Do You Do Too Much for Them?

When we undertake 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’re a parent, the son or daughter perhaps of older infirm parents, a mentor, employer, good friend we may feel it incumbent on us to be responsible, supportive, self-sacrificing as far as their needs and requirements are concerned. Doing this may be fine for a time. We accept that our help and commitment is crucial to them for the duration.

We can become the self-appointed over-seer, but it may lead to us to doing too much for others out of habit, guilt and it becoming an automatic default response. Think about those times when someone constantly says, ‘let me, I’ll do it, I’ll sort it out’.

Doesn’t it become tempting to sit back and let them get on with it? Over time we may even lose the ability to think for ourselves in certain situations. We start to sit back and opt for an easy life, relieved at not having to think about that particular decision or issue. We may even come to expect the other person to deal with that matter; it’s their job, they always do it.

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

Sometimes though we need to pause and reflect on our approach. Eleanor Roosevelt said, ‘we teach people how to treat us’. When we allow another’s behaviour to continue unchecked, tolerate disrespectful or inconsiderate treatment or always try to please others we have to accept some responsibility. Maybe initially we didn’t mind or tried to understand their bad behaviour, but over time we’ve taught them that we’ll put up with their treatment of us, that it’s acceptable.

Others may not be aware of the strain or effort we’ve made to help them out. Sometimes our responsibility could be to gently make people aware of what our support actually entails in practical terms. We’ve agreed to help, but it may mean that we have to cancel, delay or reschedule existing plans. A significant effort may have been required, even though we’re happy to oblige. We can’t expect others to be psychic and know what’s involved in our agreement to do so much for them.

And in actuality, when there’s no reciprocation or appreciation for what we’ve done, we’re unlikely to be doing the other person any favours. Respect, empathy and good manners all come from seeing things through the other person’s eyes and valuing what’s been done for them. If they’ve lost that ability we may have to teach those colleagues, children, new relationships that there isn’t a bottomless well of love/money/time/attention; we need them to learn about respecting our boundaries.

It’s 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 being learned, the best lessons of all. Becoming better educated, acquiring new talents, learning about resilience and how strong and resourceful we can be.

Rarely are those things learned when we’re being ‘supervised’ or constantly managed, advised and instructed. Sometimes experiencing tough things first-hand is the first practical experience of having a go independently, the difference between being taught to drive with an instructor and going out on the road solo after having passed your driving test.

We may need to ask ourselves how this situation has arisen, how we’ve come to feel aggrieved about doing so much. Maybe we’ve shrugged off appreciative comments and gratitude, didn’t want them to feel beholden or indebted to us. Perhaps we felt embarrassed at their enthusiastic praise for our help. Graciously smiling and just saying, ‘thank you’ is simple good manners and often enough to recognise their praise.

When we’re doing too much for others, especially for family, we can end up not liking them very much, even though we do, of course, love them. We need to own our part in how these circumstances have arisen. Start by becoming more aware of your triggers. Are they rooted in guilt, wanting to be involved, being reluctant to delegate?

Pay attention to whichever prompts you’re responding to. Then you can learn to gradually turn them around into something more mutually beneficial and respectful, so becoming happier about all you do for them.