just stop taking this undo responsibility upon myself, but this is like repairing a leaking roof with a bucket. The drive to take responsibility for the feelings of others is a result – not a cause. We have to go deeper. We have to repair the roof – not just let it keep leaking and cleaning up the mess. At the core of over-doing our level of responsibility is a lack of feeling accepted and loved and until we give this to ourselves, no amount of making things okay for others will ever fill that bottomless hole. Loving ourselves and having boundaries is how we ultimately repair the leaking roof once and for all.
I must warn you: you may have accumulated some people in your life are just fine and dandy with you taking responsibility for their happiness. When you disrupt this system that gives these other people the ability to draw off your energy – they are NOT going to be on board!!! This will be challenging if you are used to depending on their happiness to provide YOUR happiness. Expect push-back. Plan for it. And their push-back may cause you to fall back into your old pattern. Giving yourself grace in these times can be really challenging. Just do your best to be kind to yourself and remember it's a new practice and that takes time. They don't call it "practice" for nothin'!
Matt Kahn also offered something on this shifting of the responsibilities that you may find helpful like I did… Courage is where we reclaim our power. When we know on some level that there are things we need to stop doing: like enabling others or over-giving to the wrong people, taking care of people who are actually emotionally unsafe for us - but you aren’t ending these things due to trying and please others…. You dim your light. This is robs the world of something only YOU can give – YOUR happiness, YOUR joy, YOUR light. To be the force of love you were meant to be, you can’t leave yourself out of the love equation! You must care for you as well as you care for others.
To bring yourself to the point of being able to release your need to FIX and take responsibility that doesn’t belong to you for things that are not yours, takes some heavy emotional lifting. You can’t rush it – even though you reeeeeeally want to hurry up and get past the pain of the push-back and the feelings of others being angry or unhappy with your choice to make your own spiritual evolution a priority. You'll have to make friends with those uncomfortable feelings and that seems so counter-intuitive! Those feelings are just information and once you let them come through, you can move forward again.
Dr. Christian Northrup says “If someone is mean to you, it’s not your job to just take it. It’s also not your job to change anyone. Just clean up what is yours.” In this case of taking responsibility for other people’s happiness (who often take zero responsibility for it themselves) your side of the street is to stand in your own light and love yourself and others, and allow them the GIFT of learning to find their happiness themselves. It’s actually the only way they can ever really sustain it – if they themselves learn how to develop it. When we take on the job of doing it for them, we actually slow their growth and we FOR SURE stunt our own. The reason we are responsible only for ourselves is because it is the only thing we can actually control. There is a difference in being responsible FOR and responsible TO others.
Along with those who will give you loads of push-back on changing the game, there is this other amazing thing that happens. There are also people in your life who support you making the decision to stand in your own light. Your tribe, those people who bring out your best, cause you to expand, who add to your life. Until you make the shift to power up your own light, you will often be hard-pressed to find these folks in your life. They are there… just waiting for you to choose you.
Learn more about a one day retreat for women on their path!
My friend and guide Joy Miley is hosting a retreat on Saturday April 21st. For more details, click here to go to her website. It is a collaborative experience of learning how to not only have your own back, but also find your tribe. Tribe = people who are FOR you and just waiting for you to choose you. I'll be there!
Sandy Edie Hansen
I use this space to "Chat" about things I am working through and learning in my life currently. Join me!