Why do we do it to ourselves? We have all been guilty at some point or another. Taking on other people’s problems as our own. Or going out of our way to try to “help” someone, knowing good and well that we can’t fix what they started. But we try anyway. At the expense of our peace of mind, stress, and sometimes even financial strain.
I once found myself venting to a close friend about how a coworker wasn’t pulling their weight at work and how they were doing things that could cost them their job. I was conflicted because I was observing these things and felt some sense of obligation to say something to the coworker in an attempt to “help.” My friend asked me two very simple questions: Are they a friend? To which the answer was no. Are they your subordinate? To which the answer was no. She promptly responded with the Polish proverb that has stuck with me ever since, “Not your monkeys, not your circus.” In other words, not my problem! Let their boss deal with them about their work performance. Duh! Why hadn’t I thought of that?!?!
On a daily basis, I would be willing to bet that the majority of things that are stressing you out are things that are NOT your monkey or your circus. We take on other people’s problems, shortcomings, mishaps and drama as our own personal projects to try to “fix.” I’ve witnessed myself and dear friends and family spread themselves thin trying to “help” other friends, acquaintances, and coworkers to correct self-created messes. In the end, we always regret it. Here are some reasons why we may regret it:
- It becomes a habit. Once you start the business of fixing other people’s mess, they will consistently come to you to fix their mess.
2. We are so consumed in other people’s mess, we don’t have time for our own mess.
3. We find that those we have helped aren’t available when we need help. (They are always in some drama, how would they have time or know-how to help you?)
4. We feel defeated when we do not “fix” the problem.
So let’s say you still want to go around with your cape on being “Captain Save Em.” While you’re being “helpful”, they are being handicapped. Some people need to fall on their face. At least once. If they are never required to be accountable for their actions instead of bailed out or “helped”, where is their incentive to change or improve their behavior? I have met so many adults who have clearly been “saved” too many times and their development has obviously suffered. They have no troubleshooting skills themselves. They keep repeating the same behavior and expecting different results. If the person in need of saving is an adult (especially anyone over 25) I’m sure they have a track record of making poor decisions. Do a background check. Fact check. You will be sure to find a long line of enablers as well. Well-intentioned parents, siblings, grandparents, family, friends, mentors…all “helping” them maintain their poor behavior. Every dilemma or problem they encounter is placed on someone else’s doorstep to fix. Don’t further enable this behavior.
I may be asking for a tall order, especially when it comes to people that you love and care about. In that case, you may consider them “your monkeys, your circus” – however , if you are not emotionally invested, you should not be allowing them to emotionally drain you!
Start asking yourself some important questions before you get involved in other people’s issues.
Am I responsible for this situation?
Does this situation really involve me?
What will it cost me to get involved? (Time? Stress? Money?)
What will happen if I decline to participate?
If you start vetting your involvement in situations through these filtering questions, I would be willing to bet that your stress and drama levels will significantly decrease. I dare you to try it! Click HERE to listen to the podcast.