It was 11 days after my third birthday when my parents brought my brother home from the hospital. I don’t remember much but I know I wasn’t too fond of him at first. My parents got divorced when he was two and I was five. I assumed the role as more protective big sister immediately. Whether we knew it or not, we navigated the newness of our lives together. We fought often; to many, we probably didn’t look like we cared about each other at all. Yet, I knew early on my job was to protect him, despite him being bigger than me for the last 15 years. I can mess with my brother, but no one else can.
Fast forward a decade plus, our babies showed up to change our worlds forever. D.J. assumed the role as big brother naturally and I felt the pang of my protective nerve growing tenfold. They’re spoiled and they know it. There’s nothing in the world I wouldn’t do for all three of them. Have I crossed a line? Probably! Do I care? A little and now that everyone’s older, I’m able to communicate that to them. They get it, they’re grateful and truth is, we all protect each other.
As you can see, I am fiercely protective of the people I care for. It started with D.J., heightened with Samantha and Antonio and now as a manager, it’s exploded a little.
I see part of my role as manager to protect my team from unnecessary stress, to filter only relevant information to them and to play defense for them. I invade personal space sometimes to make sure everyone’s taking care of themselves. I wear this protective nerve of mine like a cape, proudly on display. If you come within a mile of me, you know this is how I roll.
Time and time again though, it’s become a challenge to manage because…
- I get so obsessed with protecting someone from themselves that I essentially forget to take care of myself in the process. While I’ve made great progress here, there are still times that I end up so emotionally depleted that I can’t help anyone.
- At work, I dodge bullets for my team. Sometimes that’s necessary. Other times it prevents team members from stepping up and experiencing a challenge themselves. Also, I’m not an actual superhero, no one gets through it alone. I’m learning when and what to delegate to others.
I’ve noticed this protective nerve more and more lately. Maybe it’s because I’m managing more people or maybe I’m just more conscious of it. Either way, it’s good awareness to have. When something hits my protective nerve, I’ve started to:
- Hit the pause button and think about why I’m reacting this way. Why did this specific situation hit the protective nerve? What about this is the same or different from other situations I’ve worked through in the past? Pausing before reacting is usually the smartest move for me AND I’ve learned that I need to communicate this pause to everyone involved so they know what’s going on.
- Then, I articulate why I reacted a certain way. Depending on the situation, I call it out immediately, almost like “Tag, you’re it!” In other instances, I’ll wait until the situation is defused to explain. Regardless of if it happens in a personal or professional context, I always ask myself and others, how could I have handled the situation differently and/or more effectively.
Being protective comes natural to me. Often, it proves to be helpful and people respect me for it. As with anything else, awareness is key. When in doubt, I blame my parents for making me the oldest 😉 I’m kidding! I’m exactly who I need to be.