Last week I talked about how genuine, heartfelt caregiving can easily cross over into codependent caretaking, and wouldn’t you know, days later I found myself crossing that line. I love my family, I want them to be happy and I love being of service to others so my first instinct is always to do what’s best for everyone else and then figure out my needs later. I adapt easily and I’m a pro at just “sucking it up” so I convince myself that this approach makes things easier on me and everyone else. But how true is that really?
In the moment, it is very true! But it doesn’t take long for the resentments to add up and to find myself struggling through a victim mindset. Like I mentioned before, these little moments of self-abandonment add up to large deficits of self-worth and your sense of deservingness.
To give more context I’ll share my specific situation and hope that it somehow helps you navigate these areas in your own life. My mother-in-law is 88 years old, she has cognitive impairment, ambulatory impairment, is oxygen dependent and has an onslaught of other health issues but somehow doesn’t think anything is wrong with her except her bad hip. Despite my husband’s & my best efforts to help her navigate this difficult stage of life with as much joy & happiness as possible, she is massively depressed, wants her old life back and “just can’t seem to figure out how to get there.” Obviously, we have a lot of empathy and show her as much compassion as we can, which for me is where I enter the danger zone of codependency.
This week I was making doctors appointments for her and the all too common situation comes up where the ONLY time in the near future the doctor can get her in happens to be at the exact time I have something else going on. Here is the moment I can walk my talk, use my boundaries, and everything else I’ve learned & continue to teach! But what do I do?? Grunt and make the appointment, telling myself “it’s fine, you’ll figure something out. You can miss the conference and wait for the web replay. She’s so depressed, making these appointments will help her be happier. Trying to make her happy will make your husband happier.” After I hung up the phone, I immediately became the victim to these bullshit justifications. I was so upset and thinking things like, “here we go again, her stuff is always more important than mine, if I don’t put her health first it would upset my husband. She’s so miserable, this isn’t going to make her happy, what are you thinking? You know better, YOU can’t make anyone happy.”
It’s so easy to see the flawed logic and approach in all of this. The truth is, I could’ve said, “that time won’t work for me, when is the next available time?” And left it at that. If my husband did, in fact, get mad at me, that would be his problem, not mine because it isn’t uncaring of me to prioritize my own schedule and I would still be taking her to the appointment. The only reason they were getting us in so quickly was because there was a cancellation, it is normal to have to wait a few weeks before getting a new patient appointment. By honoring what was already on my schedule first I would’ve been honoring myself. This wasn’t a life or death appointment but this deep down (unhealthy) need I have to make everyone happy can subconsciously feel like life or death and can easily take precedence over my need to make myself happy. I am still working on the subconscious and limiting belief that it is my duty as the matriarch in my family to meet everyone’s needs.
Although I teach this stuff, I am not without flaws or moments of self-abandonment. How I stopped myself and turned it around is the more important part of this story. In this particular scenario, I looked at the time frame of the conference and the doctor’s appointment, realized there was only going to be about a 25-minute overlap which would be the commute back from the doctors. So I informed my MIL that I would be dialed into a call on the way home and not going to be chatting about the weather, cleanliness of the city, or reading the signs of every storefront with her. If there wasn’t an easy win-win, I would’ve called back and asked to take the next available appointment. This is called declaring the do-over, a term I heard from another coach and I love!
This is me taking control of my situation and not being a victim to it. I was able to lift my mindset out of victimhood and see what the solution was AND acknowledge how I’d done this to myself, I was a victim to my own people-pleasing and nothing else. The resentment was the checkpoint for me to see that I was not in integrity or in heartfelt caregiving but was most definitely in unhealthy caretaking. I didn’t remain a victim. By asking myself what I could do to reprioritize me, I shifted myself into a solution-oriented, growth mindset. Had I not done that, I probably wouldn’t even get a blog out this week because I would still be in my victim-conflict energy low key resenting my MIL, my husband, every old lady that entered my sight, and definitely everyone I see enjoying themselves.
The root of our people-pleasing runs much deeper than what can be summed up in this blog post, but recognizing resentments is a way to check yourself and reevaluate your motives.