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.