When we try to do it all, to be there for everyone, it can start to feel as though we don’t exist outside of fulfilling other people’s demands. We lose sight of ourselves and what’s important to us in trying to please everyone else. We must realize that we are asking too much of ourselves. We have needs too, and those needs matter. We matter.
An anonymous woman said, “I believe that IQ’s change, and mine dropped considerably. I’m no longer very competent in any area. My children all turned out well not due to me, but rather to a strict father who allowed no nonsense.”
On this, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:
“What has happened to this woman? Where did she go? As we read what she says about herself, we have the feeling that she is disappearing before our very eyes. Many of us have had the experience of being devoured by our families, our houses, our jobs, and our lives. I once knew a woman who used to keep looking back for footprints on the sidewalk, because she had the strange feeling that her soul was seeping out through the soles of her feet and she would see the evidence on the sidewalk.
I can remember feeling as if I did not exist as a separate person when I used to work at the kitchen counter and my children would stand on my feet to make themselves just a little higher. I also felt myself disappearing when, as toddlers, they wanted to get from one end of the couch to the other and they just walked over me as if I were not there. Life can, at times, invite us to disappear.
We feel ourselves disappearing. Yet, how arrogant it is for the woman quoted above to accept that her children turned out well and to believe that she had nothing to do with it! What a dedication to self abnegation!”
Today we should examine the possibility that our self-battering is arrogant, self-centered, and obviously of no use to us or anyone else. Of course it is arrogant to think that the world revolves around us being there! People are capable of surviving without our help. They will be okay without us around. While it is nice to be there to support friends and family through difficult times in life, and we all do better when we are connected to people we care about, it is entirely self-centered to believe that anyone literally depends on us.
I often worry (read: feel guilty) that I don’t see my dad enough. I care deeply about him. It makes us both happy when we spend time together, and we don’t see each other as often as I would like. Being an adult who lives some distance away and who works, it can be difficult to find time. The guilt I feel is excessive though. Often, I forget he has a full and vibrant life outside of me. While it makes him happy when I call or visit, it doesn’t necessarily make him sad when I don’t. He understands that I have my own life to live now.
I have demanded too much of myself with regard to my parents in other ways, too, specifically one which is not uncommon among many daughters: caregiving. I expect myself to be a nurse at times as needed, to drop everything and be there to care for my parents. This is a role that was first forced upon me when my mom was ill and I lived at home. Now that my dad is older and facing some of his own health struggles, I have tried to fulfill the same role for him. Only when it was killing me did I realize that I was demanding too much of myself, and my behavior had gone beyond the limits of normal daughterly duty. Caregiving is hard work. It’s important to remember to care for ourselves first. We do not exist solely to please others. When we demand too much of ourselves, we lose sight of our own needs.