The Responsible One is a role we took on at a very young age. It was a heavy coat that we wore to keep us safe, help us survive, prove our self-worth, and make us feel loved. It had a very important role to play at the time. But as we age, the role increasingly weighs us down. It becomes a burden that stifles our power to choose, create, and be the free spirits we innately are.
Two Ways We Birth the Responsible One
1. No One But Me
At a very young age you decided that you must be the adult in the family. Perhaps your mother died, and you were the oldest sibling, and you felt the need to take on the responsibilities of your deceased mother. Or, you had one or two dysfunctional parents, and knew that if you didn’t wash your clothes or make your meals, no one would. You HAD to be the Responsible One. No one was going to fulfil that role for you.
2. The Right Way
Another reason we take on the Responsible One is because we may see our parent’s functional, dependable nature as something to aspire to. With our impressionable mind, we look up to them, and want to be just like them. We determine that being responsible is the way one ought to be, and in emulating them, we believe that we will receive more love and have greater worth in the world.
Fear is the Source
Beneath your need to be the Responsible One is fear. At an early age, fear said to you that you were not safe, loved, and enough. It wasn’t safe to be a free-spirited, goofy, imaginative child. It wasn’t enough to just be yourself. You would only feel safe, loved and enough if you took on the Responsible One—if you became someone more than you actually were. So fear created expectations on how you should be, and quickly made you into a little adult.
Still today, that same originating fear governs you from the shadows.
For almost everyone, early childhood fear is the constant underpinning source that unconsciously defines and drives them forward in their life. It defines safety and security, and places us into nice tidy boxes where we won’t harm anyone, or be harmed. And because fear has defined our safety and security, we fear to question the fear. Why would we want to question that which has made us feel safe, secure and loved? Why would we want to tamper with the walls of our box?
Deepening the Identification
Over time, what deepens your identification with being the Responsible One is that you become quite good at performing it. You become very reliable and efficient, and you enter jobs and relationships where you fulfil the role quite nicely. And people praise you for how wonderfully responsible you are. They compliment you for your hard work, your dependability, and your willingness to put others first and be selfless. And, of course, the Responsible One is quite flattered!
You also befriend people who have taken on this role as well, and through collusion, unconsciously reinforce the identification of each other’s roles. Together, you become righteous about your roles, and indignant towards those who fail to be as punctual, efficient and dependable as you both are. Together, and alone, you judge those who you perceive as less responsible. The more righteous you become, and the more you judge, the further identified you become with the role.
Your need to be righteous and judgmental, of course, go hand in hand. But little do you know that what you judge in others is a mirror for your own self-judgement. In other words, what you perceive as deficiencies in others (slow, lazy, messy, silly, care-free) are the same aspects you fear being—aspects you have failed to accept and love in yourself; aspects you never felt safe being when you were a child.
You point at the mirror not realizing that you are pointing at yourself. Without realizing this, you deepen your identification with being the Responsible One.
As time goes on, you increasingly feel the weight of the burden. You never got to feel the joy and freedom of being a child, and still today, these feelings allude you. You learned how to be an little adult—how to be responsive to the needs of others—but at the cost of being responsive to your own needs. And now, today, you struggle to take care of yourself—to have the confidence to set boundaries, say “No”, take time for yourself, and give yourself permission to be care-free and silly.
While on the one hand you enjoy being responsive to others’ needs (partly because of the aforementioned flattery), you also resent it! You resent feeling like you have to always be the one who steps in and takes charge. You resent that people appreciate you more for what you do than who you are deep inside. And you resent that you keep attracting partners, friends and co-workers who act like lazy bums, which makes you have to be even more responsible—because if you don’t do it, who will?!
But what you don’t understand is you keep attracting people who help you illuminate and amplify this role so you see it more clearly. More so, by representing aspects of yourself you don’t give yourself permission to be (slow, lazy, messy, silly, care-free), these lazy bums show you the parts of yourself you continue to hold in judgment. They show you how you are silently crying inside!
The lazy bums are helping you heal, become whole and learn to love yourself! That is the Universe’s way of saying, “I love you!”—by bringing you the perfect teachers, or mirrors, to help you return to love.
Taking Responsibility for Being the Responsible One
While it is true that you may not have felt safe, loved or enough as a child, at some point you need to take responsibility your life—for how these old pains are still keeping you disempowered today, and for the impact they are having on those you love and work with. There comes a time when you must reclaim your power, your freedom to choose to be how you want to be, and your capacity to live a joyful life. You must find that place within you where you know you are safe, loved and enough.
Children, in their purity of spirit and innocence, feel and know this. They are connected with this inner truth. We witness the freedom of children in how they interact with friends, adults, strangers, animals and our natural world. They are innately trusting, expressive and loving souls. It is who they authentically are…and who you are, and have always been!
It is time that everyone reclaims the lost child within; to become free and childlike again.
It begins with a conversation.
Conversing with Your Inner Child
Find a picture of yourself when you were young. Look at it carefully. Then close your eyes. Imagine having a conversation with her/him. Ask your inner child:
- Why did you chose to take on the role of the Responsible One?
- What was it that you needed in order to feel loved, safe and enough, that you were not getting?
- What was it that you would have loved to feel, experience, and do if you had not had to be the Responsible One?
And then take some time to ask her/him your own questions. What questions would you like to ask your inner child? When you are done, ask this one final question:
- What do you want for me today? What will help me release the burden of the Responsible One?
Listen carefully. You may be surprised at how clear and wise your inner child is.
Grab a piece of paper, and draw a line down the centre. At the top of the left column, write Responsible One. At the top of the right column, write Free or Empowered or Joyful; whatever word or words you aspire to be.
In the left column, write down all the things the role of the Responsible One causes you to be/do that are tiring, joyless and causes resentment. In the right column, right down the opposite of each statement—what the free, empowered, joyful You wants; what your inner child wants for you.
For instance, in the left column you may write, “Always putting my kids first”. In the right column, you may write, “Carving out time and space to do some writing”.
The key is to be specific! The more specific it is, the more likely you will be/do it.
Once you have your list, then everything on the right column becomes your To-Do/Be List. In taking consistent action to reclaim your spirit and right to choose, you slowly relinquish the power fear has in your life. And you begin to make self-love, safety and a sense of being enough the governing values in how you live and create your life.
Note: Be aware of your fearful saboteur (also knowns as the inner critic). As soon as you begin to consider choosing to be empowered, it will give you a litany of reasons why you should listen to it instead of your heart/inner child. Fear will be very persuasive because it knows that if you stop listening to it, it will die—it will no longer have a role to play for you—and this is incredibly frightening for it. So be very aware of its subtle tactics to keep you in check!
Releasing the need to be the Responsible One does not mean you are no longer responsible. It simply means you no longer identify with that aspect of you. You can be responsible without having it be who you are all the time. You can also be silly, and messy, and wild. You get to be all of You!
This is what responsibility ultimately means—your ability to respond. Once you release the burden of having to be responsible all the time, then your ability to respond grows to include so many more wonderful and creative aspects of who you are. Suddenly, you free up your energy to show so much more of your boundless authentic Self.
And that is when life becomes fun and creative and joyful!!
Here’s to the Spirit of the Child in You that never left! It’s time for her/him to Come Out and Play!
“It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” ~ Wayne Dyer
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Check out Vince’s book: Let the Fire Burn ~ Nurturing the Creative Spirit of Children, A Children’s Book for Adults