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  • Amina Aitsi-Selmi

Are you a wounded healer? Stop the career self-sabotage now!

Do you tend to overgive at work? Spend long hours and weekends “doing what needs to be done” and counting on it just being a phase and getting better in the long term?...

If you watched the Oscar-winning movie “Moonlight”, you may remember the main character is called Chiron. Chiron is a centaur (in Greek mythology) who was able to heal others but not himself. It reminded me of those who work in health or the caring professions and struggle with their own wellbeing.

I’m guilty myself. Suffice it to say, my parents used to call me Mother Teresa and note that I was constantly on edge and irritable but the consequences can be much more serious on mental health.

On the outside, the long hours may seem like dedication and professionalism, but where does dedication and professionalism stop and unhealthy compromise out of a misguided sense of duty begin?

A strong work ethic is a gift. Excessive compromise to serve the unrealistic needs of an unhealthy organisational and work culture is something else. At some point you have to ask yourself: “am I really contributing to the bigger picture or am I serving an ego (either mine, someone else’s or both)?”

In the end, burning ourselves out or living in constant resentment and anxiety doesn’t help anyone.


For those who have a tendency to put others first to their own detriment, the biggest struggle is with our own need to please. A process of disentanglement needs to take place and healthy boundaries put in place…It starts with an honest cost-benefit analysis: what do you get out of overgiving? What is it costing you? What would it be like not to overgive? Self-honesty is key.

In spiritual traditions, this would be called purification of intention. In secular terms: getting real and getting your priorities straight! Do you want the accolades or to live up to your true potential?

Legend in the making: Dr C, a client who is a wing commander in the Airforce and one of the bravest people I know, has done the bravest thing of all and prioritised her self-care. Together we created her dream self-care programme to make sure she can perform her duties optimally and make space to lay foundations for her next career move.

Ultimately, we all need to get better at handling the difficult emotions that come up when we stop overgiving (shame, guilt, loneliness, etc) and/or the cultural conditioning that drives us to overgive. Seeing the psychological architecture behind overgiving helps us to stop from emotionally self-blackmailing.


Of course, understanding without action is just theory.

If you’re feeling out of balance with your giving and receiving and experiencing an uncomfortable amount of ensuing chaos in your life, it may be time to reclaim your freedom. It doesn’t mean giving up on your job or career but it does mean freeing yourself from the tyranny of unmanaged emotions and thoughts.

Declare a date on which you will reclaim the throne to your emotional world (emotional management as Daniel Goleman, the emotional intelligence guru, calls it). This is your commitment to self-leadership. Start acknowledging your emotional needs (for validation, belonging, love) and write down how you are going to meet them in a way that feels right for you today (not the teenage you who wanted to do well at school and get a good job). Making this kind of change is akin to a leap of faith and can be quite scary. See the video below for insights on secular faith as a professional skill for analytical-achiever types.

Legend in the making: Dr S, a brilliant psychiatrist who comes into her genius when she leads group therapy, wants to bring group therapy methods to low- and middle-income countries where they are most needed. We worked together to navigate career choices, and whether to defer her passion for global health to build up prestige. Now, she has been offered a position a very respectable institution in which she has been given the opportunity to do global health work with seed money to go with it.


Are you self-aware enough to understand how emotions influence your career decisions? Do you know how to meet your own needs and ask for help? If all your needs were met, what would you do with your career now?

What are your top two needs right now?

  • Safety

  • Challenge

  • Significance/achievement

  • Connection/belonging

  • Learning and growth

  • Contribution

How do you meet your top two needs currently? Where do these needs conflict with each other? Often a need for significance clashes with a need for connection…

I will be leading an interactive event honouring needs, handling the inner-critic and taking action towards forgotten dreams at the London Coaching Group on the 23rd of May (Do organisations dream? Coaching for social progress). If this speaks to you, you can get your ticket here:

Until next week,


* If you liked this article, please, share it with someone who might enjoy it too. * Sign up to receive the weekly Wise Wednesdays article and start cutting through brain fog one insight at a time here => OR * If you’re ready to take action and would like to work with me to gain clarity on your aspirations, break through your fears, and make big decisions about whether to stay in or leave a job, change your high flying career, take your current career to the next level or start a passion project, book a free consultation here => You can also email me on mail me on

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