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What’s mine to do?


My kids are suddenly at that in-between stage where parenting as I have known it feels like babying them, and leaving them to fend for themselves is out of the question. I’m muddling through by trial and error : can the younger one heat the leftovers? Can the older one clean the bathroom? Can they plan a full week’s worth of dinners, or take over responsibility for all our laundry?

The question I’m using to guide me through this is a zinger : I pause and ask myself, “What is MINE to do?” In other words, which of the many things on my plate is truly mine, and which can be done by others?

This is a particularly potent question not only for moms, but for women in general. As a rule we tend to heap too many to-do’s and take on too many tasks at work and at home than are healthy for us. We say Yes when really, we’re shaking our heads No.

We find ourselves taking one for the team again and again. Ironically, though, we haven’t been asked to do so, and the team would be just fine without our personal sacrifice.

So why do we do it?

Earning our keep

Not trusting our enoughness is one of the reasons we repeatedly sign up for more than is ours. And more. And more. This pattern means we have bought into the Imposter Syndrome, a sweeping epidemic that affects women in organizations from families to corporations and everything in between. Those afflicted (um, probably 100% of us) have the gut-level sense that we don’t really know what we’re doing. We’re flying by the seat of our pants. THEY know what they’re doing, I don’t.

Deep down we believe we don’t really deserve to be where we are.

As a strategy, we trick ourselves into believing we’re only as good as our last result, so once we check an item off our list we put something else on. In order to avoid the shame of being “found out” in future, we try to prove ourselves again and again.

The Imposter Syndrome is nourished and facilitated by the snarky and clever inner critic – the voice of fear. And one of its side effects is the habit of taking on more than our share, to convince ourselves that we merit our spot on the team.

Doing less as an act of respect for others

When we refuse to take on what isn’t ours, we leave room for others to step in and step up. It’s easy to see with children that this opens the door for growth and development in all sorts of ways. Same, too, at work and in relationship.   Asking “what’s mine to do?” while your team members do the same creates an environment free of resentment and overcompensation. This is the groundwork of respectful cooperation.

So as you sit down with your to-do list, pause and remember that you have already earned your keep; from that place of okayness, what will you ask of yourself now? And when your boss emails you a request for something unexpected, base your decision on respect for yourself and your team. Take on what is yours, and only yours.


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