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When You Feel You’re Not Doing Enough


Many dysregulated eaters not only eat more food than their bodies need, but also give too much to other people. I half-jokingly call this having an “enough disorder” and have blogged about How to Sense Enoughness. A major cause of stress (and overeating), overdoing often rears its ugly head in interpersonal relationships. Here are examples:

Your elderly mother expecting you to visit twice a week, while you’re working full-time as a single parent, is a major stressor for you. You keep trying to do so, but either find that half the time you end up cancelling one visit or return home exhausted and resentful. You feel you should visit twice weekly because that’s what Mom is requesting, believing that a good child would put their needs aside and make the effort. When your friends hint that Mom might be asking too much of you, you agree while at the same time feeling guilty that you might even try to cut back. 

The problem is that you are letting a parent make decisions about your life way past the time that it’s appropriate. Only you can decide what is enough Mom time for you. The problem is that she is asking too much, not that you are giving too little.

Another example is when your spouse or partner blames you when the relationship isn’t working because you’re not trying hard enough. They say jump and you say how high. But no matter how much more you do, you continue to get blamed for being in the wrong or not being good enough. Rather than examine their judgment, you believe and think that you ought to work harder to improve how things are going. 

The above comes from poor self-worth, a less-than mentality and a lack of being able to validate yourself. Maybe growing up you had parents who had unreasonably high standards for you and you needed to keep reaching higher to please them. Now, whenever someone says you’re not doing enough—boss, co-worker, friend, child—you simply accept what they say and push yourself harder. 

The way out of this problem is to recognize childhood patterns. If you were the oldest of five siblings and had to take care of them, you might fall into the same care-taking habit from back then and expect too much of yourself now. If you had critical parents whose praise you desperately sought, you might be driven for that same praise from others now. The key is to see that others wanting more from you is not an automatic cue to do more. That may be their way of controlling and keeping you down or groveling for their love or approval. Stop misreading the cues. Someone continually asking for more than you can comfortably give means there’s something wrong with them, not you.