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  • Writer's pictureSandra Zecevic

Your Winning Formula

Our winning formula is what often shoots us in the foot. Too much of a good thing may not be in our best interest. Being 'too nice', overachieving, being ‘the strong one’ or ‘the helpful one’ can be winning formulas for many people. These are patterns of behaving which may have developed early in life with the purpose of surviving in certain families or within particular relationships. Being 'good', 'nice' or ‘the successful one’ may have made us feel acknowledged, recognised and loved in a family where overstretched parents did not have the time nor mental space to properly attune with or listen to their children. Our winning formulas may have generated useful ways of showing up in the world and creating a sense of identity and worth for us. We are likely to have used these mechanisms repeatedly throughout our lives when we need recognition, emotional safety and love. But just like when we overuse a muscle, we can strain it. It too can happen with our winning formula.


  • Being overly helpful may lead to us feeling like a doormat. Others may take advantage of us, or we may wonder how worthy we are when not being of support to others. Can we prioritise ourselves when needed without feeling shame or guilt?

  • Who are we when we experience vulnerability if we are used to – and are expected by ourself and others – to exude strength and leadership?

  • What happens when we do not get that promotion or if we do not succeed when we are supposed to always be ‘the overachiever’? Have we failed? Have we let others down?

People often come to therapy to update their winning formula. They can be burnt out from working so hard and not getting the expected results, or they may be feeling guilt or shame when having to prioritise themselves and establish boundaries for self-care. Ultimately, what we seek with our winning formula is connection, identity, worth and acknowledgement. Therapy can help us to develop healthier, more realistic coping mechanisms that do not leave us feeling drained, guilty, ashamed, stressed-out, or resentful.


Getting a snapshot of your childhood experiences, present day circumstances, behavioural, relationship and thinking patterns can help us identify your winning formula and gauge whether it is still working for you. And we can tweak it or shed it completely if necessary (although often this is not the case, our winning formula has benefits that we want to keep!). We can evaluate different – and potentially more effective (and less draining) ways to relate to the world, in a safe place – the therapeutic relationship – with no shame, just an inquiring mindset. And in time, these tweaks can make a difference in our lives. We can continue using our winning formula, but mindfully, ensuring we are aware of what we are doing, acting rather than reacting automatically.



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