Being an emotional caretaker is sabotaging your relationships and happiness, my friend. And I want to help you feel the freedom that comes with the ability to say NO! Emotional caretaking, aka codependency, can stretch into every single area of our lives. Ready to learn how to stop being an emotional caretaker and the five ways to say no? Awesome, let’s do it.
What is An Emotional Caretaker?
Think of the urge you often get to soothe someone else’s feelings before you’ve even acknowledged your own feelings. Take a moment to close your eyes and notice what it feeeeeeels like to experience the urge. You probably notice it most often when trying to avoid conflict at all costs or going to the ends of the earth to avoid disappointing someone.
What is Emotional Caretaking or Codependency?
Emotional caretaking or codependency is when you act on the urge to soothe someone else’s feelings instead of soothing your own own. At a young age, emotional caretaking became a habit for you for an excellent reason. You probably perceived that if you didn’t help resolve their feelings, they would leave … either literally or figuratively.
Angry, Scared, Sad, or Anxious
An angry person may cause fear and storm out of the room, while a sad person may become distant and unavailable. And, an anxious person becomes preoccupied and can feel overwhelming to others.
Smooth the Way
One clever strategy young people naturally develop (unless taught otherwise) is to smooth over a situation so that those who they care about or need to remain emotionally available.
Allow Others TO FEEL
It takes practice to become comfortable with allowing others to feel without trying to interrupt their feeling. And, it’s often very uncomfortable at first because it’s kicking up a subconscious fear that something terrible is happening … even though the fear is probably irrational.
However, there is a reason they tell you to put your oxygen mask on first when they orient you on airplane crash tips. Here are 5 ways on how to identify when and how to say no to emotional caretaking.
How to Stop Being an Emotional Caretaker: 5 Ways to Say NO
Prefer to watch the video below? Learn more about how to say NO as an emotional caretaker or scroll down to read the highlights.
#1 Don’t confuse your yes’s and no’s
There are times you will say “yes” when you really want to say “no”. Occasionally sacrificing for others is ok. But when you notice it has become habitual or detrimental to your health and happiness, it is time to evaluate your habits and patterns.
#2 Don’t believe the lie of perfectionism.
Emotional caretakers believe they are helping others. They go to great lengths to save the day, even when they haven’t been asked to help. The source of this type of emotional caretaking is perfectionism and helps us to feel wanted, validated, and accepted. It’s actually a self-serving action to avoid your own feelings of insecurity. This can happen at work, with your spouse, and especially with your children.
#3 You come first.
Empaths, emotionally sensitive people, have a finely tuned radar and are more susceptible to emotional caretaking. You need positive rituals and emotional boundaries that keep your heart sponge from absorbing everyone else’s feelings! If your life or your work requires caretaking, be sure to take care of yourself first so that your needs are not forgotten or left by the wayside. Remember, the best way to teach other people healthy habits is by modeling healthy habits.
#4 Know your limits and triggers.
I can always tell I need a tune-up when I allow my husband’s mood to affect mine completely. I’m sensitive to his distress; however he is entitled to have a bad day. I must give him the space to express his feelings. It feels like a trigger for me to try to fix things when I just need to love and support him. If I feel emotionally triggered, I probably need a little TLC because I am tired, stressed or at my limit. When I feel a desire for the people around me to change so that I can feel better, I know it’s time to practice self-care.
#5 Ask for help.
You don’t have to do this alone. Emotional caretakers often feel a need to be strong for others and can feel ashamed when we perceive we are letting people down. You may be surprised by how helpful people can be when you are honest and let them know you can’t meet a deadline or fulfill an obligation because you are overwhelmed or not well. Again this is about monitoring how often this happens so you can stop it. For the most part, people feel good when they can do a kind deed for someone else. Allow others to feel good and receive their support.
Learning how to say no has been a massive part of my personal and professional development. It has allowed me to recover from chronic illness, spend quality time with my family, and to feel a general sense of peace.
Dawn Wiggins, Ed.S., Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist