The Worst Part of Overwhelm

When I was a kid, my mom had a sneaky way of giving me chores. First, she would ask whether I wanted to learn whatever it was. Vacuuming, lets say. I loved to learn, so I would invariably say yes. So she would patiently show me exactly how she wanted it done, and praise me when I got it even half right.

The next week, though, there was never any of that `Do you want to?” just a flat, “Shanna, do the vacuuming.” And there was never anymore praise, either. I knew how to do it– what did I want, a medal?

And to this day, that’s how I feel about taking on new projects– is this going to turn into one of the things I have to do? And more importantly, is it going to be one of those things that people take for granted to the point that they only notice when I don’t do it.

Worst of all, is my own work ethic, my dedication to doing things right, going to work against me?

Every single, solitary time I’ve felt overwhelmed it was because I didn’t think I had enough time to do what I wanted to do RIGHT.

On one hand, it`s good to know your limits, and when to say `No’. There’s a lot to be said for sticking to only that which you can accomplish without working yourself into an early grave.

But, there’s also the opportunities you turn down because you’re already doing too much— most of it unimportant, or for other people. But they depend on you. You made a commitment. You can’t just walk away from that, can you?

Actually, you can.

If it’s impinging on your development, your dreams, your work or your challenges, you absolutely can.

We often get into the habit of making things easy for others, and making them harder on ourselves. We persuade ourselves that doing so is the right thing to do, but it’s actually wrong on two counts– for others, you deny them the opportunity to solve their own problems, which they may thank you for now, but ultimate resent or come to take for granted.

Two, you deny yourself countless opportunities because you refuse to put your own growth first. If you have children, or are a leader of any kind, you are modelling the behavior you least want to perpetuate. And you stunt your own growth as you undermine the growth of those you’re trying to help.

At the basis of all these complicated processes is a fear of disappointment. Having disappointed or discouraged children, disappointing the Rotary Club who’ve come to rely on your leadership and willing labor, disappointing yourself when you try something and fail.

Worse, worst– is when that labor of love, that long shot, that I’m-not-going-to-expect-too-much-from-this project starts taking off and you realize that you can’t keep all these plates spinning indefinitely. You realize that you’re going to have to disappoint someone.

And you decide to disappoint yourself.

You backburner it, telling yourself you’ll come back to it when things aren’t so hectic. When other people don’t need you so much. But that time will never come because you’ve trained them to need you.

I’ve heard this story over, and over, and over. I’ve lived it. I’ve seen it play out in my family time and time again. I’ve done a ton of work on my own to make sure this cycle stops with me.

What’s the worst part about overwhelm for you?

Is it the dread? The panic? The tears? The compulsive screwing around on facebook instead of taking action? Hit the comments section to let me know.


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