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Caring is not a weakness or flaw. On the contrary, to care demonstrates love and compassion for oneself and all of the people you care about.
However, some people are overwhelmed by how much they care. They may have such strong feelings and emotional reactions that it can damage their well-being. They may find themselves anxious, depressed, unable to sleep, or constantly worrying. They may experience physical symptoms like having no appetite, stomach aches, headaches, or high blood pressure.
Caring is an important facet of the human experience. But caring too much can cause harm to yourself and your life. Not only are there the potential medical ramifications, but other people can and will take advantage of your caring nature.
What a person who cares too much needs is balance. And to achieve balance, you will need to work on pulling yourself to a more neutral state.
That doesn’t necessarily mean apathy, though. Some people have the idea that they shouldn’t care about anything, ever. Because what’s the point?
The point is that caring inspires people to action, whether creating the life you want, looking for a new job, or working to create social change. Caring is good, but balance is necessary.
Let’s look at some ways you can cultivate that balance.
Just for the sake of some organization, we’re going to break this up into three sections: Personal Life, Romance, and Work. Do not take these as hard and fast rules. You will find that many of the concepts can be applied to other areas of your life as well.
In Your Personal Life
1. Create and enforce boundaries.
Boundaries are the foundation of healthy relationships. Every person has limits on what they find to be acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
Unfortunately, not many people actually take the time to think about their boundaries and define them. That’s an important step to take because it removes the confusion and ambiguity that often comes with emotional situations. It’s easy to make bad decisions when you’re flooded with stress and emotion.
Instead, you make that decision ahead of time, so you clearly know where your boundary is and are able to enforce it.
For example, you have a boundary where you do not want to hear your friend complain about their relationship because they do nothing to change it. So when your friend starts moaning about how terrible their partner is, you don’t need to entertain the conversation or invest extra energy into figuring out whether or not it’s acceptable.
All you need to do is say, “Hey, I’m not interested in listening to you wallow in negativity about your relationship. We should talk about something else.”
2. Don’t over-invest in other people.
People who care too much will often find that it’s not a reciprocal relationship. They will devote excessive energy to worrying and fussing over the people they care about, while those people won’t devote nearly as much energy back.
Sure, they may care about you a lot; they may just not be wired in the same way that you are. Frankly, most people are primarily concerned with themselves and their own problems, first and foremost.
A good way to manage these relationships is to exert an equal amount of energy. Don’t spend your time chasing after people constantly. Put about as much energy into the relationship as they do.
You shouldn’t make it a tit for tat thing. Like, if they call me once, I’ll call them once. People get busy with life and sometimes get distracted. But it does become a problem when you’re the one putting in all the effort and work.
There’s nothing wrong with being the one to reach out or try to get something going. Just don’t be the person who constantly pours into others without being poured into yourself.
3. Minimize your contact with negative people.
Negative people have a problem for every solution. You’re not going to change the way they think. That’s something they have to do for themselves.
Stop and make an assessment about the people you spend time with. How do they make you feel when you leave their presence? Do you feel happy and energized? Or do you feel drained and negative? Are you walking around with negative feelings because they are loading their problems and worries onto you?
It’s good to be a supportive friend, but some people just love wallowing in their misery. The easiest thing to do is to pull back and create some space so that you’re not devoting so much of your energy to them and their negativity.
4. Focus on what you can control.
You cannot control what other people say or do. All you can control is your own actions.
“If only they would do this! If only they would do that! Why won’t they do this? Can’t they see that it would be better this way?”
None of it matters because all of it is outside of your control. A person who wants to make bad decisions will. That’s not something you can control. You may offer some guidance or perspective, but you can’t be invested in the outcome of their choices.
Many people have to learn life’s lessons the hard way. And honestly, that’s the way it should be for a lot of things. After all, bad decisions are a great way to develop wisdom.
