When you take responsibility for everyone and everything, wittingly or unwittingly, you throw yourself into a cycle of anxiety, stress, and sometimes depression as well.
- You feel it’s your fault when other people feel bad.
- You feel you’re responsible for your parents’ marital conflicts.
- You feel to blame if your child goes off in a bad way.
- You feel ashamed or fearful when you make a mistake.
- You feel mortified when something goes wrong at work, even when it’s a team effort.
- You feel like you’re going to have a nervous breakdown when you hear about turbulent world events.
I know this one well as I tend to instinctively take responsibility for everyone and everything that occurs around me. Does this belief govern your life and well-being as well?
This is just another fabrication of the mind that has no basis in reality.
You're Not Responsible for Everyone and Everything
When you fall prey to the belief that you're responsible for everyone and everything, you’re not respecting interdependence and the fluid, ever-changing nature of our world. You can’t be responsible for everything because you are not autonomous. You are not a sole agent working exclusively under your own power.
You depend on all sorts of causes and conditions, just like a tree depends on a seed, water, and nutrients to grow. You couldn’t survive a day if it weren’t for the kindness of others.
Consider the glass of water you drink first thing in the morning. Where does it come from? How did it arrive in your hands? How many people participated in bringing it to you? I’m not talking about bottled water either, just the water that flows through the pipes into your house or apartment. Someone had to make the pipes didn’t they? Someone had to dig the trenches for the pipes, didn’t they?
Likewise, every decision you make is influenced by your family or societal conditioning. The decisions you make today may be very different than the ones you made a decade ago due to the influence of your life experiences as well.
It's the same for everyone else too. So you cannot be responsible for everyone and everything. Everything is constantly evolving and changing in this intricate dance of interconnectedness, relationship, and mutual influence. For any occurrence, there are far more variables in play than you alone.
Feeling Responsible for Everything Makes You Suffer
But we forget our interdependence. Modern culture encourages us to think that we are free, independent agents.
And so some of us feel we’re responsible for everything, a pattern embedded in the brain and heart as a vulnerable child. And that makes us tense, lacking in joy, and overcommitted, because we likely feel we need to fix everything as well. Or suffer constantly, if we can’t.
Pause for a moment and look back at the last week. Recall any times you took responsibility for what you’re really not responsible for and consider how it impacted you. How did it feel? How much time did it waste away?
Or look at a situation that caused you to worry or feel anxious for another person. What belief feeds that worry? Do you really believe you’re in charge and that your worry can change anything?
You might think this is only a problem for people with very low self-esteem. But almost all of us take responsibility for more than our part on a subtle level:
- We feel good when things go well.
- We feel bad when things go badly.
That’s a sign that we think we alone are responsible. It’s also an indicator of the way our moods can constantly be swinging up and down as externals change, because the truth is that we can't control everything.
That's not to say that we shouldn't feel good when things go well. Just remember that many different factors came into play for that moment to arise, even the fact that your parents acted on their affinity for one another and gave you your life.
It’s impossible for you to be responsible for everything because of interdependence. Anything that happens occurs as a result of many interlocking causes and conditions, over which you only have partial control. If you would like to learn more about interdependence, read: Awakening to Interdependence: The Key to True Happiness for All.
It can be humbling to realize you're not responsible for everything. It means living in alignment with the way the world is rather than according to a false belief planted in your mind as a child. And letting go of over-responsibility will bring relief, acceptance and peace into your life.
The solution is simple though it might not be easy: Stop blaming yourself, stop blaming others. Just like you, others are subject to a complex sets of causes and conditions so nothing is entirely their fault. That’s not to say they’re not responsible for their actions or shouldn’t be held accountable.
Take Self-Responsibility Instead
You are not to blame for everything, but you are responsible for yourself. What do you have control over?
- Your thoughts.
- Your words.
- Your actions.
Although sometimes, it may not feel this way. You may often act out of habit and long-standing emotional patterns. But if you decide to take full responsibility for yourself, you can learn to step back from these patterns and make happier and healthier choices.
Stop beating yourself up for everything that goes wrong. Instead, commit to being fully responsible for yourself — for your own thoughts, words, and actions. Of course, any kind of thought can arise in the mind, especially since you’ve been riding the same thought-trains for a long time. You don’t need to feel guilty about a single one. Just know you can choose whether to give it power or let it go. If you need help with this, read 21 Meditation Tips You Need to Know As a Beginner.
As a consequence of understanding the complex, interwoven quality of our relationships with ourselves, others and the world, you’ll naturally feel greater altruism, kindness, and compassion as well. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live from love, compassion, and ease instead of beating yourself up everyday?
Do you fall into over-responsibility? How do you work with it? I would love to hear.
Thank you for your presence, I know your time is precious! Don’t forget to sign up for my e-letter and get access to all the free self-development resources (e-books, mini-guides + worksheets) in the Always Well Within Library. May you be happy, well, and safe – always. With love, Sandra