I’m a therapist in the Bay Area.
I’ve been practicing here for almost 10 years now.
And in that time I’ve had the honor and privilege of working with some very accomplished women: CEO’s, founders, corporate lawyers, entrepreneurs, engineers, doctors and so on.
Women who are incredibly talented and who shine at work.
The kind of woman who everyone knows they can count on.
The ones whose plates at work get more and more full as their bosses, funders, colleagues, and boards pile more and more tasks and responsibilities on them.
“She’ll get it done. She always does.”
“If you want something done, give it to her.”
“You always step up, thank you for stepping up again and handling this.”
“You’ve got this, right? Yeah, I knew you would.”
“I don’t know what we’d do without you.”
Sounds amazing, right?
Must feel good to know that you’re so essential and that you’re so highly regarded in the workplace, no?
But you see, I think there’s also a shadow side to being the one who everyone counts on, to being the one who doesn’t let anyone down, to being the one who just takes on more and more and more.
It’s a downside that I call The Curse Of Competency and I want to talk about it with you today.
What’s the downside of being so high-functioning?
While it may not seem obvious to think of there being a downside to being high-functioning, the reality is that there sometimes can be.
When you’re the achiever, the high-functioning one, the super-strong one in your family, your workplace, or even in your community, you may not be the one people think of to help first (or at all).
You may “fool” people into believing you’ve got it all together, that you’re not struggling, that you’re not overwhelmed because of your track record of competency and accomplishments, but also because of any messages that you send (and have been conditioned to send) about being “fine.”
When you look like you have it all together, when you explicitly or implicity state that you are “fine” when really you’re not, you deprive yourself of the opportunity to receive and ask for help, to be supported in the ways you may truly need and want to be.
You consciously or unconsciously signal to others that they don’t need to worry about you, that their focus can go to someone else – the challenged younger sibling, the low-performer at work, your squeaky wheel colleague, the struggling neighbor, etc.
You appear to be okay, but inwardly you’re not.
And you may not even know this yourself.
Look, the reality is that the person who sometimes needs help the most, is the person who least looks like she needs help.
THIS is at the crux of the curse of competency.
You need help, you want help, support, resources, etc., but because of how you come off to others and because of any stories and beliefs you hold that limit you from asking for help, you may not receive the support you truly need.
So what’s to be done about The Curse Of Competency?
Well, first of all, it’s important to know how and if this is playing out in your life.
In what arenas – at home, with your family of origin, with your in-laws, at the workplace – where are you struggling?
Where have you reached your limits – with your time, energy, demands, capabilities, emotional capacity, and more?
How are you struggling and in what ways are you not receiving the help you actually need?
With childcare, with re-distribution of work and responsibilities, with ongoing obligations?
And then, you must ask yourself: what stories and beliefs and barriers are getting in the way of me asking for help?
What do I believe about asking for help? Do I believe I get to ask for help?
What did I learn about appearing “needy” and “vulnerable” growing up?
(Note: I put those words in quotes because those are often stories and words some of us assign to what it means to ask for help. It doesn’t mean that asking for help is, in fact, “needy” or “vulnerable”.)
And you must reflect on your boundaries.
When we have poor internal boundaries, not knowing where and when our own sense of “enough” lies, we can sometimes keep taking on greater responsibilities and obligations even though a part of us is crying out “ENOUGH!”
Feeling overburdened, over-asked, over-expected-of, and not doing something about it, not speaking up about it, is a boundary issue.
The stronger and more esteemed we are, the more sound and solid our boundaries are, the more we can reverse The Curse of Competency and still be high-functioning women who give themselves permission to not only be accomplished but to know when they’re struggling and who ask for help.
If you struggle with knowing and having good boundaries, if you identify with The Curse of Competency, I hope you’ll join me in my forthcoming course – Hard Families, Good Boundaries – which, while titled to reflect what it might look like to have good, healthy boundaries in challenging family systems, is really relationship indiscriminate.
It’s a course that will teach the foundations of healthy vs. unhealthy relationships plus assertive, effective communication skills, provide extensive boundary-recognition and boundary-setting education, and help you cultivate a rich set of emotional coping skills no matter who and what boundary-setting contexts you struggle with.
Think of it like the psychological empowerment + boundary-setting education you never received but always wanted (and needed!) to.
The course launches soon on July 24th, so please sign up for the waiting list here so you can be the first to know when it goes live so you don’t miss the special early bird bonuses!
I’m passionate about educating about good boundaries and learning how to trust and assert ourselves more.
Psychologically whole, robust, resilient, and esteemed women and men who have good boundaries and who can respect and protect the boundaries of others are needed in this world now more than ever.
I hope that you’ll join me in being curious about this topic and working to esteem and empower yourself even more and reverse the effects of The Curse of Competency.
Until next time, please take such good care of yourself.
PS: Will you be around at 1pm PT on July 8th? I’m doing a special live stream on boundaries and why they’re the bedrock psychological life skill over on my Facebook page at that time and would love to connect with you in real-time there!
Do you struggle with knowing what to say during challenging conversations?
I created this list of 25 scripts to help you feel calm and empowered when communicating with the difficult people in your life.