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Turn On Your Inner Light

How Not to Feel Responsible for Other People’s Happiness

by Debbie Mandel

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How Not to Feel Responsible for Other People’s Happiness Unselfish giving and humility are noble qualities; however, they have a darker side – giving yourself away and not taking care of yourself. Many of us are part of the sandwich generation taking care of children and elderly parents in addition to home and work. But this sandwich is getting stale. We are feeling depleted, irritable and resentful while we keep on giving until we eventually tip over into depression. Next chronic stress takes hold of our lives. The latest research from Harvard, for example, shows that caregivers face a 20-percent higher risk of mortality than the rest of the population because of the daily stressors they face.

Are you the household generator with everyone plugged into your energy socket? Do you feel deep down that you have not earned the right to be happy?

Be aware of five factors fueling sacrificial giving:
  • Emotional programming: Raised to be consummate caregivers, suppressed and silent.
  • Physiological wiring: Hardwired to feel intensely responsible.
  • Identity theft: Loss of the fun-loving inner child who dares to dream and express her true self.
  • Escapism: Running away from the deficits of personality afraid to face the sadness and disappointment.
  • Control: The need to feel in control, unable to live in ambiguity.
Most likely you are suffering from compassion fatigue. You can reliably diagnose whether you are suffering from compassion fatigue if after you help someone out, you feel resentful! You start muttering inaudibly, “Why do I always have to do it?” or “Why doesn’t anyone do something for me?” I find it amusing that energy vampires and narcissists know just whom to go to – YOU! Blessed are those who give; let someone else be blessed for a change. Isn’t it time to become a first rate version of yourself doing what makes your heart sing? Don’t act second rate, requiring applause, external validation, for accomplishment, “You’re the best. Thanks!” ultimately leaving you dissatisfied and under-accomplished.

What will you do differently next time? Ask yourself the following questions:
  • Does this request resonate for me?
  • Do I have the time and energy?
  • Am I conflicted between ought to and want to?
  • At what cost to me?
You might be able to say no to the small things at first, but then you could sabotage the whole endeavor by feeling guilty. Therefore resolve to have regular logical dialogues with yourself when you feel guilty - armed with awareness that guilt stems from low self-esteem. Remember that guilt is illogical. So reason it away! In a couple of months you will build up immunity to guilt. The goal is to teach the people in your life how to fish, instead of catching, cooking, even cleaning the pan for them in order to feel worthy and validated.

From now on absolutely no excuses about all your busyness and please do not brag about it! “Oh, you think you’re busy, just listen to this!” Change your verbiage and speak to yourself more kindly, like you would advise a friend. Words carry enormous power; they are hypnotic and self-actualizing. Don’t wait to literally get sick and tired before you allow yourself the time to rest and restore. In my stress-management workshops, I have observed too many people become ill in order to relax and release their overload. For example, consider the metaphorical message of chronic fatigue syndrome. When disease is ominously looming on the horizon, it is always easier to prevent than to treat.

I have to go now. It’s time for the next item on my to-do list: FUN.

Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life and a stress-management specialist. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City, produces a wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. For more information, please visit:

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