I Have a Problem with Other People’s Problems
Well, isn’t this is an odd statement for a therapist to make?!? My job is to fix other people’s problems, right? Hmmm, I wish! My job is to support and empower others to identify what problems they see in their lives so that they can choose to fix them or leave them be. But I’m super guilty of not practicing what I preach in this arena. You see, I’m a fixer. I like to fix problems. I will go out of my way to fix a problem that really isn’t mine to begin with. I will make it my problem in an effort to alleviate someone else’s dilemma. I told my therapist (yes, therapists have their own therapists), “I have a problem with other people’s problems!”
These are problems that are in and around my own personal life. So many feelings of guilt and worthiness come up for me when I have to disagree with what someone else wants. The last thing I ever want to do is to create a problem for someone else, so I drive myself crazy thinking of different options and ways to appease everyone. Why do I have such a hard time simply standing my ground and saying “no?” I’ve been reading Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly, exploring her views on vulnerability and courage, and I think this is what it boils down to for me. Standing up for myself makes me feel very vulnerable. Am I worth it? Is it worth it to make someone else do something that they don’t really want to because I can’t take on fixing it? Am I being selfish? Will that person dislike me if I say no? Will there be an awkwardness the next time I see them?
I look at my one year old for the answers – he has no problem with other people’s problems. In fact, in his world, his problem really is your problem. So I wonder, how do I keep that spirit of assertiveness and resolve while teaching him boundaries and respect for others (and the meaning of no – for all that is holy, how do I do that?!?)?
I find that when I put myself out there and make myself vulnerable, the first thing I think of is “What will other people think?” When my clients bring this to me I ask them what they think others will think. Then, what is the worst case scenario? It’s usually never catastrophic. It just involves some time sitting with the “uncomfortableness” that we all go through as humans. It’s not always pleasant, but it’s usually insightful. And like everything else, it’s rarely impossible.