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Feeling Obligated? Learn How to Get Out

by Kim Ades October 19, 2017

Do you ever feel obligated to do things that you don’t actually want to do? Do you find yourself sacrificing your time and your energy for others on a consistent basis?

Do you find yourself…

Going for dinner with people you don’t actually want to hang out with because your partner says you “have to?”

Helping your kids with homework you don’t really understand? 

Attending conferences and professional events that bore you to tears because it’s what’s “expected of you?” 

Inviting friends over for cocktails when you are exhausted because it’s “important to reciprocate?”

Banging your head against the wall trying to help your parents figure out their technology issues?

Feeling like you have no time for yourself because you’re obligated to help other people?

If any of these examples resonate with you, you are not alone. Here is the story of how one of my clients got trapped into doing another family’s laundry for months because she made an innocent offer and felt obligated to be “nice” and “maintain her integrity.”

Catherine is a chiropractor. She has been in business for nearly 30 years and has built a family-oriented business with clients who typically come to see her regularly for the span of their lives.

One day, she was adjusting a patient when something seemed askew. Her extensive experience told her that something was off and needed immediate medical attention. Without completely sharing her suspicions, she sent her patient right to the hospital’s emergency unit. Shortly after examination and testing, her patient was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Luckily, Dr. Cathy caught it early on and the patient was able to have it treated right away.

The patient was extremely grateful to Dr. Cathy and shared her gratitude with her. Dr. Cathy felt relieved that her patient would receive the proper care and offered further support by saying, “Let me know if there’s anything else I can help you with.”

Catherine was somewhat surprised when two weeks later, she received a call from her patient wanting to take her up on her offer.

Her patient asked her if she would please help by doing the family’s laundry.

Catherine felt obligated – the poor woman had cancer – and she had offered to help… It was important for Catherine to maintain her integrity.

So for four whole months, Catherine did the laundry for this family of five!

When I heard this story, I was not surprised. Catherine is just that type of person – good to the core. However, there was no question in my mind that she allowed herself to get trapped in a situation that she really did not want to be in. When Catherine had offered help, in her mind, she had been offering chiropractic support. She was not signing up for laundry duty.

She has since discovered that offering specific help works out far better for her. She will say things like, “Let me know if there’s any chiropractic help I can offer you” or “I am making lasagna tonight – I would be happy to make an extra one and bring it over.”

Keeping the promises that you make to others is important, but sacrificing your own happiness isn’t necessary. When it comes to “obligations,” if helping someone out makes you feel great, go for it! But if it wears you down, take a step back or find an alternative.

Make a list of your obligations in any given week. How many of them do you actually enjoy doing? Which ones do you dread? Can you cross them off your list completely, find a more enjoyable way to achieve the same results or even delegate them? Or are you stumped as to how to get rid of the obligations you are burdened by?

If it’s the latter, know that it’s your thinking that is getting in your way and causing you stress, not the obligations themselves. Thankfully, helping you shift your thoughts to ones that serve you is what we do best. Click here to learn more.

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