Are you a prefect in your relationships? The one who is responsible for everyone and everything? Martha in a world of Marys?
Does this feel good? Does it fill your life with peace and harmony?
Hmm, I’m guessing not. I’m guessing it causes much stress – both for you and your relationships. So I’m going to suggest a radical idea. Something alien and potentially shocking to those of us who grew up as the eldest child or have conscientious personalities or have internalised 13 years of Catholic school guilt. For example. Or who have, for whatever reason, come to assume way more responsibility than is healthy for us or our relationships.
I’m going to suggest we choose to be more reactive and less proactive.
To let life unfold.
To allow people to make their own decisions and experience their own consequences.
To take the stance that you’ll be told what you need to know, and you can stop doing all the work of finding out all the facts and knowing all the things so you can solve all the problems.
To stop monitoring, pre-empting, checking, rescuing, advising, and trying to save people from the results of their own choices.
I’m going to give you a minute to process this because I realize you may be hyperventilating about now.
As a recovering prefect myself (I know, I hide it well), I can say this change of attitude is immensely freeing. It allows you to calm down, to embrace a graceful, poised approach to life. To find more of yourself. Yes, I promise, there’s an entire you under all that concern about everyone else. And that you is wonderful!
Perhaps you’re laboring under the delusion that being the prefect in your life is a service you provide that is highly prized and appreciated by all. That’s right, Michele, you say, I help. Well, uh, let me disabuse you of that notion and give you some tough love.
Taking responsibility for everything and everything makes nobody happy. Least of all we long-suffering Marthas.
For other people
- It denies people the freedom to live their own lives.
- It undermines their sense of agency and mastery.
- It prevents people from making their own mistakes and learning their own lessons.
- It is annoying.
- It’s exhausting.
- It keeps you in a state of heightened vigilance and anxiety.
- It eats up energy and attention you could turn toward your own life and goals. Imagine what you could do with all that!
- It hurts your relationships.
Like most faux fixes, being the prefect looks like something constructive, but it really just provides a way to avoid a harsh reality: you can’t protect loved ones from everything; you can’t control life.
What you can do for people you care about is to love them, show compassion when they fall, give help when they ask for it.
And make their lives better by living your own best, peaceful, creative, happy life.