5 Tips If You’re Caring Too Much About Other People.
As a former nurse, mother, wife, friend, and someone who valued caring, I’ve had many opportunities over the years to wrestle with the idea that perhaps my caring for others was too much.
As a nurse, I cared so deeply about my clients that I would spend a lot of mental and emotional energy on their well-being.
With my kids, especially as they became teenagers, I cared SO much that I would try and control what they were doing so they wouldn’t make the same mistakes I did.
I put a lot of time and energy into what other people were and were not doing.
When people didn’t follow through on what I believed was the best course of action, I would become judgmental and either increase my efforts to get them to change or withdraw with frustration and resentment.
Looking back, I realize that even though my intentions were always good, I somehow felt I knew what was best for the other person.
I began to wonder whether I was caring too much for others.
And then, the universe gave me what I needed to make a shift and gain some insights into my relationship with caring for and about others.
It gave me a crisis of my own. It allowed me to experience the dark night of the soul, forcing me to turn the spotlight back on myself.
It was a crisis precipitated by the fact that I had been so concerned and focused on others and what they should or shouldn’t do that I had lost my sense of self. All this outwardly concentrated energy in the name of “caring” left me drained and with stress-related health issues.
The truth is that many of us feel selfish when we turn our attention back on ourselves.
We feel like we’re not caring or helping enough.
Here’s what the universe and my wake-up call taught me about that belief.
Other people cannot learn from their mistakes and must make their own mistakes. This is particularly hard to swallow when it’s our children or those closest to us.
From a spiritual perspective, the universe will provide us with what we need and often not what we want to grow. If we don’t get the lesson from one experience, the universe will repeat the same lesson in a different experience. And it will be like groundhog day until we finally get it.
As much as we may want to, and as hard as it is, we can’t prevent other people from suffering.
If we look at it another way, suffering often triggers much-needed growth. Without the discomfort of illness, a relationship ending, or another crisis, we wouldn’t grow.
Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist who was best known for creating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, put it this way in the book Toward a Psychology of Being,
Not allowing people to go through their pain, and protecting them from it, may turn out to be a kind of over-protection, which in turn implies a certain lack of respect for the integrity and intrinsic nature and the future development of the individual (p. 8).
In other words, when we care too much, we may stunt other people’s growth. And I also believe we are stunting our growth because we are overly other-person-focused.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to help another. There is, however, a fine line between being there for others in a way that promotes growth and intervening in a way that stunts or prevents growth.
And, more importantly, when we try and intervene when not asked, even though our intentions are good, we are interfering with the spiritual principle and the lessons we are meant to learn related to reaping what we sow.
I now realize that it’s more helpful to have learned how to sit with the discomfort of suffering- both my own and others than it is to put energy into determining which lessons people should have and trying to prevent the hard ones from happening.
Five tips you may find helpful:
1. Spend time reflecting and developing awareness about the root motivation of your need to help, fix, solve or impart your advice or wisdom.
Although this may sound counter-intuitive, don’t be too quick to “let go” of your worry for/about the other person. Soul lessons are embedded in caring too much, and that’s Why Telling Yourself To “Let That Go” Doesn’t Work.
View it as an opportunity for self-exploration and discovery for personal growth.
2. Use a God or worry box.
After you’ve spent enough time on step 1, create a ritual to let it go. You can write your worries on paper, pop it in a box and turn it over to a higher power. I have used this practice and find it effective for letting go of worries out of my control.
3. Notice when your mind is making up stories.
When you notice you’re ruminating, bring your attention back to the present moment by taking long, slow, deep breaths and grounding yourself. Once grounded back in your body, turn your worrying thoughts into a prayer- whatever form of prayer feels meaningful.
4. Remember, we all have a life force energy that flows through us.
This energy needs to be directed somewhere. Put your energy back into your life and create more space for the other person to live and accept responsibility for their own life and choices. I explore this further in the post, Why It’s Not Always A Good Idea To “Go With The Flow.”
5. Practice self-compassion and kindness.
Self-compassion is the practice of being kind to ourselves when we’re having a hard time and are suffering in some way. It is natural to want to reach out and help alleviate others’ suffering. The challenge arises when they don’t want our help or our help prevents them from developing their growth path. This inner desire to do something when we intuitively know it isn’t ours to do can be channelled into self-compassion. You can learn how to do that from this Self-Compassion Blog.
Finding this delicate balance is a challenge for many of us. You are not alone! Share a comment below – our community would love to hear from you.
Please leave a comment below. Our community would love to hear from you!
(Originally published November 7, 2019; Updated November 13, 2020)