by Jo-Ann Downey on June 19, 2011

in Wellness

Post image for Over-Responsibility

Being responsible is a good thing, but how do you know when you have tipped the scales into over-responsibility? Do you trust others to make their own decisions? Do you feel responsible for things that are out of your control?  Do you feel that you are the only, or the most, responsible person in your life?  Are you healthy? Do you nurture yourself or run around trying to make everything perfect?  

Definition of Responsibility

Dictionary.com does not have a definition of over-responsibility; however, their definition of responsible includes being accountable for one’s actions and decisions, and being the agent or cause (of some action).  

My definition of responsible is consciously making healthy choices and compassionately allowing others to make choices for themselves; being the healthy change agent in your life. 

“Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean.”  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

Over-Responsibility and Trust

I believe over-responsibility and trust are correlated. 

–          Do you trust that you can make good choices for yourself?
–          Do you trust that you can handle the choices of others? 
–          Do you trust that everyone is doing their very best?
–          Do you feel responsible for the feelings, thoughts, choices, or outcomes of others?
–          Do you trust in an abundant universe?

When there is a lack of trust there is often a need to control and move in to over-responsibility.

“Forcing an issue often spoils the desired outcome.” Abraham Lincoln


Over-responsibility has the essence of control, force (versus flow), fear, and lack of trust (in yourself, others, the universe).  This is very different from offering assistance, or being of service, to yourself and others.  In fact, being of service to others is part of a healthy and rewarding life.  As discussed in “The Volunteer Wellness Effect”, the higher your serving consciousness (in other words, the less your ego is involved), the greater the wellness effect for others…and for you.

Over-responsibility is ego-driven and a sure path to burn out. 

When are you Being Over-Responsible?

You are being over-responsible when you:
–          Take responsibility for the feelings and choices of others
–          Judge the decisions, feelings, and thoughts of others
–          Take credit (good or bad) for others
–          Give unsolicited advice (verbally or non-verbally!)
–          Compromise what you believe is healthy for you
–          Blame others for your life’s choices, situations, or results

Responsible Actions to Assist others:

It is natural for us to want to assist others.  Here are ways that you can assist others without being over-responsible:
–          If someone CAN do something, let them (regardless of their age or the situation)
–          Genuinely offer assistance to others (without attachment to the outcome and without  judgments)
–          Follow through with your assistance
–          Remember that assistance does not have to be something huge- it could be a smile or sitting in silence with someone  
–          Provide input (not advice) if asked
–          Let others have their experience- people learn, and build self-esteem and self-confidence by experience

People grow by effort- do you want someone to grow or do you want to control? Look at how beautifully the woman in the picture is allowing the little girl to have her experience while silently holding for her. 

Very Smart Girls are responsible for themselves and compassionate towards others.

photo credit: nlnnet

I welcome your comments!  The name you type in the comment section (for example, Jo-Ann, Jo-Ann Downey or Jo-Ann from Boston) will appear on the site.  Your email address will NOT appear.  If you provide a website URL (for example, your business or your blog URL), it will be linked to your name so others can learn more about you.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Piecework February 2, 2016 at 5:00 pm

I seem to feel overly responsible for the work I do at my job. How do I back off and know I’ve done my best considering the circumstances? Even when the servers go down and the files get corrupted, I still feel responsible for getting out the reports that are my responsibility, on time, even if it nearly puts me in the hospital with anxiety.


Jo-Ann Downey February 14, 2016 at 6:06 pm

Great question. The energy I feel from you seems related to integrity – your integrity to do a good/great job and respect for your employer. My sense is that you do a great job. Perhaps a way to reduce the anxiety is to ask your work associates (manager, peers) for feedback on a regular basis. An open conversation about work expectations when things like servers going down might also be a way to assist you. It seems like you may want to consider inner work on judgments- self, others, situations. Anxiety is a strong word which makes me think you might want to seek professional assistance for emotional work. I acknowledge you, your honesty and your willingness to reach out. You sound well on your way to healing this and becoming more balanced.


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Asep Saepul Bahri January 1, 2014 at 9:11 am

I live in Jakarta Indonesia, I think many of your articles are suitable with my heart experiences , and according to my opinion many of Indonesian people specially young generation should know about the article and I ask your permit to re-write and translate them to Bahasa Indonesia (our mother tongue) and starting to make my own blog. So many people will get the advantages of it. and I’ll use some words or yours in my Spiritual Training. (I see many articles of yours are spiritually based ).

I appreciate if you could allow me to do that (I’ll be one to help them wake up).

Thanks a lots.


Jo-Ann Downey January 2, 2014 at 9:44 am

It sounds like you have a clear intention to help others. I will respond via email to your request. Happy and Joy-Filed 2014! Jo-Ann


Helen August 16, 2013 at 11:10 pm

Seriously, a great topic! I think people in our society, but women especially, are conditioned to be the “emotional caretakers” in relationships. In other words, I feel conditioned to (a) provide nurturing, (b) be responsible for the feelings of others and (c) feel responsible for making sure everyone else is doing to the right thing. Now, let me tell you, that’s a lot of responsibility! Yes, I get it. A mom has to be responsible for her young kids. However, a lot of moms have to do the above for boyfriends/husbands (grown men). I’ve just reached a stage in my life where I realize it’s not my job to worry about what other adults FEEL inside. I can’t control the universe. Yet I’ve been living as if I could! lol


Jo-Ann Downey August 17, 2013 at 1:27 pm

I hear you and I love your examples. Thanks for sharing!


nanoo August 3, 2013 at 2:51 pm

I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own blog and was wondering what all is needed to get setup? I’m assuming having a blog like yours
would cost a pretty penny? I’m not very web savvy so I’m not 100% positive.
Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks


Jo-Ann Downey August 8, 2013 at 7:02 pm

nanno- I completely encourage you to start a blog. I started Very Smart Girls four (4) years ago which is a lifetime in technology! I recommend that you Google the topic of developing and writing a blog and I’m sure you will find a great deal of current information! As for Very Smart Girls, my primary goal is to deliver valuable content 😉


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