5. Learn to say no.
“No” is the single most powerful tool for protecting your space, peace of mind, and metering how much you care.
You must be able to say no otherwise people will continuously intrude on your space. And to be clear, these aren’t necessarily bad or toxic people either. It’s just that no one can really know what you’re thinking or how you feel unless you can clearly communicate.
People-pleasers are easy to take advantage of because they will often agree to things that are not okay. Malicious people can and will take advantage of that if you let them.
Once you start saying no, you will likely find that the people around you change their behavior. Some people might even get angry with you because your agreeability and care are no longer at their convenience. So let the trash take itself out. The people that genuinely care about you will adjust, even if it’s a little bumpy.
6. Remind yourself that no one is perfect.
The people that you love and care about are going to make bad decisions. You’re going to make bad decisions. Keep in mind that no one is perfect, and few plans go smoothly.
Don’t over-invest yourself in the successes or failures of other people. That’s for them to own and deal with. Be a cheerleader, but remember that you’re on the sidelines.
Lower your expectations. People get things wrong a lot. Just think about how many things you’ve gotten wrong in your life and realize others are going through the same. It’s okay. People, including you, need room to stretch their wings, fly, and sometimes crash and burn.
Dust yourself off, dust your loved one off, and get back to it.
7. Surround yourself with things that make you feel good.
The emotions behind caring are generally outgoing in nature. You are investing your time, thoughts, emotions, and energy into the things you care about. The problem is that you cannot pour out of yourself indefinitely. You must be able to refill your emotional reservoir when you’ve poured out of it.
One way that you can do that is by surrounding yourself with things that make you feel good. That will differ from person to person. Maybe it’s a job well done, a clean house, art, gardening, or exercise. Maybe it’s spending devoted time with loved ones where you can enjoy their presence. Maybe it’s traveling and experiencing something new and interesting.
Whatever it is, get more of it in your life.
8. Don’t dwell on judgments.
Everyone is judgmental to some degree. The brain just wants to categorize things, call them right or wrong, and let you know whether or not this thing might be harmful to you.
The problem with judgment is that we are often forming our opinions from an emotional place. It may be a gut reaction to a situation that invokes a sharp emotional response. Or maybe you’re better about not emotionally judging circumstances. Maybe you take the time to look for evidence to support your judgments.
Here’s the problem with being over-invested in judgment. Judgment assumes that you are qualified to make that judgment. But what if you’re not? What if you only know half the story? What if you’ve been fed lies? What if your perception or emotional reaction is wrong? At that point, you’ve judged and devoted that emotional energy to the situation for no reason at all. And you may not even be right.
Judgment happens. It’s reasonable to judge to some degree. The important thing is to not get so invested in your judgments of yourself and other people that you are caring too much. Take a step back from the situation if you need to. Don’t own things that aren’t yours.
9. Disregard the opinions of other people.
Everybody has an opinion. But how many of them are good or useful? How many of them are knowledgeable and informed?
The truth of the matter is that many people don’t even understand themselves. Yet, we give incredible weight to the perceptions of others. Why do you care so much about what that person thinks? Are they an expert on your life? What you want? What makes you happy? What brings you peace of mind?
No. Even worse, there are plenty of bitter and cynical people that solely exist to tear happy people down!
The typical advice is to ignore what other people think. That may not be the best choice. Sometimes we need an outside perspective. A better approach is to consider the opinion, look for any merit, and decide whether or not it’s relevant. If it’s not relevant or if it’s to hurt you, then ignore it.
10. Change your media habits.
Social media is a trap. The major social media networks have spent a lot of money on behavioral psychologists and specialists to help develop algorithms that will keep you coming back for more. Instead, what you end up with is a looping highlight reel of awful and wonderful things that will impact your emotional health, well-being, and ability to care.
Modern news isn’t much better. We are now on a 24/7/365 loop of all the terrible things that are happening in the world. And, of course, “If it bleeds, it leads.” Negative news gets eyeballs, so that’s what we get served.
