How to mind your own business : Life Kit : NPR

1707942380 How to mind your own business Life Kit | isentertainmentgroup
A woman who is pulling her hair out is surrounded by people asking for favors.

Do you often find yourself trying to solve problems for your friends and family? Draining your time, resources and energy to offer others help or advice?

If so, Yasin Bojang would like for you to slow down, mind your business — and consider how it might be affecting your mental health. « When you constantly intervene, you will likely have nothing left to give when hard situations present themselves. »

Bojang is the co-founder of Home Girls Unite, a U.K.-based group that supports women from marginalized communities, particularly eldest daughters, who Bojang believes bear the burden of responsibility in immigrant households.

Since the project launched in 2018, her organization has helped over 10,000 eldest daughters. These women say they often feel obligated to fix other peoples’ lives, says Bojang. They’ve become the go-to person who, say, runs errands for their parents, lends money to their siblings or counsels a friend through a break-up. It’s not coming from nosiness, but from their sense of duty to their loved ones. But it can leave them feeling burnt out and overwhelmed.

That’s why sometimes, it’s best to stay in your lane, says Bojang. Here’s the advice she gives to women in her support group.

When you should mind your own business

Occasionally, it’s OK to get involved in other people’s issues. You do it because they want your help — and because you care. But reconsider …

  • If you feel like you’re being taken advantage of. If you sense that your loved ones feel entitled to your time and energy, it means your boundaries aren’t being respected, says Bojang. « If you’re constantly going out of your way to make everyone’s life easier, » people may think, « if she’s going to do it, why should I? » 
  • If they may miss a learning opportunity. Let’s say your little brother is looking for a job yet again. Instead of sending him job postings like you normally do, let him take the lead. « Always being there and trying to fix everything is not benefiting them, » says Bojang. « What will happen when you’re not there? How are they going to learn (if you) constantly do things for them? » 
  • If it’s an ego-boost. Some people love the status that comes with being a fixer, says Bojang. They think, « I’m going to help this person and they’re going to be happy » with me. Helping people because you think it will make you look good is not a reason to get involved. 
  • If they’re grown-ups. Adults should be able to solve their own problems without other people’s help, says Bojang. If two of your friends are in a fight, leave it between them.

How to mind your own business

If you tend to get tangled up in other people’s drama, Bojang has some tips on how to disengage.

  • Make yourself less available. Use the « do not disturb » feature on your phone to signal to your contacts that you aren’t around to chat, says Bojang. That may help protect your time by discouraging people from making urgent requests like « I need your advice, call me right now. » 
  • Set boundaries. Let’s say your mom wants you to run an errand for her after work. It’s OK to say « No, I can’t. I need more notice because you don’t know what plans I have, » says Bojang. Teach the people around you to respect your time and they will. Bojang has tried this with her mom, and says « she’s getting better at giving me notice. » 
  • Find someone more appropriate to help. Cut down your list of people to help by directing them to others with more expertise or authority. If your dad always comes to you with his IT problems, for example, send him to your cousin who’s a tech whiz or take him to a computer store. Don’t try to do it all yourself.  
  • Focus on yourself. « Do the things you never got around to because you’ve been fixing everyone’s problems, » says Bojang. Use « all the effort you put into others for yourself. » 

We want to hear from you: How do you mind your business?

When it comes to friends and family, how do you stay in your lane? Give us your best advice, techniques and wisdom. Email lifekit@npr.org with the subject line « Mind your own business » with your full name and we may feature your response in a story on NPR.org.

The audio portion of this episode was produced by Clare Marie Schneider. The digital story was edited by Clare Marie Schneider. The visual editor is Beck Harlan. We’d love to hear from you. Leave us a voicemail at 202-216-9823, or email us at LifeKit@npr.org.

Listen to Life Kit on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, and sign up for our newsletter.