Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

Do You Feel Responsible for Everyone and Everything?

Getting Over Over Responsibility

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.

Getting over over-responsibility

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


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  1. Somehow there was a time when I took on the burden of Master of the Universe. There should be a syndrome named after this Sandra…lol. Once I got the message that job was already taken it was so liberating to realize I’m responsible for me, my feelings, and actions.

    I still will feel badly for those who’ve been hurt, or struggle with life, but not so much from a place of needing to take responsibility for them or their choices and certainly not so much from me actually being responsible. More from a place of compassion and love.

    As you say Sandra, it’s a complex thing, and I love the tack you’ve taken with this post.

    • I love that perspective, Elle, ‘the job is already taken.’ You have a beautiful heart so naturally you’ll feel compassion when others are struggling. It surely takes discernment to know when we can help and when it’s best to let go. I’m glad you liked the piece. It just seemed to flow through me.

  2. Even if I hadn’t read your whole post, the words “you’re not responsible for everyone and everything” would have made me take a deep, cleansing breath! Rationally, I know I’m not responsible for everyone/everything, but I’m not living that way, and I do feel anxious and burdened much of the time. I had an experience Friday that illustrates this. A friend and I were at a botanical garden, and since we were hot, we stopped at a snack bar to buy something to drink. While there, I pointed out that the snack bar carried a brand of locally made popsicles we’d heard about, and we both bought one. Mine was delicious, and almost worth its inflated price. Hers wasn’t as good as the grocerty store brand she had at home. I felt *bad* about this, and “responsible” since I’d pointed the popsicles out! Isn’t that ridiculous?! So you see, I needed this post today. I will continue to bring your words to mind.

    • Hello Kathy,

      I appreciate your thoughts so much These patterns work on very deep levels, far beyond the rational mind, don’t they! This example is such a good one because it illuminates how even little interactions like this can send us into angst. And that’s true for so many of us, not just you alone.

      I’m glad you enjoyed your popsicle and it sounds like you have the perfect mantra: “You are not responsible for everyone and everything.” Thanks for sharing so honestly.

  3. Oh, yes, this is something I have to keep being aware of and working on! I know where it came from—–when I was really little my Mom’s mother lived with us and it created some conflicts between the two women as to who was in charge of the house. I would try to cheer up whichever one of the two got their feelings hurt which was an impossible job for a little girl. But I wanted everyone to be happy and loving in that house and, since the adults weren’t doing it, the job fell onto my small shoulders. I know many children take on similar and much more tragic situations, but even this little life event left me with the notion that I needed to make sure all was well with everyone . Great post, Sandra!

    • Dear Jean, How good that you see all this so clearly. Thanks for sharing your story. It shows us so vividly how we get trapped in these patterns, although no one is trying to intentional cause harm. I know, it happens to almost all children in some way. I have no doubt you are working on it!

  4. I recall a time when I took on more responsibility than I should. I ended up feeling guilty and disconnected. It’s not a good place to be in.

    I certainly agree with taking up self-responsibility instead. And yes, it is so much better to live from love, compassion and ease every day!

    • Thanks for elucidating the consequences of over-responsibility, Evelyn. So good you are clear now and aligned with taking self responsibility and live from love.

  5. You’ve covered this so perfectly and sensitively Sandra, such a great, empowering post – thank you. And gosh, you’ve totally captured how it feels to think we’re responsible for everything. Just seeing those feelings written out so clearly is huge inspiration to follow your excellent advice here. Thank you.

    • Thank you, Laura. This is one of my challenges although I’m so much better now. Still, that’s one reason it seemed to come easily to express the feelings of this so clearly. I’m glad it feels empowering to you. That’s what I wish for all of us.

  6. Boy, I used to do this for forty some years. So, I can sure relate to this post. I love the example of the glass of water and interdependence. So true.

    I’m sure that this underlying belief is partly responsible for the anxiety epidemic. As Kathy says above, just reading the words that ““you’re not responsible for everyone and everything” brings a feeling of relief.

    Your self-responsibility suggestions are spot on. Better mental health and happiness always comes back to mindfulness in one form or another! 🙂

    • Yes, it all does come down to mindfulness, doesn’t it, Debbie! I’m amazed by that again and again. Mindfulness can make such a huge difference in our lives. It’s so sad to see this anxiety epidemic, but I also understand from my own experience. I know how it feels when these beliefs are running the show and it does make, at least me, feel more stressed and anxious.

  7. Yes yes and yes would have been my answer in the past. I like Elle’s comment about being Master of the Universe. I think I learned from my mother to always put others cares etc before your own. This has been a huge unlearning to really understand what is mine and what is yours xx

    • You’re an inspiration, Suzie. You’ve unlearning has gone well! I like how you are getting clearer about what’s mine and what’s yours.

  8. You are describing me for much of my life. I was hypervigilant. If something bad happened, then it was because I let my guard down. It was exhausting! I don’t think I got wise as much as I just wore out and finally gave up, but only after two trips to the emergency room!

    Then things got a lot better. If necessity is the mother of invention, then exhaustion is the mother of major life changes. Now I’m very clear about what is my responsibility and what isn’t. What a relief. And a liberation.

    I hope your readers will follow your advice before they get to the point I did!

    • What an astonishing story, Galen! Thank you so much for sharing honesty, I’m sure you’re story will inspire others. I never thought about this in the context of hyper vigilance, but that’s exactly what it is and of course that keeps us on edge all the time. I’m so sorry this took you to the hospital. And I’m encourage that you’ve conquered it!

  9. Ever since I discovered Self Love….I’ve since been able to let go of the feeling that all that is wrong in the world is my responsibility to fix. While I do feel compassion for all those hurting souls…I do what I can and stay within my boundaries. Before I would go above and beyond to fix stuff….that was not mine to meddle with in the first place. But wisdom has dawned since.
    This is a really thoughtful and insightful article Sandra. You come from such a loving space always…it amazes me.
    Love to you.
    xoxo, Z~

    • Dear Zeenat,

      Thank you for sharing your personal story. I’m sure it will encourage others who may be burning themselves trying to fix everything in the world. I used to think I had the solution to everyones’ problems too, but often I wasn’t really helping. Sometimes, people need to find their own way or make their own mistakes so they can learn what’s best for them. Thanks for your kind words. Lots of love to you.

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