One of the things I just love about women is their capacity to love and help out others. We genuinely want others to be happy and the vast majority of us will sacrifice ourselves in order to do what we think is right and will keep everyone else contented and give them what we think they need. We offer advice and our insights and truly think that we’re doing right by other people. We’re kind, right?
And herein lies the problem. What we “think” they need and we “think” is right.
So what is a circus, and what is a monkey?
Picture this… you are the ringmaster in a circus. You have most of the animals and acts working well – a few grumbles here and there but generally ok – and the monkeys are semi-behaving. Not great, but that’s monkeys for you. And someone else comes along and says “you’re not doing that good a job at your circus, and your monkeys are very naughty!” so they decide to step in and take control. And everything goes wrong. The more well behaved animals and most of the acts kind of follow along, although they will miss some of their usual cues so it doesn’t go that well, but it’s kind of ok. The monkeys on the other hand are having none of it. Why should they control their monkey-urges and mischievous minds for someone new? And they get up to monkey business (literally) and start running havoc all over the place.
So what was achieved? Very little. You don’t get the satisfaction and sense of self esteem from running your own circus, and someone else has made a bit of a mess of things. They become stressed because they’re managing your circus instead of their own, and you become stressed because you’re relying on them to get things sorted and it starts to go wrong.
And this, my darling girls, is the same as in life. We take on other people’s circuses (life) and, worse still, their monkeys (problems and mindset/mood issues). We do it with the best of intentions, but we just cannot control their thoughts, their lives, their actions or anything else. We can barely influence them.
Instead we stop doing what we need to do to be happy and move forwards in our own life and spend energy where it, quite frankly, has no impact and very little influence.
Your mum is feeling lonely. She has stopped working and is at home all day on her own. She calls you at least once or twice a day, and messages even more. Every time you answer the phone, she seems to have a gripe, a problem, or makes you feel bad about something you do (or something you are).
So you try and please her. Give her examples of all the things she could do to become busier (her circus), mention all the friends she has, offer to meet up – even though you genuinely don’t have time, etc. She feels it’s not enough and complains constantly that you’re not available and you’re spending too much time on…(fill in the missing blanks).
While she’s on the phone, she mentions that she thinks your husband is not happy because you’re not looking after yourself any more. You’ve always had a tendency to put on weight and she thinks this might be why, etc. (this is her monkeys, her mindset issues, not yours).
So you try and justify yourself as to why you don’t have time to go to the gym, and start to feel bad about the casserole you’ve put into the slow cooker for dinner that evening and that you should be eating chicken salad instead.
Can You See it?
It’s not your circus (life) or your monkeys (mindset) but you take it on board and feel guilty and stressed. Actually, both these issues belong to your mum. She’s a fully grown woman who, were she not dependent on you, could perfectly easily go out for lunch with her friends and have a great time and have more loving connections that she would really benefit from. Also, the issues around her blaming you for your husband’s unhappiness are a bigger indicator of her own marriage and the guilt she feels but she’s projecting it onto you.
So What To Do?
When something is out of your control and you can barely influence it, you need to hand it back to the owner. I regularly will chat in my head “not my monkey, not my circus” so I’m absolutely sure that I’m not taking on board anyone else’s issues or problems. You are responsible for your own life, your own happiness, and your own priorities. Anything else is like opening a window and throwing your energy out into the street and expecting it to make a difference.
How Do I Learn To Let Go
Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys is a topic we talk about in my Signature Transformation Programme because it’s such a valuable mindset shift and is so liberating if you can learn to let go of other people’s expectations, problems, and dramas.
I run this programme 3 times a year. If you would like to be notified next time the doors open please click HERE to register. Thanks, Kate x
PS this topic always reminds me of the poem ‘Invictus’ by William Ernest Henley. Click HERE to read it.