A Delicate Balance

I was talking to a friend the other night, and she told me that there is an actual personality type called an “obliger.”  I’d never heard the term before, and my spell check doesn’t recognize it as a legitimate word, but she said it refers to people who try to please others and are generally willing to do whatever it takes to make other people happy.  She went on to say that every once in a while, people who are “obligers” get fed up with trying to please other people and can become, at least temporarily, very uncooperative, stubborn, and angry.   And boy, can I relate to that!

Like so many women (and some men), I have always had a hard time saying “no,” even to things that I really don’t want to do.  I don’t want to let anyone down; I don’t want anyone’s feelings to be hurt, and I feel a strong obligation to help anyone who asks for my help.  And of course caring about other people and wanting to help them however we can is a good thing…our world would be a much worse place if we all just took care of ourselves and ignored the needs of those around us.  The problem, I think, is knowing where to draw the line between taking care of ourselves and taking care of other people.

IMG_0448And personally, that’s where I struggle.  One of my duties at the local Humane Society is to train new volunteers, and I’ve probably mentored about two hundred people over the years.  I really don’t like doing it anymore, but we always need more volunteers and the only way to get them is to train the new people, so I keep at it.  I try my best to be patient and cheerful as I teach them the ins and outs of handling shelter dogs, but sometimes I worry that the person I’m mentoring can sense my resentment at having to spend so much time training them rather than just walking the dogs, which is what I really want to do.  And if they can, and their introduction to the Humane Society is dealing with my crabby and impatient self, am I really doing any good?

I think that’s the problem with being too quick to do what others want me to do, even when I’d much rather not.  I tend to over-commit in almost all areas of my life, and that sometimes leads to me being so stressed and resentful that I’m not really helping other people at all, and I’m certainly not helping myself.  As the old saying goes, “If you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one.”

I am slowly learning to try to find a balance between taking care of the needs of other people and taking care of myself.  I do like helping other people, and I think it is very important to do that whenever I can, but that doesn’t mean I have to automatically say “yes” to every request that comes my way.  If I really want to make a positive impact on the world around me, then I need to make sure that I have some time to recharge my batteries, and to do the things that feed my soul.  Because I can’t do a good job of taking care of anyone else if I don’t make sure I take care of myself as well.

18 thoughts on “A Delicate Balance

  1. Yes, I think women are prone to this and we are “trained” to take care of our families at our own expense, especially those of us of a certain age. It is a hard balance and who doesn’t want to please others? But, it is important to take care of ourselves too.

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  2. Yes, I still struggle with this one. Even as I’m advising my daughter to quit trying to please everyone else… It’s the old “do as I say, and not as I do” syndrome!


  3. I try to gauge exactly HOW BADLY I really don’t want to do whatever the activity is. I had said yes to traveling out of state for a friend’s birthday and I got myself so stressed about going that I eventually was thinking up stories I could tell to get out of it. I wanted to cry I so badly didn’t want to go, even though it was a party for a dearly-loved friend. I finally just called them and said, “Listen. I’m so sorry. I love you but I am just TOO OVERWHELMED with stuff going on. Please forgive me, but I just cannot come.” They forgave me. 🙂 If you give too much of yourself, you’ll find you’re not actually helping them anyway because you have nothing left to give!

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  4. We’ve opted to adopt/rescue big puppies. Our current is named Coda, a lab/malamute that weighs in at + 100 pounds. A strong and determine critter he be. And so we must be the Alpha of the pack. The one that sets limits to better give license. I give detail not to digress, but to suggest that we as people need to move to Alpha when called upon so often to oblige others. To know when to say to ourselves, in a quiet but certain voice,…No.

    Nice post…by the by.


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    • There is a group of us who train (mentors) new people, so it doesn’t all fall on my shoulders, but we definitely need more of us to handle the load. It’s an ongoing struggle to find enough new volunteers to stick around in the first place, and to get enough volunteers to also agree to help mentor the new people. But the more mentors we have, the easier it is for those of us who train, so your comment is right on target!

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  5. That’s a tough one , isn’t it, especially when it comes to volunteering your time. But your sanity and own well being are also important so trying to find a nice balance is probably the key….easier said than done, I know…:)

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  6. I too am a people pleaser. It took me a long time to feel comfortable saying no but it has been such a relief to not over commit myself since the resentment about doing things I really rather not do can be evident if I leave matters unchecked for too long. I had to learn that there are folks who think of no one but themselves and they couldn’t care less if you’re working yourself to the bone to make them happy. As a matter of fact some feel entitled and as a result showed no gratitude at all. That’s when I had to draw the line and say enough is enough.

    Find that line, draw it, and you’ll be so glad you did. Saying No today doesn’t mean you have to say no forever it just means you can’t help today. One step at a time…

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    • Yes, I agree. There are some people who are basically users, and given a chance, they can take advantage of people (like me) who tend to want to make everybody happy. I have had to learn to really evaluate both what people are asking me to do and just who is asking me to do it! I’m still not there, but getting better at it. Thanks for the comment, and the good advice!

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