In this week’s episode of The Baggage Reclaim Sessions, I talk about recognising how over-responsibility shows up in your life and how this can help you to have more self-compassion and the bandwidth to take care of you.

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Some nuggets from the episode

If you wonder why you…

  • Struggle to ask for help or try to be strong all the time
  • Feel as if you parented your parents or raised your siblings
  • Feel like a burden
  • Are lost and don’t know yourself
  • End up doing the equivalent of trying to row a boat with one oar in your relationships
  • Own other people’s feelings and behaviour
  • Deprioritise your needs, expectations, desires, feelings and opinions
  • Feel guilty about saying no or being you
  • Struggle with boundaries
  • Are an armchair therapist
  • Sometimes feel as if you raised yourself
  • Act as if you don’t have any needs
  • Self-sabotage and worry about outshining or being abandoned

… it’s because you’ve learned to be over-responsible.

  • Sometimes parents or other authority figures (or people who we assumed were authorities) gave us responsibilities. And sometimes we assumed responsibility where we didn’t have it.
  • There are painful yet remarkably quick ways that we make a decision that marks the beginning of a lifelong pattern of over-responsibility. We see our parents working hard and figure, for example, that it’s best not to mention the horrible thing we’re going through.

We become over-responsible in an attempt to ‘help out’ and ‘be good’.

  • Some of our attitudes include: Be seen but not heard. Don’t ask for too much. Don’t be demanding or make waves. Hang back. Be the fixer. Solve mommy/daddy’s/the family’s problems.
  • Over-responsible people also over-function in their interpersonal relationships. 
  • Deep down, we know that a lot of the stuff that we say is ours is not our stuff. 
  • When someone doesn’t look happy, or they’re not in the typical mood associated with them, an over-responsible person will wrack their brains trying to figure out what they did, or they will try to fix the person’s mood. They assume they’re responsible even though they’re not. 

It’s great to be conscientious and thoughtful. Where it becomes a problem is when we can’t be these for ourselves.

  • Sometimes we’re over-responsible because we were, for example, treated as if we were an extension of a parent. Next thing, we don’t have an identity, we think that being an extension is how to be loved, and we believe we’re responsible for their moods and behaviour.
  • Re-look at your life through the lens of over-responsibility. How do past events look? Are you able to view you differently?
  • If you wouldn’t give a loved one or a small child the same responsibility, you need to recognise where you’re being grossly unfair to your current and younger self.
  • When you increase awareness of your genuine responsibilities, you can make better decisions.

Links mentioned

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