Don’t Own Feelings that Aren’t Yours

I’m not sure if it’s my empathetic nature or the fact that I have lived as a natural-born peacekeeper all of my life – but I have a tendency to “own” feelings that don’t belong to me.

As mothers and natural caretakers, I think we tend to assume feelings, stress and tension that don’t belong to us. We are conditioned to react – whether it be from society or our own biology. When our child is hurt or cries, we react and respond.

But there is a dark side to this empathy.

When I am in a high stress situation or someone is upset – whether it’s with me, a situation or someone else – I have the tendency to internalize it and their feelings. I do this with my children because I am trying to help them solve a problem.

But the real problem comes when I do this with grown adults.

Because I am not the keeper of their feelings. They – and they alone – are responsible for their feelings. This is a very hard switch to flip but it’s necessary. As a people-pleaser and a peacekeeper, I find it easy and comfortable for me to assume this role. I want to keep everyone comfortable and calm. But it literally helps no one.

Does this sound familiar? Then listen up, my friend.

Taking control of their feelings doesn’t change a thing. It doesn’t make the situation better. It make may them feel better temporarily (who doesn’t love an empathetic ear) – but in the long run, you are going to be the one who suffers. These are not your feelings, after all. You cannot manage them. And one day, you are going to reach a breaking point. This will confuse or even hurt the other person because for so long, you have managed these feelings for them. But they were never yours to own or manage.

So, how do you stop?

Remind yourself that these are not your feelings to carry. You are safe. While you can have empathy for someone – don’t carry their feelings with you. That will crush you. Listen, acknowledge the feelings but then leave it there. You can’t walk a path for someone else. You have to stay on your own. And the more weight you carry, the longer and harder your journey becomes.

Laurel Hess
Laurel Hess is a mother to 2 young boys, a rescue pup, an off-balance cat and likely a few foster pups. She spends her days as President of a local marketing agency, helping craft integrated digital strategies and leading a team of creative collaborators. Once at home, however, Laurel is just trying to find peace with being the World's Okayest Mom. A Dallas transplant in a Louisiana world, Laurel graduated from Loyola University New Orleans in Broadcast Production. She met her husband while she was evacuated in Lafayette during Hurricane Katrina. They lived 5 wild, kid-free years in New Orleans while Laurel served as the Sales and Marketing Manager for the Superdome, Arena and Champions Square, before finally returning to Lafayette and into the wildest phase of life yet ... Parenthood.