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A Guide to Right-sizing Responsibility

“Look out for the ISORs,” my mentor often warns me.

ISOR refers to an Inappropriate Sense of Responsibility.

Beginning in many cases during childhood, when an individual is unfairly weighted with responsibility for the well-being and actions of others, it can result in a lasting tendency to shoulder more than their fair share in life. While bearing the burdens of others was vital for survival in the past, over time, this conditioned response can evolve into a persistent and harmful auto-pilot mode, leading to ambiguity around boundaries, feelings of inadequacy, and exhaustion.

The constant self-imposed pressure to fix, control, or predict outcomes increases stress levels, burnout, a sense of helplessness, and overwhelm. Identifying this pattern of is the first step towards liberating oneself from the cycle of over-responsibility.

One powerful tool for unraveling the layers of undue responsibility is to practice pausing and evaluating your true portion of the 'responsibility pie'. A telltale sign of over-responsibilty is resentment. When you’re shouldering a weight that isn't yours, resentment often simmers beneath the surface. This emotional cue can serve as a signal to pause and ask the pivotal question: "How much responsibility for this situation do I genuinely own?"

Getting a healthy outside perspective is also valuable on this healing journey. Seek support from a trusted friend, family member, colleague, and/or therapist who can provide you with a balanced viewpoint. They can assist you in recognizing when responsibility crosses into the realm of inappropriate, illuminate your blind spots, and act as a checkpoint as you strive to stay in your own lane.

Establishing clear responsibility boundaries, recognizing signs of anxiety stemming from over giving, and seeking an ally's perspective are helpful steps towards cultivating a healthier relationship with what's truly yours to handle.

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