You have to be mindful of how you consume media if you’re going to use it.
Your friends generally aren’t sharing the bad things that happen in their life. And if they are, it’s usually not in a good or healthy way. You’re regularly being advertised to, often with strategies to make you feel like you aren’t enough or that you’re missing out.
Social media is a powerful tool that can bring people together. But, you can also use it to cultivate a space of fun, interesting, and happy things that can serve to recharge you. Follow artists, creators, and inspirational spaces that put hope into the world. Use it as a way to recharge your batteries.
It’s important to stay informed about what’s going on globally, but the news is best consumed as a light diet. How often do you really need to be reminded about the terrible suffering and death in the world? That’s the way it was yesterday; that’s the way it’ll be tomorrow.
Don’t waste your time mindlessly scrolling or consuming terrible things. If you feel tapped out of energy or that it’s mostly negative emotions, deleting social media may be a good way to go. Many people report feeling relief without the barrage of notifications and things to keep up with.
11. Take good care of yourself.
A healthy relationship is between people who take appropriate care of themselves and one another. Unfortunately, far too many people try to use a relationship to either fix or avoid fixing themselves. Caring too much for a romantic partner can be a symptom of this. It’s a way to distract oneself from looking in the mirror at their own flaws because they’re so busy trying to care for their partner.
That usually doesn’t end well. It doesn’t end well because the flaws or problems they have are still cropping up, still interfering with the relationship’s health. So then the person who was caring too much gets hurt because they feel like their partner isn’t caring enough.
This is also why people say things like, “You have to love yourself to love someone else.” Which isn’t actually true. You can certainly love other people and not love yourself. What is true is that it’s much harder to have a healthier, balanced relationship when you don’t love yourself, or you are caring too much about your partner while neglecting yourself.
12. Work on your trust issues.
Trust issues will torpedo and sink a relationship in no time. Do you spend your time worrying about what your partner is doing when you’re not around? Do you worry they will cheat on you? Do you do things like call to check up on your partner when they have a night out?
People will regularly excuse this kind of behavior in themselves as “caring too much.” They are vitally invested in ensuring that their partner is safe and cared for at all times while completely ignoring how controlling and unhealthy it can be. Sure, it’s reasonable to be concerned for your loved one’s well-being. But there does exist a line where it is just controlling and manipulative behavior.
Obvious issues aside, caring too much about your partner also sets you up for disappointment. If they want to do sketchy things, they will find a way to do sketchy things. It’s not great, but that’s just the nature of relationships. You have to have trust in your partner. If you can’t, you need to work on that. That will help you pull back to a healthy level of care.
13. Nurture reasonable expectations.
Some people care too much with so much emotion that they have set themselves up for failure. They go into a relationship thinking that they will change their partner to match their vision. The relationship then becomes emotional chaos when the partner fails to live up to those expectations; or, worse, rejects them altogether.
It’s good to care about your partner. It’s good to nurture and encourage their goals, growth, and desires. However, there will not be a happy ending if you try to force growth and change on your partner.
Do not over-invest yourself in what you think your partner should do or who you think your partner should be. That’s not for you to determine. That belongs solely to your partner.
14. Spend time with your friends and family.
Some people struggle with balance when they are in a romantic relationship. They focus the majority of their care and love on their romance and start neglecting their other relationships. This is bad because we need balance. It’s good to devote time and energy to creating a loving, romantic relationship. But it’s also good to have friendships and relationships outside of the romance. It’s necessary for maintaining healthy boundaries and preserving the things that are important outside of the romance.
The other side of that coin is someone who gets into a relationship and demands all their partner’s time, attention, and care. That’s a bad sign. It’s a gigantic red flag for a potential abuser because the first thing that abusers tend to do is isolate their target from help. That typically looks like:
“Why do you need to go out with your friends? Aren’t I enough?”
