Compassion Fatigue

A client and I were discussing upcoming changes to my financial planning practice the other day. We are in the process of putting the pieces in place to scale our firm to the next level and making difficult choices along the way. While I was explaining part of our service model that we were eliminating, she said, "Of course, you can't do everything for everyone at your level, or you will fall into compassion fatigue."

Compassion fatigue captured the exact essence of what happens if you don't constrain as you grow. I asked my client if it was a real thing, and she said it was a concept she had learned in training as an occupational therapist. Per the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project, compassion fatigue is” a broadly defined concept that can include emotional, physical, and spiritual distress in those providing care to another”. For this article, I am not speaking to a diagnosis but borrowing from the concept.

I have many tax and financial planning clients who have loyally used my services and recommended me for more than 15 years. We have relationships that feel like they extend beyond service provider and client. However, some of these clients don't need my level of expertise to meet their needs. I have other staff members who could serve them better than I can. Why? Because of the sheer volume of clients I have, employees I have, and growing business needs, that only I am uniquely qualified to handle.

When I try to wear all the hats and be all things to all people, I don't manage any of it well. When I don't want to disappoint my long-term friends and clients, I may not choose their best interests. Ultimately, I am serving from an empty place. I choose the comfort of doing what I think others want me to do rather than what is best for them. Then I make mistakes, rush through things, and ultimately serve everyone poorly.

What would happen if I decided what I am best suited for and put my energy into just those areas of my business? What if I created space in my calendar to do fewer things to the best of my ability? What if I looked at my current responsibilities with compassion for everyone involved?

I can see my resistance arises from my desire for validation and being held in high esteem and from fear of changing methodology that has served me for years. It requires courage to overcome the resistance and move forward.

I also see the results of compassion fatigue in my life. When I feel overwhelmed by the volume of my commitments, I don't show up as the woman I want to be. I stop appreciating my clients' and staff's trust and loyalty and start to feel burdened by all the responsibility. Remember, this is the responsibility that I assign myself and hang onto with determination. I neglect self-care, snap at my kids, ignore my husband, and resent everyone who asks me for anything.

This year I plan to make decisions from a place of wisdom, honesty, and compassion. I believe that if I act from these emotions, the results will be beyond my wildest expectations. Will everyone appreciate my choices? Undoubtedly, no. However, If I am operating from a clean space in my mind and heart, I can handle negative feedback pursuing what I believe to be right. I can also allow my fears about the impact of change, even if I see temporary backsliding.

The long-term impact this will have on my calendar and the value I can create from an empowered position will far exceed the good I do now.

Coaching both my employees and my peers in the financial industry is a way I can exponentially increase my impact. While this reduces the number of individual client relationships that I maintain, it increases the number of overall people in the world who receive the benefit of my experience in my chosen fields of tax, financial planning, time management, and productivity.

Where does compassion fatigue show up for you? How is it holding you back? What could you improve in your life by honestly assessing your commitments?

I am here to offer perspective and support if you want to embrace the process but aren't confident in the "how". Visit for information on how to work with me.

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