There is a concept in Al Anon and ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) programs that I love: “detach with love.” The idea is, we have to peel away our identity and wellbeing and emotional state away from people in our lives so that we can see where we end and they begin. It is natural to take things personally when someone treats you with disrespect, but oftentimes, when someone is acting out it has everything to do with them and very little to do with us.
If each person focused solely on themselves and their wellbeing, the world would be a less reactive place. However, our culture often sees focusing on ourselves, taking space, and self care as “selfish” and “wrong.”
But that’s selfish!
Where is the difference between a mother who takes care of herself and a mother who neglects her children? The answer is that a mother who takes care of herself has a balance in her roles. She is not only putting energy into being the person she can be but also into being the best wife/mother/employee/etc. A “selfish” mother who neglects her children is often one that is just trying to avoid negative feelings through drinking, spending, sleeping around, overworking, etc.
I used the term “mother” here because mothers are the individuals who most often get shamed for taking care of themselves, however, this is true for any person.
If you look at truly self absorbed people, they all have one thing in common: they are hurting. No one hanging out at the bars or parties at 40-years-old+ is truly happy. No one pacifying their children with tablets and junk food is managing their stresses well.
Practical Strategy for Assessing Your Balance
In order to get healthy and face the negative feelings and trauma in our lives, we have to slow down, take space, and start to take care of ourselves instead of numbing. Ways people can start to do this in their lives: take some alone time in this next week and do some reflecting via writing. Divide the paper into several sections and label the top of each section a role you hold in your life (ie. mother, woman, friend, wife, family member, employee). After you have all the roles labelled, fill the section with what you do that puts energy into that role. For example, the “Mother” section may have:
- Driving kids to hobbies
- Driving kids to school
- Story Time
- Bed Time
- Scheduling family outings
- Bath Time
- Writing Grocery Lists
- Meal Planning
- Doing Laundry
Make a Plan for Your Future
After you’re done, evaluate if any columns are more full than others? Don’t worry, you are BOUND to have some columns that dominate the others. To find balance, identify some tasks in the super full sections that you can delegate or let go of with a highlighter. In the sections with very few items, put some in there. Maybe you always wanted to learn guitar, do yoga, or write a cooking blog? Maybe you need to schedule a girls dinner every Thursday to attend to your friendships? Maybe you should be more intentional about calling family members on Sundays? Try using a different color pen for the items you don’t do yet or don’t do enough of.
Now you’ve got your action plan: delegate/automate items that are highlighted and start attending to the items you have in a different color ink.
BOOM! You’re on your way from detaching from others and finding balance for yourself.
About the Author: Kayla Reilly MSW, LCSW is a licensed therapist and founder of Evolution Wellness, a counseling center in Wilmington, NC. She specializes in relationships and helps people be better in every relationship role they have. When she’s not busy helping people conquer their mental health and relationship wellbeing, you can find her snuggling her dogs, reading, or playing a mean game of poker.
Evolution Wellness is a counseling center in Wilmington, NC that offers individual counseling and couple’s counseling. Our professional counselors are trained to listen with empathy and expertise and offer guidance to facilitate your personal growth.