The surprising burden

Posted by on Mar 5, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments


Do you suffer from the burden of competence?

You may know it by a different name.

It’s the problem you get when you are good at things, and other people know it.

You get nominated for stuff a lot.  And let’s face it, you volunteer yourself, too.

You do it simply because you know you’ll get it done, more quickly and better, than someone else.

Sometimes you do things so well and seamlessly that people don’t even see the work you’re doing!

Sound familiar?

People-pleasing and the burden of competence

Maybe you have a knack for numbers and finances.

This problem is closely entwined with people-pleasing, actually.  Think about it.

People-pleasers find their way in the world by tuning into what others need and then providing that for them.

They’re experts at making themselves indispensable in every situation.

People pleasers are often caught doing the lion’s share of the work—whether to preserve a relationship, to earn goodwill, or because they can’t say no—they’re often stuck under the burden of competence.

And they can’t get out from under it easily.

Plus, they may get wrangled into doing stuff they really hate, aren’t good at, or even find morally objectionable because they want to preserve a relationship.

But people-pleasers aren’t the only folks who struggle with the burden of competence.

Assess your vulnerability

mowing the lawnYou might be prone to this problem if…

You’re a people-pleaser.  We already talked about this one.

Your motto is, “Hey, let me take care of that for you” or “Sure!  I’d be glad to help!”

You’re a perfectionist or control freak.  Some people like to have control over things.  And some people must have things done a certain way.

Your motto is, “Here, just let me do it already” or “You’re doing it wrong.  I’ll do it.”

You’re a workaholic.  Some people don’t know how to slow down, relax, and have fun.  And some people work compulsively.

Your motto is, “I’ll take a break once this thing is finished (and it never is.)”

You’re type A.  This style blends workaholism with being a perfectionist.  You’re driven and accomplished.

Your motto is, “I’ll handle it.”

burdenYou’re a martyr.  Somewhere along the way, people realized that you’d just take care of everything.  You might be angry or stressed about it, but in the end, things don’t change.

Your motto is, “If I don’t do it, it won’t get done.”

You’re just an ordinary person.  Most people enjoy the feeling that comes from being helpful.  You don’t have to be a people-pleaser or a perfectionist to fall into this trap.

The problem with competence

babyYou may ask “What’s the problem with being competent?  When does it become a burden?”

That’s really for you to decide.

Everyone has responsibilities in life.

The question is one of choice and flexibility.

Could you stop doing certain things and let someone else take over?

Would it be okay to ask for help?

Do you feel your efforts are valued and appreciated?

It is great to be skilled at something!

But just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you have to do it all the time.

All good things in moderation.

Let’s consider a few pros and cons to being super competent…


toolsYou may feel…

Good about helping

Confident and accomplished

You may get…

Things done your way

Control over a situation


Others may feel…

Kindly toward you because they don’t have to do as much

Admiring of you

Others probably will…

Stay out of your way

Defer to you



grocery listYou may feel…


Taken for granted


You may get…


Burned out

Crowded out from doing what you truly enjoy in life

Others may feel…


Pushed aside




Others probably will…

Not get the chance to develop their skills

Lose interest in helping


Be a little incompetent

PS:  When I say be incompetent, I don't mean break stuff to get out of certain jobs.  Just so we're clear.

PS: When I say be incompetent, I don’t mean break stuff to get out of certain jobs. Just so we’re clear.

Apart from the pros and cons, the big trouble comes when the important people in your life begin to count on your being super competent all the time.

When they fail to learn certain skills because they figure you’ve got it covered.

This burden often does not become visible until you’re down and out.

Whether you’re sick, or simply MIA, it is abundantly clear:

there’s a ton you take care of that nobody else knows how to do.

It’s okay to be skilled.  It’s okay to specialize.

It’s okay to divide up tasks based on who is good at what.  So long as it is intentional.  Deliberate.  And subject to change if needed.

Because it helps to share the reins sometimes—and if you can’t do that, maybe you should ask yourself why.

Go practice being a little incompetent.  Delegate.

Try something new.

Let someone else take over for a bit.

Share the load.

And see what that’s like!

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