The Downside Of Being 'The Strong One' — 8 Ways To Cope When Everyone Expects You To Handle It All

Photo: George Rudy /
mother talks on phone while holding baby

So you’re really good at what you do.

You may be so good at what you do that those around you have come to rely on you always doing it. In fact, you can probably see the need long before anyone else and jump in to meet the need before anyone else even notices.

Maybe you feel a little bit like Luisa from Disney's "Encanto"?

RELATED: Why The New Trailer For Disney's 'Encanto' Made Me — A Grown Man — Cry

Are you buckling under the pressure?

Even if you don’t have Luisa’s gift to literally move mountains, you probably feel the pressure of performing, at work, with your partner, for your kids, with your friends, and for your parents or a larger family.

That can be super helpful at work or at home ... until it’s not.

There's a downside to being really good.

But if you’re really good at something — or lots of things — how can there be a downside?

Slowly, like the drip, drip, drip process, you begin to believe that you are your talent or gift. You like the attention and shout-outs. It feels good to get praised.

Over time — drip, drip, drip — you get confused between who you are and what you can do. Pretty soon, your Self mushes into your Achievement.

If you are not achieving, then who are you?

That’s when the fear enters that you have become your performance, which twists you into believing you must keep performing, must keep achieving, or you’re a failure. Or worse, you’re a nothing.

And that terror drives you to keep at it, to keep pressuring yourself until, like Luisa, you feel the grip, grip, grip that won’t let go.

Reclaiming your Self

There’s a solution to the weight of all that pressure, but it won’t be easy and may take some time.

After all, the surface pressure you’re feeling didn’t slam you overnight. It came on slowly like that constant drip, and it will take some intentional effort to ease that pressure and find your joy and relaxation.

RELATED: 4 Reasons Being Too Devoted To Your Job Is Not A Virtue

Here are 8 tips to reclaim yourself and help shake the crushing weight of the pressure.

1. Don't do the thing.

Just because you see the need doesn’t mean you have to meet the need.

2. Ask what's in it for you.

Ask yourself what you’re getting out of always being the one who's doing what needs to be done. If you don't like the answer, reconsider always being the one.

3. Identify your fears.

Identify what the fear whispers to you if you don’t do what’s expected. Fears grow when they’re not named, so call it out and bust its chops.

4. Decline.

Politely decline the next opportunity. Allow another family member or a coworker the chance to shine.

5. Don't take on expectations. 

Expectations are only crushing if you take them on. Unless you have already committed yourself, others’ expectations are not your responsibility.

6. You are so much more.

Remind yourself that you're more than your achievement, more than your gift or talent.

7. Get acquainted with the part of yourself that has been overshadowed by your achievements.

If you’ve always been over-responsible, for example, have some fun with the part of yourself that wants to splash in mud puddles or be the last one to volunteer.

8. Focus on self-care.

Discover the little things that surprise and delight: spring blossoms, bubble baths, singing at the top of your lungs, dancing uninhibited, watching baby or pet clips on youtube.

Remember, the goal is to enjoy your whole self, not just the achieving or gifted part of you. You are so much more than that.

If you can (without pressure!) incorporate some of these tips, you may one day realize you are reclaiming yourself and aren’t buckling under the pressure.

RELATED: How To Relax When You're Addicted To Being Busy

Judy Tiesel-Jensen is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (LMFT) and Psychologist Emeritus, and hold professional memberships in American Association of Marriage & Family Therapists (AAMFT), and EMDRIA (Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing International Association). For more information, visit her website.