I have this client who is really afraid that she’s not a good enough person. But here’s the thing, she’s a really good person. But she’s always afraid that she’s not good enough. She’s almost “too good,” she does everything for everyone else, she covers other people’s shifts when she’s tired, she cooks dinner for her family every night despite having been on her feet for 12 hours (she’s an ER nurse) she takes in strays (people, pets, and projects), she listens for hours on the phone while her friends cry about the pain of life. She’s a perfect mom, friend and wife. She never says no to anyone. She is the President of the PTA, she does every cancer walk, AIDS run, she heads every committee, has big glorious parties, belongs to three different book clubs and she sacrifices her own needs for the sake of others constantly. She’s really that good. And she’s exhausted. She has explained to me several times that she’s not this good out of an altruistic sense. It doesn’t come easily to her. She feels that she has to be that good otherwise she’ll be abandoned, fired, divorced, rejected, cast aside. She wants people to like her and she believes that who she inherently is has no value so she has to constantly do and be better than everyone else to make herself invaluable and indispensable. She fears that without this quality, she would be nothing.
The title of my blog post is more irony, because I have seen in my practice that many people suffering from eating disorders have the co-occurring obsessive desire to be be good. To be better. To be better than anyone else. To be a precious commodity.
It is possible to be a really, really, really good person while still holding yourself and your health in highest regard. So how do you do that? How do you choose to be a good person without sacrificing your own self?
1. Set boundaries. Rather than saying “yes” right away, whenever you are asked to do something let people know that you will see and you’ll get back to them in 24 hours. Then, in those 24 hours, ask yourself the following questions.
a. Do I really want to do this?
b. If so, why do I want to do this? Do I want to do this for the accolades that I will get or for my own personal enjoyment? If it’s for the accolade, if you are trying to control or manipulate what other people are thinking about you, you should experiment with saying “no.”
2. Ask yourself this, “If I don’t do it will I feel guilty? If I do do it, will I feel resentful?” If it is a choice between guilt and resentment, go with the guilt. There’s no reason to do something for someone just to resent them afterwards. Sit with and work through your own guilt. This is about you and your need to be better.
3. Do things that are in line with your goals and desires for who you want to be. For instance, if you feel as though being kind and non-judgmental and holding yourself with integrity is important, then know that as long as you stick to that goal, you’ll be fine. Getting angry at someone and talking about them behind their back while still driving them to the airport won’t necessarily make you a better person. Telling them that you’re not able to and being an advocate for yourself will. Don’t worry, they will find another way to get to the airport. I promise! You are invaluable and indispensable for who you are, not for what you do, so when you choose to be aligned with the qualities of high integrity, you just feel strong within yourself. You don’t need to constantly do for others to be better.
4. Always be kind. That doesn’t mean always do everything that people ask you to. It means being okay with people’s requests and being kind and compassionate when you tell them you cannot.