How Learning to Care Less in All Aspects of Life Can Be the Ultimate Healthy Boundary
I ‘m taking a personally led crash course in how to stop caring (or, at least, care less). It’s called the “Hide Alerts,” and I love it. I have an empath’s heart, an anxious idler’s brain, and the lungs of someone who visits the gym once every three weeks, so—rest assured—I get drained running around, trying to fix everyone’s problems and meet every expectation foisted on me. That’s why keeping push notifications—text, email, social media, you name it—to a minimum whenever possible is a basic for of self-preservation. While what works for me may not work for you, what’s key for setting any healthy boundary—personal, professional, or otherwise—is striking the sweet spot of, “I can care about you and still care about me.”
“Some boundaries are specific, like blocking someone on social media,” says clinical psychologist Aimee Daramus, PsyD. “Other boundaries might depend on how you’re feeling that day. If you’re having a low-stress day, you might have more time to listen to someone’s problems, but when you’re already having a stressful day, you might only have so much to give.”
Of course, the natural caretaker may have a hard time turning people down and steering clear of emotional vampires, and the conscientious employee have a hard time not bringing home work. So if you’re find it hard to emotionally and physically de-invest and understand how to stop caring so much, find tips below for setting up little fences in both your personal life and your career.
How to stop caring so much about what your peers think and expect
1. Look back at your history with someone
Are you drawn to constant complainers who don’t have a vested interest in returning the favor when you have something you want to vent about? Be aware of those who take without giving, and adjust your expectations—and the amount of emotional energy you’re willing to devote to them—accordingly.
“If they have a pattern of showing up when they need something, but they’re ‘super busy, so sorry!’ every time you need something, you might need to stop answering their texts unless it’s an emergency,” says Dr. Daramus. Of course, if their behaviors honestly don’t bother you, continue doing whatever makes you happy. Otherwise, consider this a classic case of the power that can come from being able to care less.
2. Don’t put more work into someone than they’re willing to put into themselves
Having someone in your sphere who, say, spends all of your quality time complaining about her good-for-nothing ex, but next thing you know, they’re back together (again) is exhausting. When you see your support and thoughtful advice go ignored time after time, it’s time to learn how to stop caring so much and instead provide distanced support.
“If you start feeling frustrated because someone is in pain about a situation, but nothing ever changes, you can always just listen without trying to ‘fix’ anything.” —Aimee, Daramus, PsyD
“If you start feeling frustrated because someone is in pain about a situation, but nothing ever changes, you can always just listen without trying to ‘fix’ anything,” Dr. Daramus says. “You can also let them know that you’ll be there whenever they’re ready to make changes.”
3. Focus on simultaneous self care
“If a friend needs you, and you feel too drained to cope, another option might be to do some [quiet] self care together instead of having an exhausting conversation,” says Dr. Daramus.
This is a good deflection that allows you to be there for someone, offer a calming sense of peace, and also restore rather than exhaust yourself. Suggest the two of you do something that will help you both feel better. Find a shared interest—whether that’s more of a cathartic night out or a cozy night in—and something that might keep conversation to a minimum, and you’re good to go.
4. Be specific about what you can offer, and set limits
“Don’t offer anything that’s too much for you right now,” Dr. Daramus says. “It’s better not to offer at all versus offering some help and then not following through or getting angry and refusing their calls because you feel used.”
To get comfortable with this boundary, Dr. Daramus suggests a basic, two-step pattern: empathize, then tell them what you have to give. A examples? “I’m so sorry you broke up, that’s painful. Want to meet at the coffee shop for an hour after work?” Or, “I’m too drained for anything heavy. Want to go to a class at the gym and then use the sauna?”
TALK TO AN ADMISSION OFFICER NOW.
Put Across Your Ideas Once: If you tell people your opinions, ideas and thoughts, that’s enough. If they want it, they’ll go with it. If they don’t want to take it onboard, let them get on with it. Just to note, this works in a job scenario but is certainly not the case for entrepreneurs / self-employed people!
Redefine What Success Means: Is success getting to that next level at work? What happens when you get there? Or is success having loving and lasting meaningful relationships and time to do what you want to do?
Don’t Cater to Other People’s Egos: People who shout the loudest can be a pain to keep up with. Let them shout and do their thing, Don’t get caught up in it. Leave them to it.
Seth Godin, whom I mentioned earlier, is an entrepreneur and best-selling author of 18 books that have been translated into 35 different languages. He says that there are “only two choices” in life: being criticized or “being ignored.”
- If I get criticized for this, will I suffer any measurable impacts? Will I lose my job, get hit upside the head with a softball bat or lose important friendships? If the only side effect of the criticism is that you will feel bad about the criticism, then you have to compare that bad feeling with the benefits you’ll get from actually doing something worth doing. Being remarkable is exciting, fun, profitable and great for your career. Feeling bad wears off. And then, once you’ve compared the two, and you’ve sold yourself on taking the remarkable path, answer this one.
2. How can I create something that critics will criticize?
If you stop viewing feedback as a sign that you did something wrong, and instead see it as a sign you did something notable, it’s suddenly not so scary. In fact, it becomes a badge of honor that you did something worth other people taking the time to comment on.
It’s natural to doubt yourself or let others harsh words stay top of mind. But, if you practice these mindset shifts, you’ll be able overcome your fear of failure and achieve what you’d set out to.
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Simran is a UK based freelance researcher and writer covering careers, self-development and lifestyle. She has spent over five years in headhunting and talent insight and has a Masters in Social Research. As well as contributing all over the web she loves to blog for aranyaandco.com. Say hi on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.