If you feel overloaded and overwhelmed a lot of the time, the chances are good that you are taking on too much responsibility. On a practical level, this might mean that you are doing other people’s jobs at work or at home, or feeling that it is up to you to constantly remind them and check on them. Or it might be more of a feeling that you can’t keep on top of all the things you have to do, and that you are always on the verge of letting other people down. Or you might have a tendency to feel that everything bad that happens is somehow your fault, that you should have predicted it, or warned against it, or protected people from it.
If you often feel like this, the roots are probably pretty deep. You may have been brought up by someone who also felt this way, and subconsciously led you to believe that being over responsible is a way to show you care. Or, you may have been brought up by someone who wasn’t responsible enough, leading you to try and compensate.
The dark side to being over-responsible
You may pride yourself on being super-responsible, or believe that being like this makes you a good person. It certainly doesn’t make you a bad person, but it isn’t always easy to live with. Being over responsible can disempower others, and make them feel less confident about their own abilities, and, if you’re secretly resentful, that will come out too. You may also spend every family holiday ill in bed, recovering from over-doing things. My husband can testify to me doing this a lot when the kids were little.
Furthermore, you are likely to attract people who want to take advantage of your tendency to do too much. Manipulators, and ‘victims’ who want you to rescue them and who will encourage you to deny your own needs, and get your self esteem from running around after them.
How would it feel to let go of all this responsibility?
How would it feel to let go of all the responsibility you are carrying for situations you can’t actually control, and for other people? How would your life, your relationships and your health improve if you risked some disapproval from others or your own guilt?
Apart from children, or seriously unwell or vulnerable people, we are never responsible for others. We may be responsible to them if they genuinely need our help, but not for them, and the more we try to ‘fix’ or ‘rescue’ someone, the more entrenched they are likely to become in their belief that they can’t help themselves.
Taking on too much responsibility can be something that goes very deep, and you may hit a fair bit of resistance, both internally, and with significant others who are used to you picking up the slack. It also, to a degree comes with the territory of working in education. But, ultimately it isn’t in anyone’s interests for you to be resentful and headed for burnout. Sometimes burnout is even a subconscious cry for help from people who don’t know how else to get their own needs met- don’t let that be you.