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Lost in the woods

About You

Lost Your Way?


Just the word gives me a heavy, tired feeling. It brings with it memories of feeling stressed, anxious, overwhelmed and exhausted – all of the time - of feeling what little energy there is draining away like someone just pulled the plug.


Burnout can leave you feeling useless, like you can’t cope, like you’re weak or in some way flawed and that you are letting people down. It saps your confidence, your self-esteem, your sense of who you are and leaves you feeling not just tired and overwhelmed but depressed as well. But why? Why do you get to that state? And how?


Here’s what I think. For one reason or another, somewhere along the way, you have learnt that your value comes from making other people happy, from looking after people and making sure they feel comfortable and cared for. In short, you have learnt to put other people’s needs ahead of your own even to the point of moulding yourself into what you think they want you to be. You’ve been told you are a good person: so caring, so generous, so selfless, so cheerful – and maybe it made you feel good to hear that, so you did it some more. You also perhaps started to believe that if you don’t work hard to please others then you are a bad person: uncaring, mean and selfish.


It’s not true of course but, all in all, this belief has become so entrenched that you can’t see any other way of being (even if you recognise the pattern and the harm it is doing to you). The trouble is that everyone’s needs are different, everyone wants you to be a slightly different version of who you are – and sometimes these versions are downright contradictory. So you end up spending your life trying to make everyone else happy, trying to anticipate their needs, trying to be who they want you to be so that they’ll like you and want to be around you (because you are nice to them), or they’ll want to employ you (because you always go above and beyond) – there are many variations but you get idea.


The trouble is that now you are exhausted. Burnt out from taking care of everyone else and letting your own needs take a back seat, from trying to fulfil an image of yourself that doesn’t even come from you. You feel lost in the woods - without a map. But how do you figure how you got lost in the first place. Never mind find yourself again?

Face-to-face therapy with Nancy. "Powerful is our need to be known, really known by ourselves and others, even if only for a moment."

"Powerful is our need to be known, really known by ourselves and others, even if only for a moment."

Carl Rogers

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