“Don’t try to change anyone’s shoes but your own”……..........What does that even mean, right?
I suppose what I’m looking to say is that you're not responsible for the happiness or well being of another. This can be a hard truth to grasp when you really love and care about someone and your watching them swirl down a dark hole. The reality is, that most often, the best thing you can do for another is step back and be supportive without “taking on” your loved ones issues. The level of happy that exists for another is only theirs to create or change. Allowing everyone to OWN their own “stuff” without trying to take “it on” for them is so important.
A huge cause of frustration in life is when we find ourselves wanting to change a person or situation that is simply out of our control. Whether it’s coming from the compassionate side of us that wants to help another or a selfish place because we want something to look a certain way; It’s a rough place to be. The key is to ground down and remember that your job is to work on yourself and avoid taking on another person as a “fix it” project.
Learning how to create that boundary for yourself where you can “be there” for another without “taking on” their challenges is such an important skill to learn. When someone we know and care about is struggling, it makes sense to want to help, fix it and make a situation better. There is a time and place to help and there also is a time and place to back off and be supportive from a distance. To be helpful and supportive does not require you to manage another's personal challenges. As much as your intention is to help, helping too much and getting your hands dirty with another’s stuff can actually cause it’s own set of issues for you and that other person.
Honoring and remaining accountable to our own personal boundaries keeps us and the ones around us healthy. Allowing someone to be where they are in their own journey without trying to fix them is what keeps a relationship healthy. Bringing up your concerns and starting a conversation around your perspective of a problem is one thing, but taking on and doing for another what they are not doing for themselves is what can lead to enabling. Just for the record, here is how wikipedia describes enabling: “In a negative sense, "enabling" can describe dysfunctional behavior approaches that are intended to help resolve a specific problem but in fact may perpetuate or exacerbate the problem.”
We are all going at our own pace in life. Each of us is living a journey that is presenting us with specific lessons to learn. We get the opportunity to learn these lessons by dealing with our own stuff. As we take action and make our own decisions and choices we then are able to discover our own consequences. This is how we learn and grow. (Even if that means learning what not to do.) If other people are stepping in and taking care of our challenges for us, we often will fail to learn the lesson.
If we play the role of savior, we are not allowing people to learn their own lessons. We are also getting involved in material that is not ours, which can complicate our own life. Learning to disconnect from someone else’s “stuff” is one of the most healthy skills that we can learn. There is a way to be helpful, but not fix a situation for someone. Your support and listening ear are two elements that are so extremely helpful. Don’t doubt the power of being present and listening. If you find yourself continually taking action that is not necessarily yours to take in the life of another, take a step back and re evaluate whats going on.
Don’t spend your time trying to put on the shoes of another. Stick with your shoes, your stuff, your life. When you find that balanced place within, you will be able to provide a healthy amount of support for a friend in need without going over board. Your life and their life will be better for it.
* The above image was taken by San Diego Photographer, Amy Lynn Bjornson.