It’s Not Your Fault: Dealing with an Over-Active Sense of Responsibility

Christina Care
8 min readJan 30, 2019

Whenever anything goes wrong in life, it’s my fault. This is the narrative I’ve been telling myself since I can remember.

All misfortunes and disappointments, great and small, are my responsibility. I failed. This was me.

It’s only now, in adulthood and after several courses of therapy, that I realise… It’s not all me. In fact, much of the time, it has literally nothing to do with me. Not because it’s someone else’s fault, but because there’s plenty of shit going on over which I have zero control.

Why do I keep telling myself it’s my fault?

What is an over-active sense of responsibility?

The idea that you are responsible for things beyond your control, and becoming obsessive with this sense of responsibility for others, is sometimes linked with actual Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). We’re not touching on this in this article — the intersection with OCD is much more severe, and can include recurring obsessive thoughts about how others might come to harm/into danger, and feeling the weight of responsibility that you, personally, can prevent this.

Feeling overly responsible in general can feel like being on the edge of burnout rather a lot. It can feel like you have to schedule your life and everyone else’s. You might get annoyed easily by how irresponsible others seem. You might keep reminding others of their responsibilities. You might keep reminding yourself of all the things you should be doing. You might resent those who seem to feel entitled to your generosity. The moment anything goes not-to-plan, you might feel the entire weight of that outcome on your shoulders.

While OCD is a much more particular diagnosis, involving severe ticks which can be difficult to manage, there are levels of responsible feelings that can still be difficult to deal with, that can be detrimental to everyday life, or keep you from living the way you’d like to. It doesn’t have to involve performing ticks, like over-washing your hands or praying compulsively. Even without those, you can still feel problematic aftereffects of being overly responsible.

Christina Care

Emerging author, copywriter, editor and digital strategist helping creatives grow their practice. Xoogler.