Many of my clients went freelance so they could have more control over their workload and working hours…..

And yet they so often end up feeling overloaded and overwhelmed.

If that sounds like you, it could be because you’ve taken on too much work. When you’re self-employed it’s tempting to grab what you can while you can- though it’s rarely a good strategy in the long run

But, I’d say the chances are good that you are taking on too much responsibility.  This might mean that you are doing other people’s jobs for them, or feeling that it is up to you to constantly remind them and check on them.

Perhaps it might be more of a feeling that you can’t keep on top of all the things you have to do, and that you are always on the verge of letting other people down.

Or you might have a tendency to feel that everything bad that happens is somehow your fault, that you should have predicted it, or warned against it, or protected people from it.

The dark side to being over-responsible.

You may pride yourself on being super-responsible, or believe that being like this makes you a good person. It certainly doesn’t make you a bad person, but it isn’t always easy for other people to live with. Being over responsible can disempower others, and make them feel less confident about their own abilities, and, if you’re secretly resentful, that will come out too.

You may also spend every family holiday ill in bed, recovering from over-doing things. My husband can testify to me doing this a lot when the kids were little.

Furthermore, you are likely to attract people who want to take advantage of your tendency to do too much. Manipulators, and ‘victims’ who want you to rescue them and who will encourage you to deny your own needs, and get your self-esteem from running around after them.

Goes with the territory?

To a degree taking on too much responsibility comes with the territory of being in education. We’re used to students looking to us to solve problems for them, and we’re probably naturally kind and helpful people. But, if we think about it, we know that it’s in their best interests to teach students to become more autonomous and self-reliant, and exactly the same thing applies in other areas of life as well.

Being self-employed can also be tricky for those of us who tend to be over-helpful, because, let’s be honest, there’s always something more than we can be doing for your clients, or our business. But we need to recognise that we’re the boss as well as the em ployee in this scenario, and we owe it to ourselves ot be a good and caring boss.

How would it feel to let go of all this responsibility?

How would it feel to let go of all the responsibility you are carrying for situations you can’t actually control, and for other people? How would your life, your business, your relationships and your health improve if you risked some disapproval from others or your own guilt?

Apart from children, or seriously unwell or vulnerable people, we are never responsible for others. We may be responsible to them if they genuinely need our help, but not for them, and the more we try to ‘fix’ or ‘rescue’ someone, the more entrenched they are likely to become in their belief that they can’t help themselves.

No-one likes disapproval, but ultimately the only person you really have to answer to is yourself. If you really have come up short, you need to ask yourself why (perhaps taking on too much out of fear of not having enough?) and learn from what happened.

If you know you’ve actually done what you promised, or what was asked of you, to the best of your ability, that needs to be enough. Other people may well have their own agendas that have absolutely nothing to do with you, and that you have no control over.

Taking on too much responsibility can be something that goes very deep, and you may hit a fair bit of resistance to changing this pattern, both internally, and with significant others who are used to you picking up the slack. 

But, ultimately it isn’t in anyone’s interests for you to be resentful and headed for burnout. Sometimes burnout is even a subconscious cry for help from people who don’t know how else to get their own needs met- don’t let that be you.