Letting Go of Being Over-Responsible

Obviously, being responsible is a necessary life skill that we can’t do without. And we all know the chaos that can stem from being irresponsible. But do you ever feel like you are over-responsible? That you have taken on roles that shouldn’t be your burden? That you feel a sense of guilt when things go sour even if you were barely involved? That’s me. I first heard the term “over-responsible” a year or so ago in an article and buzzers were going off in my head as soon as I started reading. I had always saw myself as a helper, the first to volunteer, always willing to spearhead a project. Now I can see that a lot of my actions were over-responsible.

I can’t remember a time in my life that I was not over-responsible. If ever there was a group project in school, I would inevitably do 90% of the work. Even in my career, when we meet as an executive team and decide on new procedures and directives, it is always assumed that I will be the one who will roll out the guidelines and see to their compliance (despite there being several of us with the same role/title)

It is a slippery slope being over-responsible. If you continue to maintain control of things that are not your responsibility people may not develop the skills they need to complete the task. For a long time at work my employees would complain about calls from angry insureds (my work is insurance based). I’d tell them to give me the account number and I would call and smooth things over. What I saw as being helpful was a COMPLETE DISSERVICE to my employees. They were never going to build the necessary skills to handle these calls. Especially if the employee is new, it is a valuable training tool to manage difficult accounts.

In our home I am striving to be less responsible as well. When Kevin and I were first married we would switch on and off with cooking dinner. Whoever was home first cooked dinner and he was always a fantastic cook. When the kids were born and he started working later hours I shouldered the task of cooking. One day a week he is home earlier than me and I would still have a meal planned. Either something would be in the crockpot, or I would have the meat thawed in the fridge and the other ingredients out the counter waiting. No more. I know Kevin can cook (and cook well) and I refuse to allow the man to lose his skills. He is an adult, he can figure out what is for dinner.

I often feel over-responsible when it comes to peoples feelings. I want everyone to be happy all of the time and will bend over backwards to keep peace and smiles all around. It wasn’t until I heard of being over-responsible that I realized that the thoughts and feelings of others are not my responsibility to manage. I didn’t just feel empathy for a person when they are disappointed or upset about something, I feel like I personally let them down. That whatever happened to them was somehow my fault, and my problem to fix.

I am really working hard (and doing well) in not letting these things over take me. When I am feeling stressed or just too busy I look at the task and analyze whether or not this is actually my responsibility. Don’t get me wrong, I will always want to help people. It is ingrained in my nature. But I am learning the difference between helping and taking over.


  • Reply Holly Breton at Pink Lady August 24, 2017 at 5:26 am

    Tara- I am completely choked up reading this; it really spoke to me and I can’t thank you enough for writing this- I so know we would be friends in real life 😉

  • Reply Amanda August 24, 2017 at 8:08 am

    I can so relate to this. I never felt this way when I was still teaching but since leaving teaching and taking on my own business I am guilty of this over and over and over and at home too. You made some terrific points. Great post!

  • Reply Amy August 24, 2017 at 8:20 am

    How are you accomplishing your progress?? Asking for a friend (Ha!!)
    Amy in AL

    • Reply xo Tara August 24, 2017 at 9:32 am

      Lol, I repeat “I can not manage other people’s feelings” in my head all the time. I sit back and let my husband cook dinner. It doesn’t matter what he cooks, what matters is that someone else handled it..and I happen to love grilled cheese anyway. I also had to take minute and really think about what my SPECIFIC priorities really are. Like, of course my family is my priority. But SPECIFICALLY my priority is making sure that I get down on the floor and play with my kids every single day with my 100% attention. I hate feeling so burnt out from work that when I get home I just want to veg out and I don’t give them my full attention. I am blocking things that get in the way of my priorities.

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