Is Ruthless Competence Inviting Out Of Control Eating?


Could you be adding to your stress by trying to be all things to all people all the time?

“Ruthless competence” is a term I learned (because I needed to know it for myself!) in a class I took many years ago. Ruthless competence is you doing, doing, doing because you’re competent and you think “It’s just easier to do it myself.”

Frequently ruthless competence precludes others’ maturation and learning. Yes. You want to get things done expediently. You might even want to feel indispensable. Upon closer inspection, though, you may see that ruthless competence takes you head long in the direction of that stressful slippery slope of feeling depleted and overwhelmed by multitudinous, never-ending demands. Not the demands that “life places on you” but demands that you take on out of habit and are an invitation to turn to food in unconscious ways.

When we’re doing a lot for others, we see ourselves as helping, serving, delivering. Being all things to all people. But, I ask you, how does your doing give others the opportunity to learn and achieve and to make their own invaluable mistakes? How does your doing the doing help you achieve the much needed balance in your life?

Here are some words you could use to invite collaboration and partnership at work, with your kids or your S.O.

  • I’d like you to be more involved in this. Let me show you.
  • This is a bit tricky. I think you’re up to the task.
  • This would be a good learning experience for you. Let me know if you need help.

Remember, you can’t just simply hand things off to the other person. You need to take time to explain and be open to their questions or concerns.

What you don’t want to say is: Do me a favor, would you? Doing you a favor is not the same as “owning” the task and that ownership is a key element of buy-in.

What do you need to know about the other person’s thought process to understand their side? Taking time for the conversation now helps you to lighten your load in the future and you are guiding someone else towards a competency which increases their self esteem.

Here’s what you might say:

  • There’s a problem here that we need to work on together. Tell me how you thought about this.
  • Ah. I think there was a difference between what I meant and what you understood. What was your understanding of my instructions?
  • I need to understand – you did it differently than I expected but it’s very nearly right. I’m interested to know your reasoning because I think you’re on to something.

Letting go of ruthless competence can create more space in your schedule for “selfing” time. Your exercise, your meal planning, your recharge time. Count yourself!

How might you count your own needs today and let go of doing, doing, doing?

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About the Author

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD

If you’re looking for an embodiment of dedication disguised as obsession, look no further. Marsha is a registered dietitian who has spent the last four decades working to help women give up dieting rules and understand how to truly take care of themselves. Her mission in life is to help women learn to enjoy eating and living well, without worries about their weight. She encourages women to embrace their love of food, which you might call being a foodie. If so, it’s appropriate because being a foodie means you pay attention when you eat. That’s a recipe made in heaven for eating well. Marsha is the President and Co-Owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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