Most spiritualists urge you to be compassionate to others to feel good about yourself. In a sense the motive for volunteering is quite selfish. You generate good feelings about yourself by benevolently giving. You define yourself, feeling worthwhile that you matter to someone else and bask in the glory. But could you possibly be overdoing it? Could you be feeling so stressed, so second-rate, that you have lost your own voice, your own image in the mirror and need to be reflected in someone else’s eyes? You just might be suffering from compassion fatigue.
You can reliably diagnose whether you are suffering from compassion fatigue if after you help someone out whether a family member, friend, colleague or stranger, you feel resentful! You start muttering inaudibly, “Why do I always have to do it?” or “Why doesn’t anyone do something for me?” I find it amusing that energy vampires, narcissists, and real users know just whom to go to – YOU! Blessed are those who give, so let someone else be blessed for a change.
However, compassion fatigue is merely a symptom of a more invasive disorder – generalized identity anxiety. The root cause is a lack of self-empowerment. In other words, you rate your self-worth based on the praise of others. “You are such a good person!” It’s time to liberate yourself emotionally by getting rid of the guilt and those old worn-out beliefs, like “Don’t show off.” It’s time to own it, strut your stuff and free yourself physically by ceasing to helicopter over everyone else. Helicopter over yourself for a change and break this heart-deadening pattern with awareness.
Ask yourself the following questions before you do something for someone else:
- Does this request resonate for me?
- Do I have the time and energy?
- Am I conflicted between ought to and want to?
- At what cost to me?
Here is an exercise that will help objectify the situation. Keeping a record of what you do in black and white objectifies your activities, giving you much needed distance to step back and see the whole picture. Divide a page into two columns. In the first column list what you did today for everyone else. In the second column list what you did just for you. Do the two columns match? Make sure that at the end of every day the second column is not overwhelmed by the first column. Keep this daily journal of "Look what I did” to combat compassion fatigue. In a couple of weeks you will feel energized, optimistic and creative.
Absolutely, no excuses! Even if you are responsible for elderly parents, children, work, the house and friends-in-dire-need, you must take care of yourself. Because if you burn out or get sick and tired, you will certainly permit yourself the time for self-care. Do it now before this happens. It is always easier to prevent than to treat a disease. Well, I have to go now. It’s time for the next item on my to-do list: FUN.
Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout
and Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul,
a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com