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The 3 P’s of Emotional Caretaking™

Perfectionism, Pleasing and Performing

Women are rising up, finding their purpose and claiming their power. They’re taking on the challenge of having a personal life full of people they love and care for while simultaneously being fully expressed as individuals in the world. Too often this push to “have it all” results in exhaustion. Balancing work and home can be exhausting; but is it a foregone conclusion that “having it all” means you’ve got to accept exhaustion? I believe something else is at the root of the problem, and that something is called, Emotional Caretaking™.


Emotional Caretaking™ is when you make someone else’s emotions your responsibility.

Whatever is going on for the other person – it’s your fault and/or your job to fix. You can be cruising along in a highly focused state taking good care of your own priorities only to get completely sidelined by someone else’s problems. Hours later the satisfaction of having helped someone dissipates instantly when you realize that you are now irretrievably behind schedule. However much you may dislike the situation, you believe you did the right thing. You “had” to help.


When your own priorities are urgently bearing down on you, what truthful reason could you give to yourself that would allow you to stay focused on your work?


If you’re caught in emotional caretaking™ you can’t say “no” because it would make you appear selfish, self-centered and “not nice.” You can’t bear the thought of disappointing someone, or worse, having someone disappointed in you. These feelings overwhelm you and create a false feeling of emergency. You abandon yourself and give away your precious time. You believe that you “have to” acquis because your sense of worthiness is riding on how other people see you. That’s why you’ve got to be perfect.


The deeply painful underbelly of perfectionism is this; it’s a way of secretly trying to control and manage other people’s feelings and perceptions. Your attention is outside of you, focused on how others see you. Since you “see” yourself through the eyes of other people, you have to have their approval.


Winning approval means you are forever striving for perfection, performing for others and pleasing them. In return they reflect back to you how wonderful you are. If only it worked out that way, you might be happy. It doesn’t. Acts of care that start out as “special” quickly become “expected.” You’re working really hard to please people and all you feel is invisible.


In emotional caretaking™ perfectionism shows up as needing to be, “perfectly understanding, perfectly forgiving, flexible and generous.” It may include “never getting angry” or difficulty saying “no”. You may default to guilt every time you don’t measure up to your ideal standard. It’s a bankrupt system and as long as you are in it you can’t win.


You’ll never get the steady stream of positive validation you seek from others; and the time, effort and energy you invest in trying to get validation keeps you chronically underachieving on your own goals.


Performing and pleasing are strategies of perfectionism. If you cut perfectionism off at the knees the other two will go down.

There is only one way out of this prison. You’ve got to relate to yourself from the “inside out”. You have to love and honor yourself from the inside so that nothing on the outside can take you out of the game. The smart, loving, kind and tender soul that lives inside of you would never demand perfection of others. It’s unachievable. Don’t demand it of yourself.


To get out from under the thrall of perfectionism you must recover your power from emotional caretaking™. You do this one tiny baby step at a time. It begins with awareness. That’s it. Make a commitment to be observant and to tell yourself the truth about what you’re doing and how it’s impacting you. Look for one tiny opening. One micro-moment in which you can lovingly detach from someone else’s emotions. Tolerate your vulnerability. Be brave. Take a breath. Allow yourself to just be.

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Anne Marie Clear is a Speaker, Trainer, and Coach. She has worked with leaders and world-class scientists for over twenty years in the areas of stress management, living from true authenticity, and building lasting relationships. 

Anne Marie Clear

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