No boundaries

When we care "too much" about other people

I keep thinking about the way some people discuss having “no boundaries.”

It feels so much like the conversations people have about how they’re too busy in general — people who are ambitious at work, dedicated to their family, take their hobbies seriously as a path to another future — people who just can’t find any time for themselves since they’re making time for what they value most.

They say they want to take better care of themselves. It’s hard, since they just care too much. They want to relax, they know they should, but how can they when there are people out there who need their help?

It sounds a little bit like someone at a job interview saying their greatest flaw is their perfectionism.

They know perfectly well that the problem isn’t that they have “no boundaries.” The fact that it took me so long to notice is proof I wasn’t listening deeply. I was just one more person taking their dedication for granted.

Their problem is that other people aren’t pulling their weight. They’re choosing to do their job and everyone else’s. They’re impressed with their capabilities, as they should be. It’s impressive. But it’s not socially acceptable to say that.

Why would they want to do less, when things need to get done and they can do it better than anyone else? Why would they want to care less about other people?

Talking about how they struggle with saying “no” is a quiet way to signal just how much work they do. It’s a nudge to the other people in their life that it’s time to pick up the slack. It’s a way to nudge get people to recognize them. It’s recognition they deserve.

They remind each other that “self care isn’t selfish” and that they should “put your own oxygen mask on first!” to recognize just how strong they are. They’re out there, doing the essential work other people are too selfish to bother to do.

It’s a polite way to give each other a high five for their incredible sacrifices, without openly casting blame on the people around them for not doing their share.

They do what needs to get done, no matter what. They know that’s not a weakness.

What would it take for people to be willing to acknowledge the work of devoted caregivers who give “too much”?

When so many people need care and aren’t getting it, why would our culture tell the people who care the most to learn to care less?

If you totally disagree with my take, leave a comment or hit reply and let me know what you think.

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