To be or not be a responsible person
And when does responsibility become toxic?
On the setting boundaries topic, there is never a sunny day 🙂Let’s make one!
I often talk to people about what it means to be responsible. To be a responsible person, a responsible daughter/ son, a responsible employee, a responsible parent, colleague, friend, you name it.
The general rule of thumb is that being responsible is a good thing.
However, some people seem to get stuck on this idea.
They are not being responsible - they ARE responsible. See the difference? It’s small, but it’s there.
One is a behavior. The other is a rule. One is something that you do. The other is something that you are.
The problem with rules is that we tend to get stuck in them.
We become them. Especially if you grew up in a family where taking care of others was a virtue and encouraged, maybe shamed if it wasn’t happening, then you have a chance for the rule to become you, instead of you living the rule.
Let me explain:
When we refer as responsible as a rule, we usually feel compelled to act in that manner and feel guilt and shame if we don’t.
Also, when doing this, I will sometimes overthrow my needs in the process.
My friend is lonely and wants me to come over - I will do anything possible to be there.
My colleague needs my help - it doesn’t matter that I have an appointment, I will do that.
My daughter wants to play - doesn’t matter that I am tired or don’t feel like it, I will do it.
What’s wrong with that you ask?
Well, nothing, except what your mind is telling you if you don’t do it -
You are not a good parent, colleague, friend, daughter/ son, etc.
How do you know that you hold responsibility as a rule?
You feel guilt & shame & anxiety if you don’t do what your mind is telling you
You are afraid that your mind will tell you that you are a bad person if you don’t do it.
You shed your needs if someone asks for your help.
When we refer to “responsible” as a behavior - well then, the story changes a bit.
You want to do all that because you want to live with responsibility, not because your mind is bullying you if you don’t do it.
You do it because you feel that this is your choice - as a way to live your life with meaning. As opposed to feeling like you have to do it so that you don’t feel bad.
You understand that sometimes you cannot be there for others and that is ok. You communicate this boundary with kindness and flexibility.
Think of it like this:
In one case you are running away from something - in the other, you are running towards something.
The result might be the same, but the way that you are feeling it is very different.
So, are you behaving responsibly or are you responsible?