Do you find your self apologizing all the time - for things that you don't even need to apologize for? Do you measure the validity of your actions by others' reactions? Do you feel like you need to fix the problem even when you weren't the cause?
You're Not Alone
If you feel this way, you are not alone. So many of us default to this pattern without even realizing it's happened. I want you to think about whether you're happy with the status quo. I invite you to think about what you gain and what you lose by living this way. Take a minute to think about or jot down what you gain and what you lose before you continue reading.What did you discover? How did examining this pattern affect your outlook on yourself and what you want in life?Here are some of my thoughts on what you might gain and lose by continuing this pattern:
What you might gain:
- Holding on to a relationship
- Avoiding conflict in an interaction
- Avoiding tension in a relationship
- Feeling like you've gained some control by taking on the responsibility
On the other hand, what have you lost?
- You don't know who you are anymore
- You're exhausted from trying to make things okay for everyone else
- You don't feel heard or valued
- It's hard to get your own needs met
- You feel resentful or trapped
We usually resist change until we discover that it feels like we're losing more than we're benefiting. I invite you to consider empowering yourself by letting go of some of the responsibility. You can be valued and heard. Your opinion and voice matter just as much as someone else's. It's not your job to make things okay for everyone else. You can be nice and stand up for yourself. They are not mutually exclusive. It's not always your fault or your responsibility. You have the power to be assertive. You only need to take responsibility for your own feelings and actions.
When you're starting to make this shift, you can examine your thoughts and reactions to help you know where you are on the responsibility spectrum, then move yourself towards the middle where you are only taking responsibility for yourself.
You will be most likely to find yourself reverting to taking on all the responsibility when you are dealing with someone who wants to absolve themself of all responsibility and put it on you. If you come in contact with someone like this frequently, it can be helpful to write down this person's common phrases, and think through what is really true and what you would want to tell yourself and them in those situations. Some example statements that indicate the person you're talking to is in the "it's always your responsibility" camp:
- I wouldn't have been doing _______(insert relevant phrase: e.g. driving home drunk) if you had just ________(e.g. woken up at 3 a.m. to get me).
- If you had done ________ differently, I wouldn't have had to yell at you...
- It's not my fault. You know how I am. If you had just _________, I wouldn't have done ________.
Now, review those statements and replace what's true - using the lens that you are only responsible for your own feelings and actions. You can use this to not fall into the trap of making excuses for them and going along with their BS. Make sure you're safe before you express this out loud to the person. Evaluate whether it's worth staying in relationship with someone who is frequently trying to place all the blame and responsibility on you.
- Learn more about why you take on too much responsibility and what to do about it.
- For more ways to make assertiveness a reality in your life right away, check out this guide.
- Consider individual therapy or my assertiveness group if you would like support on your journey. You can reach me at email@example.com.