When you’re a passionate helper, you’ve probably sacrificed a lot to make sure that your clients and others you help get what they need. You’ve worked hard to make sure they’re improving. You’re there for them and will do whatever it takes to make sure they’re able to move forward. You find reward and meaning from the help you’re able to offer.
However, when you move into leadership and become your own boss (as well as when you start managing others) this self-sacrificing can go beyond being an asset to truly dangerous.
Here are the things I see that can really get in the way of you truly embracing leadership (and being successful).
- Setting a poor example. Whether for your clients, your team, or your family – if you’re constantly sacrificing your own needs for everyone else, it’s going to show. You may think that you’re a superstar at hiding it, but you’re not. You’re working so hard that you’re driving yourself into the ground. That doesn’t work long-term. (And really it doesn’t work short term, either, by the way.) You need to set boundaries around the work you do and make sure that you’re truly taking care of yourself, because other people are looking to you for guidance on how to be healthy. You need to make sure that you’re doing whatever you can to promote wellness – and that means leading by example.
- You are out sick or working sick too often. The obvious corollary to you being a poor example is that you will feel the negative consequences of how little you’re taking care of yourself. That can look like illness that puts you down for the count OR – worse – it can be you working sick and getting the people who rely on you for care sick as well. Depending on how vulnerable the people are that you work with, this self-sacrifice can be costly or even deadly. Take care of yourself and stay home when you’re sick. Period.
- You’re no fun to be around. Self-sacrifice is often seen as altruistic, but I think there has to be a really tight limit around it. When you give so much over and over again, at some point you become bitter and feel used. Whether or not people have asked so much from you, they will come to expect it and rely on it. When you don’t feel up to giving the help you have in the past, they may complain or keep asking you for more support. And too often, you can become angry because “don’t they know how much I already give!?!?!?” This is a recipe for negative interactions and hurt feelings. It can also turn you into a toxic boss, helper, and family member. Don’t become a martyr!! Set limits and make sure you take a break before you start snapping at people.
- Disempowering the people around you. When you sacrifice yourself and do so much for all those around you, you can take away their power to shine, and grow, and heal. If you infantilize your clients or your family members – they will never grow up. If you take away the responsibilities of your team members (or give them so much “help” that they feel micromanaged), they will not become self-initiating. AND even worse – if you are not giving them the paid work they need (because you’re holding onto it yourself) they may not be able to make a living. The people who you sacrifice so much for can become too dependent on you and/or they can disengage and leave. Neither is good. Instead, empower the people around you to manage what they can – even pushing them outside their comfort zone a bit, to help foster their growth.
When you take care of yourself and encourage the people around you to do so as well, everyone benefits. The people who rely on you are also looking to you to set the boundaries and show how helping is done. Don’t fall into the self-sacrificing, martyrdom that so many helpers do. You’ll be able to help so many more people if you first take care of yourself.
Schedule time to talk with me and we’ll start figuring this out. When you’re ready to make a bigger impact, it’s time to evolve. Let’s do this.