Do you feel you have to do everything for your family and find it impossible to let go of even the smallest detail? Do you tidy your house before your cleaner comes or run to school with a child’s forgotten homework? Do you volunteer for lots of local committees and take on more than your share of work? If so, you are probably feeling taken for granted and resentful of others who aren’t doing their bit. And at the same time, you can’t see how you could possibly return to work when nobody else can do what you do!
If this sounds familiar to you, you are probably trying to be a superhero. It is also likely that you behaved like this at work, before your career break, so it is even harder to work out how you could combine work with all your more recent non-work responsibilities.
What is behind being a superhero?
This superhero behaviour is common enough for psychologists to have recognised and researched it. It is often referred to as pleaser behaviour as it arises from a need to gain approval from others (work colleagues, family, children). To gain approval, the pleaser will do whatever is asked of them, hates to say no and will always say that they are ‘coping’ no matter what is going on. The downside of the behaviour is that the pleaser doesn’t balance what they are doing for others with their own needs and the lack of balance builds resentment.
How can you get back to work without being a superhero?
- As mentioned in previous posts on unhelpful thought patterns, becoming aware of your pattern is the first step, so try to catch yourself when you’re about to put your hand up for a project or about to save your children from learning by their own mistakes
- Work out which of the non-work tasks you do that others could do instead. And decide which tasks don’t really need doing and just won’t be done when you go back to work
- Accept practical or emotional support. Asking for help is not a weakness, we all need it.
- Get some practice with saying ‘no’ and learn to handle any unpleasant feelings and fears this brings up in you. You might discover it is easier than you expected!
- Take care of yourself: build some activities into your schedule that are things you enjoy doing. Read our post about guilt if you find this idea difficult
- Remember that you will be a more effective worker and more fulfilled parent if you balance what you are doing for others with taking care of your own needs too