Welcome back to all of my WIMBAs. Today’s episode is for you if you are somebody who takes on too much and becomes overwhelmed. Oftentimes I see in my client the phenomenon where they take on a lot of responsibility and they have a hard time delegating tasks out and part of it is, perhaps, because they’re just high achievers and that by definition means that they have high expectations of themselves. Other times it could be because they have a belief that they “should” be able to do it all and they’re afraid of what it might mean if they can’t. And other times still it might just be that they’re really competitive. So today I’d like to talk about this notion of what if you can’t do it all.
Before I dive into any sort of stories to really share with you, I think it’s important to start with the mindset, in other words, the belief. Telling yourself that you should be able to do everything and that you don’t need other people’s help or that they have their own stuff to worry about and they can’t be bothered helping you is really unrealistic and it’s completely untrue.
It’s important that when you are functioning in the world that you’re not paying attention just to all the things on your plate but that you are tuning inwards to how you are affected in the situation. This will allow you to tune in to your needs which vary from moment-to-moment and from situation to situation. The more tuned in you are to yourself the better you can take care of yourself and in doing so it’ll be so much easier for you to accomplish whatever it is that you have in front of you.
So what leads certain people not to be able to delegate things out or to try to do everything themselves? Typically what I find is that we deal with either type A personalities, people who are very competitive and who just want everything done the way they think it should be done. It could be that you’re a perfectionist and you wanted to be done perfectly and you have a notion of what that means and delegating it out would mean that perhaps other people won’t do it as well. This happens to a lot of business owners in particular and that can be the death of your business. It is so important when you are running a business or when you are managing a team to be able to give things up. You have to be able to focus on the things that you are best at and if you try to do everything, you are going to drown.
But this can also happen outside of work. Oftentimes, when I talk to women, especially moms, they find that they have the same perfectionistic tendencies when it comes to raising their kids. And there’s a variety of reasons why people end up in this position but I want to share with you a recent story that came up with one of my clients.
So during COVID as kids were studying from home, my client was feeling an excessive amount of pressure to constantly be with her kids and take care of them and entertain them, which meant that she was putting herself on the back burner. She wasn’t tending to her needs and she really had this wish and that was to be a super mom. But unfortunately, taking this approach with backfiring because what you would find is because she wasn’t taking care of her needs and she was really putting all of her eggs in this basket of constantly focusing only on her kids and her family that she would just explode. She would get to a point where she just couldn’t take it anymore and she would lash out at her kids. So much for being supermom, right?
So we talked about the importance of actually putting things into perspective and taking care of herself in order for her to show up more relaxed, more taken care of, and then she could be a closer version of whatever that super mom image actually is, even though that’s not obviously something that’s realistic.
The other thing that we talked about was what is the fear behind not being supermom and I think this is an important question for all of you to consider with whatever situation you’re in where you’re trying to do too much.
So I asked her, “What are you afraid would happen?” and we did this exercise. It’s kind of like a drill down exercise where whatever the person says you follow that up with “and then what?” And what this does is it eliminates all of the fluff, the things that we tell ourselves that aren’t the real reason why we do things. And so I asked her, again, “What are you afraid would happen if you weren’t super Mom?” and she said, “Well, that my kids are going to watch television all day or they’ll be on screens and I really don’t want that.”
And then I said “and then what?” and then she said, “Well, then they’re going to grow up to be bad people.” And then I said “and then what?” to which she answered “Then they’re going to hurt other people and that’ll hurt me.”
And so I took a moment with her and I said, “Let’s just take a step back for a moment. I want you to listen to what you just said and I think you might find this perhaps a little humorous. You’re telling me that you have to be with your kids and you have to prioritize them over yourself because you don’t want them to be on screens all day and the reason for that is because you’re worried that they’re going to grow up to be these bad people that could potentially hurt other people and then hurt you. Think about that for a moment.” Right?
This is what our brain does sometimes. We create these stories which when we think about them don’t make a lot of sense and when we don’t think about them they kind of lead us to doing certain things that don’t make a lot of sense like trying to be perfect and trying to be everything to everyone and taking on too much and not taking care of ourselves. there’s a lot of consequences to not thinking this through.
So she was able to see through this exercise that really ultimately her value was in creating a sense of community where people are safe and she wanted to contribute to that but she didn’t want her kids to be offenders to that vision. She wanted to make sure that they grew up to be a certain way. But obviously them not being entertained 24/7 and having some screen time does not necessarily equate with this catastrophic idea of them turning out to be bad people who hurt other people.
So I only tell you this story because I think it’s important for you to question yourself and why you do what you do. Why do you tell yourself that you should do all the things? And what do you tell yourself would happen if you didn’t? If you weren’t capable of it, what would it mean about you? There’s usually some sort of story there and that’s what’s propelling you into action which then leads to all of these negative consequences including that sense of overwhelm and burnout. So take some time to really reflect on this and what you can do differently instead when you’re able to realistically set some expectations that you can actually meet and take care of yourself in the process.
I hope this is helpful in just shattering some of your current ways of being in the world that maybe aren’t working for you and helping you to take on something that is actionable, but in the more intentional and realistic way.
If you want to additional mindset strategies and hacks be sure to check out my Optimize Your Life podcast as well as go to my website www.drsharongrossman.com for the free Mindset Mastery Starter Kit which you can download right there. And tune in every week for additional episodes as we talk about important issues that women in medicine are facing each and every day in work and in their life. Take care.