I wish I could say the term was mine, but I heard it from another Second Gen (someone born and/or raised in an extremist group) from the cult I grew up in.
We were literally taught to “live our lives for the sake of others” (as I’m sure many from other extreme religious upbringings were as well). I ended up with compulsive selflessness. It can be (like) an addiction. An internal drive I can’t resist. That I don’t even know I’m reacting to until I’m way down the line. I am compelled to meet your needs, even before you may know you have them. I’m that good…
Or as this same person said, “I feel responsible for everything I barely interact with, including other people’s feelings and thoughts. It’s exhausting.”
It is exhausting. And I’m not alone.
It’s good to know I’m not alone. I shared these thoughts with a friend during a walk this morning. “Yes,” she nodded. “Yes. Me too.”
It’s good to know I’m not alone, and I don’t want to keep taking on responsibility that’s not mine to have. I’m learning. Maybe decades after I “should have” learned, but I’m learning.
That my addiction to be selfless is just that – a compulsion, an addiction, something that doesn’t serve me and that in fact harms me, something I just don’t need.
I am getting better at remembering that other people’s thoughts and feelings are not my responsibility. They’re not even actually my business.
I am getting better at realizing – or trying to realize – where I stop and someone else starts. What boundaries are and why they’re important. How to have them. It absolutely amazes me that other people don’t feel responsible for everything. That the people around them can be unhappy with what they’ve said or what they’ve done, and it doesn’t throw them into shame and fear. They aren’t compulsively selfless. They don’t even really care.
I am stepping away from compulsive selflessness.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!