Coaching Options
Healing Perfectionism Group
Free Webinar

Stop Owning Other's Responsibilities

boundaries burnout choice difficult conversations exhaustion negative emotions negative thoughts people-pleasing problem solving Jan 22, 2022
A woman sits on a mountaintop watching the sunrise by StockSnap of Pixabay
We are so good at adopting other people’s work. I spoke with a friend today, a Hospitalist, who shared how she follows patients in the chart after their hospital stays, and even calls them when they haven’t arranged follow up.
This is caring, yes, but this occurs after she spent time with him and his wife explaining the plan in the hospital, after she wrote the plan in the discharge summary, after she messaged the PCP. She called him, no answer. Called his wife, “oh, yes, he got busy.” And she spends more time worrying about him and why he isn’t taking action.
She is adopting his work. The work he can’t or won’t do. She believes it is her work, because he hasn’t done his work.
Is this you?
I could tell you 20 stories of this in the clinic too. The patient who hasn’t scheduled follow-up, the one who promised to get her mammogram. We worry, we chart stalk, we call them, write them, etc.
The truth is, we, as adult humans, make our own choices. Yes, differences in education, socioeconomic status, and all the like are factors, as are systemic racism and all of the isms.
And adult humans generally get to make our own choices.
Including the choice to not follow plans, directions, urgings, suggestions, advice, and orders.
We chronically resist the notion, both as doctors, as well as “responsible adults,” that other adults make their own choices. And then we tangle our emotions into their choices. Patients might be surprised at how often their physicians’ proverbial undies are “in a twist” because of THEIR choices. They aren’t taking their medicine correctly (evidenced by refill reviews), they don’t show to their appointments, or they cancel them and “disappear” from the schedule.
Most of us were trained that it was our job to get patients to comply. And we keep that idea. And we fret. And we suffer.
What if you chose to let adults be adults?
If you continued to do your work of informing, educating, making a treatment plan, asking for understanding, etc, and you didn’t MAKE IT YOURS to suffer the outcome. Allow others to take (or not take) responsibility for them, knowing that your job is to diagnose, advise, guide, but that you can’t do for them, cajole them, manipulate them or shame them into action.
When we give patients (and other adults in your life) responsibility for themselves back, we can choose to be present, we can choose to be empathetic, we can choose to be concerned, but we can also choose to not carry their burden. We can choose to lighten our own load, because ultimately their health is NOT UP TO US. Regardless of how “good” we are, patients will choose for themselves what they are willing to do, and not willing to do.
How would you show up in your day if you weren’t trying to shoulder these loads?
How much space could you free up for yourself?
Wouldn’t you like to try?
PS, This works for adults in your family too, especially if you are “the responsible one.” Why not choose to love them, but let them own responsibility for their lives?

Hi There!

I'm Megan. I'm a Physician and a Life Coach and a Mom. I created this blog to help other Physicians and Physician-Moms learn more about why they feel exhausted, burned-out and overwhelmed, and how to start to make changes. I hope that you enjoy what you read, and that it helps you along your journey. And hey, if you want to talk about coaching with me, I'm here for that too! I offer a free 1:1 call to see if we are a good fit. Click the button below to register today.

Schedule your free 1:1 call today

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join my mailing list to receive helpful tips and insights to your mailbox each week, as well as updates about my latest coaching offerings.

Don't worry, your information will not be shared.

I hate SPAM (all kinds really, don't come at me). I will never sell your information, for any reason.