“I don’t know X. You shouldn’t hang out with them anymore.”
“I don’t really like your family. Can we just not go see them?”
“I don’t want your parents coming over here. They make me uncomfortable.”
This kind of thing is not okay. It’s not okay to do to someone else. It’s not okay for anyone to do it to you. Suppose you care so much for your romantic partner that you are willing or want to forego your other relationships. In that case, that’s a problem that you need to take up with a counselor.
15. Build your self-confidence.
Self-confidence is a powerful tool for creating a balance in caring for yourself and others. It is the healthy middle ground that exists between arrogance and self-loathing. Arrogant people tend to not care about other people all that much. They may feel that the problems and concerns of other people are beneath them. Self-loathing people often care too much about other people’s opinions because they think they’re a garbage person and, thus, any negative perception must be true.
Instead, you want to move more toward the middle. Self-confidence is knowing that you are a valuable, flawed person who is worthy and worthwhile. You don’t spend your time worrying about currying favor or what other people think about you. A self-confident person knows that things will go right sometimes and wrong sometimes, but no matter how it goes, they can adapt and find their way forward. They don’t need to spend their time agonizing over all the what-ifs.
You’ll find it easier to not care and let things flow by building your self-confidence. You won’t spend your time worrying about what your partner is doing if you know you are worthy of their love.
16. Have your own dreams and goals.
Everyone needs to have something to strive for. That doesn’t necessarily need to be material things. It can be intangible things like experiences, making a difference, or achievements. People that don’t have anything to strive for may find themselves caring far too much about what other people are doing.
That’s particularly true in romantic relationships. Everyone needs to have something for themselves. Take an inventory of what you currently have going on in your life. Do you have any dreams or goals of your own? Anything you particularly want to accomplish?
If not, you should consider a goal that will give you something to focus on and care about for yourself.
17. Remind yourself that there is no such thing as “the One.”
Some people get entirely too wrapped up in their romantic partner because they feel they are an absolutely unique soul that perfectly fits them. Some people believe this is a metaphysical thing. Other people think this is just a matter of exceptional compatibility.
The problem is that people who do not have a healthy balance can go entirely overboard and care way too much. They invest all of their time, energy, thoughts, and emotions into “the One” because they are under the impression that everything needs to be perfect, or else it will go under.
This type of thinking is problematic for a couple of reasons.
First, it really discounts the wide scope of humanity. There are billions of people on the planet. The chances of you finding “the One” are pretty much nonexistent. There will always be someone more compatible out there.
Second, the initial impulse of lust and infatuation isn’t love. It’s easy to cop good feelings for other people. But love? Love is work. Love is sacrifice. Love is being there for someone when life is beating them down. Love is sitting in the gutter with someone when things don’t go as planned. Lasting love is something that is created by weathering storms and confronting life together. It’s not just the good things.
Third, how powerful is a love that you feel constantly anxious about? That you feel like you have to worry about and constantly care for or else it will disappear? Sure, it takes effort to nurture and keep that relationship healthy. But it certainly shouldn’t be so flimsy that it will crumble without near-constant attention and care. A healthy love will allow you to have your own space and life, hopefully with someone that gives you equal care and consideration.
Frankly, if you feel the love is that flimsy, it would be a good idea to talk a counselor about the situation to see if the relationship is healthy.
18. Never forget, you are a replaceable cog in the machine.
Are you the type of worker that says things like, “This place would fall apart without me!”? Do you spend your time constantly worrying about the next deadline? Maximizing every single second of productivity that you possibly can? Volunteering for anything that needs to be done because you want to be perceived as a “go-getter?” Skip out on safety measures in the name of expediency? Do you work off the clock or through your breaks?
You are setting yourself up for failure by caring too much. Way too much.
Never forget: You are a replaceable cog in the machine. Management can and will replace you when they have to. No, the place isn’t going to fall apart without you. Smart, well-run businesses take pains to ensure their internal structure doesn’t have a single lynchpin, so everything doesn’t grind to a halt if that person decides to leave.
