The Winding Path

Counselling Services provided by Barb Zacharias

March 2017: Crucible

Posted on Mar 18, 2017

March 2017: Crucible

This past week, I experienced a major setback to my health and sense of well being. When I reflect back, it has been building for some time; meaning a single event can be overwhelming given the right context. Like a perfect storm brewing. My boat has capsized. I am now faced with figuring out how to right my boat, get back in, and keep rowing—but my navigation equipment has failed; and I must determine where I’m going and how I’m going to get there.

This means a complete re-evaluation of who I am and what I do for a living. I have to reconsider why I care so much; why I invest so much of my Self into my clients. It also means that I cannot keep investing my Self into my work like I have been. I cannot sustain what I have built up. I need to make change. Not only re-evaluate who I am, but also what I want out of life. I want so much for other people. Time to direct that attention and energy towards myself.

At the risk of sounding over-the-top, I have lived my life for others. Looking at that more closely, I realize that I have over extended myself trying to “correct” the wrongs of my life story: no one was there for me, so now I’m going to be there for everyone else. I have been driven to ensure that others do not share my experience of being lost and alone. I care very deeply for the people who cross my path. And I strive to empower my clients to live fully, to know their core worth and value, to stand up for themselves and not be used or taken advantage of.

In my striving to empower others, I have tried to rescue them from continued lives of misery and to protect them from themselves and their life situations. I have fallen into the trap of empowering others in order to rescue and/or protect them. And when I don’t succeed at empowering/rescuing/protecting—I am devastated. Old feelings of being a failure surface. I struggle with not being seen and heard, with being misunderstood. My sense of self gets wrapped up in what happens in the lives of my clients. I have inadvertently given my clients the reason for my existence. My work gives my life meaning.

By ‘being myself’—as in a deeply caring person, very invested in the lives of others—I have made an overcorrection, causing me to spin out of control. Somehow by living out my true Self, I have lost my Self. While I have finally embraced my own innate worth and value as well as come to an understanding of who I am and what I can contribute to the world, I still managed to put others ahead of myself. I continue to operate from a position of self-sacrifice, to the point that I sacrificed more than I had to give. I didn’t make sure I took care of myself in the service of others.

Yet, that is not it entirely. I have practiced self-care in my daily routine. What I didn’t do is honour my Self—treat myself with the same focused attention I offer to others—I didn’t respect my own boundaries. My edges became frayed without me even noticing. I ended up throwing myself in harm’s way, not seeing the danger. I was so focused on the other people that I lost sight of my Self—and my frayed edges. I didn’t see it coming when my efforts to empower others backfired. I was blindsided. Thrown for a loop.

However, this culmination of the perfect storm—this crucible I find myself in—has meaning in that it does force me to re-evaluate. I was on a downward spiral of my own making that I didn’t see. Having the rug ripped out from under me, while painful to land on my backside, has provided new perspective. I must view my life and my Self differently. As I process what I see from this angle, it requires contemplation and adjustment. Survival requires change. But I want more than survival. I want to thrive. And in order to do that, I must honour my strengths and my limitations. I must pay attention to the container that I grow in—which may even require repotting. We’ll see what happens as I reassess what my life is all about.

Like me, maybe it’s time to check out your own little world that you grow in. What needs adjustment so that you, too, can thrive?


  1. Being absorbed in just one other individual’s life on an intimate level over time perhaps is manageable. Yet … in many individual’s lives? Over time? When and where does one life end and another begin including one’s own life? Caregivers require caregiving too. ?

    • Thank you. 🙂

  2. I was just saying to mom last night, “I am happy and content with my life right now.” This has taken 42 (I’m 43 now) years to achieve. This doesn’t mean I have stopped growing or wanting to thrive, just that I am content being me in my own skin.

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