I am coming out of a long season of rest. By season of rest I mean I stopped doing all the things for all the people. I purposely pressed pause on any responsibilities other than the immediate needs for our family.
No volunteering. No serving. No offering help.
I have been completely selfish with my time and energy for a while. This was partly due to our move to a new town, new church, with new friends and new responsibilities — and honestly I just needed it.
But — I must confess by coming out of my season of rest, I mean I have fallen back into my old, unhealthy habits of overcommitment. I am again blowing past the healthy, carefully placed, and safe boundaries I made for myself.
I write often of being transparent. So, I must be honest and transparent with you about an important issue.
Hello, My name is Brianna and I am a chronic overcommitter.
See here is how it usually goes; I commit. Then, I commit again. And then, I commit one more time. And then, another time. Each time I do it again, I find myself on this self-propelled commitment train that is barreling faster and faster down the track. Suddenly I find myself in the danger zone of flashing red lights of overcommitment.
Hello, Crash and Burn.
Overcommitment is a consequence of poor limit setting, which is a very common issue among women. Overcommitters have trouble setting appropriate boundaries on behavior regarding saying no.
A ministry partner calls for a favor, I do it even if I don’t have the time. The editor at a collaborative blog asks me to accept a new assignment, I accept it even if I have no time in my schedule to devote to a new project. A woman I counsel texts she needs to have an emergency sit-down, I bump my schedule for the day to make sure I can give adequate time to listen, but over-schedule myself out of time needed for the writing project I committed to finishing two weeks ago.
Overcommitment means I am overwhelmed. When I am overwhelmed I become paralyzed. When I am overwhelmed I am not able to help anyone. When I am overwhelmed I become the one needing help.
I know I am not the only woman who does this. I meet, talk with, and even counsel women who also are chronic overcommitters. So why do we women tend to do this to ourselves?
The Beginnings of Chronic Overcommitment
For most women, the issue began in childhood. Most young girls are socialized to be helpful, accommodating, and polite. If they can help out, they are taught that they should, even if it requires them to stop something they’re already doing or something they really wanted to do.
If they don’t pull away to help, they’re called selfish, lazy, uncaring, or self-centered, which usually leads to feelings of shame and guilt over not being a “good girl.” This skill is what makes women awesome Moms later in life, but it also sets an expectation of how to receive praise and in some cases love.
As a child I was always helping at Grandma’s house before, during, and after mealtimes. It’s what the women of the household did, even at a young age. I was lauded with praise for helping and working the entire time, even though we lived three hours away and only were able to visit with family a few times a year. I would have much rather sat and talked with my Grandpa or spent time playing with my cousins I rarely got to see.
Women by nature are more nurturing and have a propensity to be helpers. This unassuming socialization skill though exploits this nature and teaches girls the roles they’re expected to play. These roles carry over into adulthood relationships. When someone needs help, that little girl in them is likely to respond (without thinking of the consequences) with an automatic, “Sure,” and a smile, even though it’s pulling her away from something else she is doing.
Excuses for Overcommitment
Like most things in life though, it can’t all be blamed on childhood. Sometimes, it’s pride. Sometimes it’s the need for hustle and achievement that compels women to pledge themselves to too many obligations. Some women carry their post-it note overflowing planners like a badge of honor. I wrote last Fall about the Lie of busyness.
I used to relish sharing my calendar with others. I felt a sense of pride in having places to go every night of the week. My worth was placed in what I did. The more I had on my docket to accomplish the more value I assigned myself. Now, I think of those days and realize how full of pride and foolish I was.
On the other hand, insecurity can also stop women from just saying no. What if I say no and I miss out on a life changing opportunity? Or what if I say no and she gets mad at me? Or what if I say no and they realize I’m not as good as I thought I was? All unhealthy fears are lies we allow to shape what we believe about ourselves. I recently wrote about the dangers of believing lies about ourselves.
The truth of it is, I find myself falling into this trap much too often. Instead of allowing God’s truth to drive my thoughts, security, and identity I give in to the twisted doubts spoken over me by others. I allow the lies of the enemy to distract me from truth.
This is still foolish pride. I must remember that I can put my hopes in the God, for if the Lord has said it, His will be done. Not that of the accuser.
I may not have it all together, but I have all of Jesus.
Honesty Regarding Overcommitment
At this point I usually have some practical helps for you to overcome the issue — but I’ve got nothing. HA! I really am stuck as you can see.
So maybe you can help me my dear readers.
Instead of questions for you to ask yourself, I am asking you to share with me what practical things have you done to help you to resist overcommitment?
Also, I enjoy praying for you all. I get giddy when I receive an email message from a reader who has filled out my Prayer Request Form but can I be honest with you once more?
I need your prayers for focus and clarity of what commitments I need to let go of for peace and confidence to be regained in my writing.