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  • Writer's pictureAcelli Crippen-Kok

How to avoid burnout from overfunctioning: Understanding the difference between helping and supporting.

Women routinely end up burnt out from “helping” because we’re taught and shown from an early age that we are made to nurture, to fix things, and we must never watch a loved one struggle. Is it any wonder, after years of being programmed with these beliefs, that we’re insistent it’s our place in this world to do for others? I mean, seriously! Have you noticed when we don’t spread ourselves thin being the go-to for everyone around us, we are labeled heartless, not a real woman, not a good person, selfish, and self-centered and that we need to see a women’s therapist to “work on that”. As if!


The sad fact is we burn ourselves out so the people we love look at us in a positive light, and we don’t get guilted into things. We need to stop that. All of it. Right now! How can we stop? First, we have to learn the difference between helping versus supporting the people we care about. Then, find professional assistance to learn how to stop helping and start supporting!


Helping

Unfortunately, when we help others, we end up becoming a crutch. We anticipate what needs to be done and do it without being asked! The result? We: 

  • Feel unseen and unheard

  • Feel taken for granted

  • Get annoyed when we aren’t thanked for our efforts

  • Feel unappreciated 

  • Burnt out

  • Resentful


Here’s the “real-real”, the down and dirty, the thing you don’t want to hear: you’re clipping a person’s wings when you constantly step in and take care of everything for them, instead of taking a beat and waiting to find out what it is they need your support for. Plus, you’re hurting yourself in the process and wind up feeling anxious, stressed out, or hopeless. 


The fact is, one person cannot do everything for everyone when a problem arises. People have to learn how to fix their own sh*t and fly with their own two wings. Let’s also remember “the helpers”, well we all need to help ourselves. Or, maybe, support ourselves. [See what I did there?] I know this is probably making you uncomfortable in your own skin, setting your anxiety off, and you’re Googling if there’s an anxiety therapist near you to book a session. But just keep reading…..


Supporting

A healthier response to our loved ones laying their problems at our feet? Waiting for them to TELL US how we can provide assistance. Simple, but effective, to improve both your life and the lives of those around you (even the ones with the problems you feel the need to fix).


The difference? Supporting allows us to maintain healthy boundaries, and not burn ourselves out solving problems, fixing things, and DOING EVERYTHING for other people. When we support, we step back and become just that, a support system, no longer the savior. You become an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, and a safe space to get away from the overwhelm.



You’re Not Crazy! Women Really Are Conditioned to Help No Matter What.


My fellow ladies, you are absolutely not crazy. Society has conditioned us to believe every woman’s role in life is to help others by “fixing” problems. We’re never supposed to watch others struggle, because our place in this world is to do for others. If we don’t help, if we don’t step in and fix the problems others around us are having, then we’re labeled:


heartless

Not a real woman

Not a good person

Selfish

Self-centered


Well, it’s all nonsense. Society needs to get their sh*t together and grow up a little bit. All of the problems a woman’s friends, family, and colleagues are handling are not her responsibility to fix. When we constantly fix everything, we quickly become a crutch. We snip people’s wings, when we think “helping” and “fixing” problems are forms of nurturing. 


Unfortunately, all this helping, and the strong belief "women are only useful if they help", turns women into over functioning women. You know the type - she swoops in making decisions off the assumption she knows what’s best, or what the person experiencing distress wants, without ever asking. 


In reality all that helping, fixing, and over functioning does is nurture feelings of resentment, being unheard, and being unseen in the one doing all this fixing and helping. Why? Because the ones receiving all of this assistance come to expect it, as they have never learned to do for themselves. 


Why Women Need to Stop Over Functioning!


Yes, as women, over functioning is a natural transition from “always helping”. Our instincts just take over, and we believe in our heart of hearts we know what is best, because in this world, we’re expected to know what is best. It’s a badge of honor to over function. To be the one others EXPECT to take over every issue, make it better, without being asked. 


However, if women don’t change their over functioning ways, they’ll destroy relationships with people they love. How can this be? Because, the truth is, at some point those being helped will resent not having a voice, OR, you will resent not being appreciated for all that you do. 


It’s a vicious cycle, really. How can we still be of service, but not provide all the solutions? Learn how to support instead of swooping in and saving the day.


Are Women Capable of Supporting Without Losing Ourselves?


Hell yes we are! It just takes a little rewiring! I love helping women in Cedar Park learn new skills. Working with a professional provides all of us with the opportunity to learn why we feel compelled to help and fix things for people we care about. Once we understand the why, we can adjust our behavior, and stop “helping” but instead, start supporting those we care the most about. 


It’s important to remember all of us are learning the differences between helping and supporting, even therapists.  We can’t teach it if we don’t learn it for ourselves, right?! Live it, learn it, support others who wish to make the important switch from helper mentality to supporter mentality.


Break the Burnout Cycle


Ladies, I’m telling you, our only way to break the burnout cycle is to learn and understand the differences between helping, supporting and over functioning. And then take it a step further by practicing being supportive, and not slipping back into helping which leads to over functioning. We are NOT required to fix everything for everyone! Our “place” in this world is not dependent on who we help and how often we “help” others by fixing things for them. 


Let people struggle a bit, so they can solve their own problems and feel the power that comes with grabbing life by the balls instead of life grabbing them by the balls. No more wing clipping - let people soar through the skies with strong, powerful wings. Then, you can enjoy your own life with less burnout, stress, resentment, and aggravation. 


Ready to move from helper to supporter? I’m your go-to therapist in Cedar Park! Let’s get to work today.


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