How To Stop Feeling Responsible For Other People

How To Stop Feeling Responsible For Other People
Photo by Rowan Heuvel on Unsplash

I saw a meme on Facebook that said the oldest sibling is like the third parent. As the oldest sibling, I could relate.

If you have an anxious attachment style, it's not uncommon for some unhealthy behaviours to be present in your relationships with friends and family.

I rarely talk about my personal growth in a non-dating capacity, specifically concerning familial relationships.

Not because there hasn't been anything I've had to unlearn, but because my entire country is only 24 miles and everybody knows everybody.

It's not easy to talk about family without inadvertently putting everybody's business out there. But for this post, I figured I'd use my relationship with my family as an example.

I have a younger sister and brother who I'm older than by seven and nine years, respectively. I was somewhat hands-on with my sister growing up. A bit less so with my brother.

I'll give you one example of what I mean.

When my sister was about one or two, my mama used to make 6 am to work. My upstairs neighbour would come down and wake me up for school. I'd have to get myself ready, get my sister ready and walk her to nursery before walking to school. I would've been about eight or nine during this time.

Because I was so hands-on with them, and because I'm the oldest I'm always looked to for answers, even with my mama.

I don't think she realises how much she depends on me, but I found it confusing, even odd.

My mama had me four days after her 28th birthday which means she wasn't a young parent who'd lost all her friends and only had me for companionship.

And she has three sisters of her own, two of them being older, and she has a great relationship with both of them. She's always had close friendships too.

One of those friendships is with my dad. They haven't been a couple since long before I could remember, but they still talk nearly everyday and Facetime often.

So why does she rely on me so much?

My mama and I are the same in many ways but opposite in others.

I've mentioned before how my people-pleasing and poor boundaries likely were learned behaviour from her.

On the other hand, she's reactive where I'm proactive. I'm more structured, and she's more go with the flow. I'm naturally a leader, but she's never been the type.

I've always been the responsible one, the planner, the one that knows everything, which left me with this burden of feeling responsible for everyone else.

Admittedly, I've never spoken about how I felt. I also think it's likely that had I spoken up, things would be differently.

My mama isn't the overbearing type, nor is she entitled. And she definitely wouldn't attempt to make me feel guilty or hold any grudges because I set a boundary. I can say the same about my brother and sister.

But I never spoke about how I felt because it was only within the last few years that I realised how I felt and how much it was draining me.

Once I realised how much it was draining me, I knew I needed to start setting boundaries. And here's how I did it.

Teach people not to rely on you

Moving from Bermuda to England has introduced my mama to things she never had to worry about before. For example, finding the best electricity supplier. There's only one electricity supplier in Bermuda, the idea of having to shop around for the best deal is new to her. Add that to the fact that she's neither tech nor internet savvy, and it's me who helps her with these things. With that said, there's no reason she can't learn to do some of these things on her own. Regarding utilities, for example, I might find her a good deal and set up the online account for her, but I've shown her how to manage it on her own. And when she has problems, I encourage her to contact the company and speak to customer service instead of looking to me for answers. Before, I'd always try to figure it out for her. I still help her, but I'm not doing the bulk of it or driving myself crazy trying to figure things out.

"If I don't do it, nobody will."

I can't tell you the number of times I've said that to myself. Usually I'd tell myself that, sigh and get on with whatever I needed to do. One day I was in bed thinking about something my mama asked me to do. I remember thinking, if I don't do it, nobody'll do it.

That's when my inner voice chimed in, "that still doesn't mean that you have to do it". That was my lightbulb moment; I didn't have to do it. I don't have to do anything. I get to choose the things I do and don't want to help with, or be responsible for. It's taken so much weight off my shoulders and prevented so much resentment.

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