Don’t fall for that garbage that management talks about being a rockstar or a family.
Remember that when you want to cut corners on safety, volunteer for more work when you’re already stretched thin, or want to miss a gathering with your actual family for work.
19. Temper your expectations of your work environment.
You must make sure your expectations are in line with what is reasonable with your work environment. For example, let’s say you get hired into a great company. They have a proven track record of promoting from within. They offer a living wage and benefits. They also offer options for you to get additional training, expand your knowledge, and earn more money. Fantastic. That sounds like a place you can actually have a career at.
On the other hand, maybe the job isn’t so good. Maybe they underpay. Maybe they cut your hours and change around your schedule without bothering to tell you, so they can fire you for not showing up. Maybe they give everyone the exact same review and mediocre raise to keep employee costs down. Maybe they’re the type of company to constantly mess up your paychecks or go in and reduce your hours. And maybe, just maybe, management makes a whole lot of promises and never follows through with them.
Can you have a future with the second company? Probably not. That’s just a stepping stone or a way to pay the bills until you can move on to something better.
20. Keep your personal and professional life separate.
There are far too many businesses that blur the lines between your personal and professional life. People who care too much about the job are perfect targets for this sort of thing because they often have poor boundaries.
Keep your personal and professional life separated as much as you can.
How do you create healthy boundaries with work?
Do not install work-related apps on your personal devices. Do not check your email or answer phone calls from work when you are off the clock. You do not exist to your workplace from the time you clock out until the time you clock back in.
Do not work off the clock. Take your breaks when you have them. Sit down and eat lunch. Take smaller breaks if you’re entitled to them.
Use your benefits. If you get sick time or vacation time, review the employee handbook and figure out how that time works specifically. Use your sick time if you have it. Use your vacation time if you have it. Don’t let it just roll off or disappear because you didn’t use it. Some places do not pay out sick time when you leave a job, so you basically just threw all that money away.
It’s your money. It’s your time. Don’t let your management and fellow employees guilt trip you into not having boundaries. “Oh, well, everyone stays an extra hour!” “John didn’t take any sick days at all last year!” “We work hard, so we can play hard.” “You need to be accessible at all times.”
21. Define what success means to you.
Success can be measured in different ways. It may come as meeting deadlines, meeting certain metrics, or getting a particular job done. You need to understand how success is measured and possibly set your own standards for success.
One of the ways bad managers take advantage of people who care too much is to set impossible standards that no one can meet. Then they tell you that you’re the problem; you just need to work harder and care more. And if you did, then everything would be great!
In a bad job, that means working extra hours, taking on responsibilities that aren’t yours, and working the jobs of three people because management won’t make an effort to actually hire someone. And why would they if they have someone who cares too much that they can exploit? A person who will break their back doing all that extra and excessive labor under the guise of “success.” And then once you do break your back, they fire you because you didn’t adhere to company policy, protecting themselves from liability and trying to stick you with the medical bills.
Now, you may have goals that you’re working toward. Most people want to do a good job, earn a fair wage, and build the kind of life that is right for them. But you need to understand what success means for you and ensure you are not wasting too much energy caring about impossible standards that can never be met.
That’s energy you could instead be pouring into your personal life, your family, and your health.
Caring is good. It means you are an empathetic and compassionate person. But caring too much for anything will only get you used and abused. Never sacrifice your dignity and self-respect because you care too much. No one who genuinely cares about you would ever ask you to do that.
Setting boundaries and learning to care for yourself will cause some waves, so don’t be surprised if you end up losing some friends because you’re no longer useful.
Be thankful. They are clearing the space for you to invite new people into your life that will respect your boundaries.
Still not sure how to not care quite so much about everything and everyone? Speak to a counselor today who can walk you through the process. Simply click here to connect with one.
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