My mother was a great story teller, and when I was little I believed everything she said. Too bad I bought into the one about how I would be loved and fulfilled if just made everyone else happy. If I were to classify that story by genre now, I would definitely put it in the “Fantasy” category!

I’m currently doing research about compassion fatigue in preparation for some upcoming presentations, and I came across this statement on the “Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project” website. It said that compassion fatigue is “common for people who were taught at an early age to care for the needs of others before caring for their own needs. Authentic, ongoing self-care practices are absent from their lives.”

We develop our sense of self-worth early in life, and I think changing our perception about who we are and what we need to do to be loved can be nearly as difficult as trying to change our DNA. However, it can be done.

Here’s why it’s important – people who are experiencing compassion fatigue may:

• Isolate themselves from friends, family and co-workers
• Become addicted to alcohol, cigarettes and/or drugs
• Engage in compulsive behaviors such as overspending, overeating, gambling, sexual addictions
• Become careless with their physical appearance
• Experience physical ailments such as gastrointestinal problems and recurrent colds
• Develop a sense of apathy and sadness
• Blame others for their unhappiness
• Have difficulty concentrating
• Feel mentally and physically exhausted

I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a pretty lousy payback for trying to make others happy!

If these symptoms are familiar to you, I’d like for you to take a little time today to think about when you started to feel like everyone else’s needs mattered more than your own needs. I’m going to continue my research, and I’ll share what I learn with you over the next several days.

The photo below is of a Dogwood tree in our neighborhood. This is the payback we get in the spring for enduring months and months of short, dark rainy days. I think it’s time for all caregivers to get a little positive payback, don’t you?