Taking on Too Much Response-Ability

Too often we try to take responsibility for what’s going on in someone else’s world so that we don’t have to deal with the poor condition of our own.” Debbie Ford

As often as we point our fingers in blame to avoid taking responsibility for our life, we also tend to take too much responsibility for what’s going in other people’s life as a way to escape looking at our own. Whether we’re over-involved in our child’s life, our friend’s relationship or even with ex-spouse as a parent, we choose to step in or claim we are “needed” because we want (consciously or unconsciously) to avoid looking at ways we can improve our own life. Sometimes too, we get something out of taking on too much responsibility for others’ actions. Maybe we get to feel valuable or validated. Or perhaps we subconsciously want to prove that no one else can get the job done. What most of us don’t realize is that when we take responsibility for others, we rob them the opportunity for growth. Rather than letting others learn the things they need to for their own progress, when we step in, we disempower them and take away their very ability to respond. Think about how we sometimes treat our children. We tell them over and again to get up, clean their room or push them to get to school on time. Especially as parents, we believe that’s our role – that we are only doing our job oiling the machine. We forget that our biggest responsibility is to help them grow – to teach them how to take responsibility for their most basic needs. And worse yet, when we take responsibility for others, we end up feeling resentful and exhausted. We claim there is no one to help us, or that if we weren’t around, everything would fall apart. We deplete our resources and are then surprised when there is nothing left to give ourselves. Even if we did want to actually make big changes in our lives – by the time we’re finished helping others we’re too tired to even notice. Ultimately, responsibility means giving others and ourselves the ability to respond. It is only when we do that we can begin to live our lives as powerful co-creators of the life we imagine.

Weekly Path to Peace: Let others be response-able.

  • How do you take too much responsibility for others? Do you remind your spouse or ex incessantly about important events? Are you afraid to ask your children to help pick up around the house? Maybe you even step in for a co-worker when they’ve forgotten to complete a project. Look at all the ways you have taken too much responsibility for others in your life. And then look at how much that has kept you from taking care of your own needs. Recognize the cost in terms of time, energy and effort.
  • Let go of something you know belongs to someone else. Even if nothing gets done, let others be responsible for what is theirs. You might be tempted to step in, - simply be clear about the consequences if they don’t do what they need to do and then, let it go. Notice how you feel every time you let go of taking on too much of others emotions, needs or actions.

As you begin this week, rate your level of happiness, self-esteem and self-confidence on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being not satisfied and 10 being very satisfied. Notice where you are Sunday evening after you do this week’s peace practice to see if there is a change. 

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