Apropos Something

My reserves of empathy are seriously depleted.

A problem with trying to be supportive and helpful is that people take you up on support and helpfulness, and then some. They take and take, take it all, and then ask for more. And when you say no more, put up boundaries, you are met with a pouty “Wow, I thought you’d be more supportive.”

I think that, going forward, I will be far less accommodating, far less helpful, and far less supportive across the board.

Because being understanding and supportive and keeping my end of the agreement has so far led more often than not to broken agreements from the other side when said side decided they got theirs and I was no longer useful. It has led to my grant money spent without enough work having been done in return. It has resulted in orphaned data and projects. It has taken a great emotional toll on me, it has caused me tremendous anxiety over how I would find the funds to be helpful and supportive, it has resulted in me forgoing my own summer salary over and over in the service of all this extra helpfulness, and in the end I have little or nothing that had been agreed upon to show for it all.

I will run a much, MUCH tighter ship from now on. Those who have a problem with this in the future can go complain to those who have taken advantage of my good will over the years past. Not fair, you say. It’s not their fault, you say. Well, tough toenails, I say. This way I will only become better aligned with the MO of the male colleagues in my hallway, from whom no one expects bottomless, selfless support and helpfulness.

I’m so fuckin’ sick and tired of being everyone’s fuckin’ mom.

This sabbatical cannot come soon enough.


  1. “Tough toenails” – I like it! My sister in law loves to say “tough titties.”

    But seriously, yes, there is always need and we need to be careful with how much we give of ourselves and our resources (time, emotions, finances, etc.) Even if no one ever took advantage, I think that caution is good self care (to use those buzz words…)

  2. When I have trouble making tough decisions like these (e.g. take summer salary for myself vs. use money to do something “extra” for a student or colleague that wasn’t technically in the original budget, or help out with a guest lecture vs. use the time to edit manuscripts like I had been planning to do), I try to use the same rationalization strategy as I do with making tough choices with my family. If I’m too stressed at home, I’m not a good parent and spouse. So I need to sometimes prioritize myself. Similarly, if i’m too stressed at work, I’m not a good research advisor and instructor. So given that there is always limited money and time, sometimes I have to put me first. I wish I could just put me first without having to “trick” myself into doing it for the greater good of others – but alas – this is what I’ve found works for me.

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