Month #5 of Extreme Self-Care

Okay, all you control freaks out there – and I know you know who you are – in this month’s exploration of Extreme Self-Care, Cheryl Richardson invites you to Take Your Hands off the Wheel.

What?! Impossible!

Everything will crash and burn if I’m not making sure it’s done.

Not just ‘done,’ but done right (translation: the way I think it should be done).

And in a timely fashion (translation: when I think it should be done).

Raise your hand if the button on your lapel should read General Manager of the Universe.

Be honest.

Me, too.

(Two hand’s worth.)

And I bet the fallout is the same for all of us.

We end up doing too much. The deeper we get buried, the bitchier and more resentful we get. We end up feeling alone: emotionally, because we ‘have’ to do everything ourselves and physically, because our loved ones do, in fact, retreat from us. It’s no fun hanging out with an angry martyr.

It’s not a pretty picture.

So why do we paint it, over and over and over again?

According to Cheryl, there are a couple of reasons:

1. Some of us like to be the boss and have played that role for so long that it doesn’t even occur to us to ask for help.

2. For some, the perceived costs of asking for help are too great: it’s faster, easier and works out better if I do it myself; it takes too much time and energy to explain what’s needed;  I don’t want to be refused or to have to fight with my family to do what needs doing or be indebted to someone else or look incompetent or weak.

Nutshell Takeaway: I want to avoid conflict and disappointment and I want to manage the perceptions of others.

Nutshell Kernel: I want to be in control.

If the thought of taking off the General Manager of the Universe badge has you gasping for air, consider this: the world will not fly into a million pieces if it doesn’t follow your precise prescription (really!).  Also, when you relinquish the wheel and take a nap in the back seat for a while, you give the people in your life a priceless gift. When truly entrusted with the care and feeding of Project X, they begin to trust their own capabilities, they become more resourceful and they begin taking responsibility for the quality of their own lives. In short, you empower them to make the decisions (and the mistakes) that lead to full, rich lives.

And that’s not all.

For all you do-it-all working mothers out there, when you hand off some of the household chores to other family members or pay someone else to do it (which comes with the added benefit of providing an income to another family) it frees up your time and energy which has been known to rekindle the desire for intimacy (translation: sex).

For any frustrated husbands out there, informal studies confirm that, for many women, watching their husbands do housework is an aphrodisiac.

So . . . on to this month’s Extreme Self-Care Challenge.

Cheryl’s instructions re: asking for and receiving help include making a ‘Things You Can Do to Support Me’ list. Here’s what she says:

Choose an area of your life, be it home or work, where you could use the most aid. Then choose the person (or persons) you’d like help from and explain how the list works. Let this person know that you’re ready to let go of control and you’d like his or her assistance.

Negotiate how you’ll work with the list by considering the following areas: 

How many items will you include on the list?

Where will you leave it?

When  would you like to have these items completed by?

What should your support person do when he or she can’t meet a deadline?

Who will ultimately be in charge if additional help is needed?

As you begin to use the list, be sure to give your support person permission to let you know when you’re trying to take back control–when you start to do something you’ve asked him or her to do or when you’re interfering with the process. It’s also very important to let him or her make mistakes. Keep in mind that just because something isn’t done your way, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. And sure, mistakes will be made, but they’re rarely life threatening. When given room to breathe, people generally bring their best selves to the task at hand.

There you have it.

Easy peasy.


Here’s to a month of happy Back Seat Non-Driving.

(I’ll keep my fingers crossed that nobody out there truly does crash and burn.)

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