Can We Be Overly Responsible?

ResponsibilityResponsibility means being accountable for your own actions.  However, responsibility can turn ugly when we overly concern ourselves with others. We can often believe we are in charge of everyone else and that we caused their reaction. In the learned process, we don’t learn to focus on ourselves.  In fact, many times it’s so much easier to criticize, blame, or harbor others than it is to ourselves.  Placing attention outward instead of inward can be a convenient distraction from our own pain and sorrow.

Growing-up many of us were the overly responsible in our families. We learned that it was our job to control others, whether actively or passive aggressively. Our goal was to prevent Dad’s anger or Mom’s depression, and then maybe there would be some peace.  Even though, we failed time and again, what seemed like small successes “proved” that it was possible and kept us going. We told ourselves that yes, we could control the dysfunction.

As adults, when we took on too much responsibility for others we were often eventually met with resentment and anger. Who were we to be telling others what to do and think? As a result, we may have lost important relationships and even our livelihoods.

The most important thing we can do is take responsibility for ourselves first. Looking at our behavior can be difficult because our preoccupation with others may have left us with little sense of who we are. But with time, the help of a therapist and support from a safe group and healthy friendships, we see that this is the path to peace we were always after.

A helpful reminder can be to remember that you are not responsible for the thoughts and behaviors of others, you are only responsible for yourself.