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How many roles do you play in a typical week?

Have you ever thought about how many roles you play in a typical week? By roles, I mean situations, where you show up in a setting where something specific is required of you, where you need a certain set of skills, behaviors, as well as mental and physical energy to do that activity well. To give you an idea, here are some of my roles during a typical week:


I show up in the role of the mom to my teenage daughter, guiding her, helping her regulate her emotions (nice way to say putting up with the ups and downs of teenage rollercoaster feels), making sure she stays on top of her schoolwork, goes to sleep at a decent hour, etc.


I show up as a wife, manager and pep-talker to my other half. Who is very different from me - in good times, you can say we complete each other, in not so good times, we drive each other nuts.


I show up as the momager, having 80% of the mental load of this family in my head, worrying about dental appointments, school outings, birthday gifts, vacations and keeping this household running and the dogs alive.


I show up as a coach to my clients, walking along with them on their path, being their sparring partner, being their biggest cheerleader, wanting them to reach their goals.


I show up as a freelance consultant in a big agile project, juggling the different demands and day-to-day tasks big and small while trying to stay within my weekly alotment of hours.


I show up as a daugther, visiting and caring for my mom with dementia, fiddling with the difficulty of switched roles here, feeling more like her mom than her daughter, not to speak about the mental load of worrying about what is to come as her condition progresses.


I show up as a friend to those close to me. While I used to have a rather large circle of friends, corona and my lack of energy has narrowed this circle down quite a bit. I jump back and forth between the guilt for being a "bad friend" and the relief, because the stress of extra commitments is gone.




I show up as a many more roles throughout other weeks, and this list was way longer a few years ago, but you get the picture. Now, if you look at all of those roles and write them down for yourself, you probably realize (like I did) that is no wonder that you are often so drained emotionally and physically.

We struggle to grasp the concept that not only is time limited, but our energy also is. So while we still might be able to "fit everything in", we often are going way beyond our energy capacity, hurting ourselves in the process.

And even though we struggle with the effect of this, we often have a very hard time changing anything in this set up. But doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is...stupid.

So that leaves us with three options:


1. Leave the situation as it is and "suck it up"

Good luck. May the force be with you. But it won't. You will pay the prize, sooner or later. But maybe you need to experience that yourself before you realize it. Or you still have way more energy than I have and can still go for a while longer at this pace.


2. Reduce the number of roles based on priority

This one sounds simpler than it actually is. Rank your roles based on your priorities/values. That requires you to take a close look at what your values are and why. Sometimes we just took them on from our parents, never questioned them and now realize they don't serve us well anymore. So this is quite a challenge in itself. Once you have your roles prioritized, pick one or a few from the lower end of your list and think about letting go of that role. What would you gain? What would you give up/lose? Then decide and communicate - or frankly just stop playing that role. Hand it over to someone else. Politely decline. Say no. Stop doing it. Whatever it takes. And sit with that feeling of letting "someone down". They will survive. And you just did something good for yourself.


3. Change the level of expectation for some of the roles

Based on the ranked priority list, take one of the lower priority roles that you feel you cannot give up and ask yourself: how can I lower my own and others expectations, how can I do "bare minimum" to keep doing it, without overexcerting myself? Maybe someone else can help? Maybe you can share the load? Maybe you can focus on the most pressing task and let go of other tasks that are not so important? Maybe you can let go of your own perfectionism and live with the fact that now is not the time to throw so much time and energy into this role?


When feelings of uneasiness, anxiety or plain horror come up, sit with these emotions and look at them like clouds in the sky. Don't push them away, just watch them with curiosity and let them pass. Maybe you even feel them (I always feel them in my stomach or in my neck muscles). Do that, too. Don't try to change anything, just stay curious and somewhat detached, like you are just an observer of your thoughts. You are not your thoughts. You do not have to believe everything you think.


And once you have done all this, celebrate by doing something good for yourself. Have a nice coffee or tea with your favorite book. Light a candle and listen to your favorite music. Go for a walk in nature, Whatever you want. And celebrate that you have just done something that was probably hard for you. And you are worth it!



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