The Personal Zone of Responsibility

How much is too little or too much when it comes to responsibility?

Like in relationships, how much is me and my stuff and my reactions and how much is them and their stuff when it comes to a miscommunication or argument

For Instance: When my precious, petite octogenarian mama had emotional meltdowns just prior to the move from her home of 40+ years to an unknown experience filled with new everything, she questioned her decision to move. She’d get frantic about having to make new friends in her chosen retirement community saying, “What if there are cliques? What if nobody likes me? What if I don’t fit in? You know I hate to talk to strangers.”  Then she’d get even more frantic about finding all new doctors and paying state income tax for the first time. When the details of all the new loomed largely and the pre-move lists were a continual stream of new to-do’s added each day; when a friend of 40 years would call and they’d wonder if they would ever see each other again after the move; when the exhaustion overcame her … she would melt down and say, “This is crazy. I can’t do this. I’ll never get it all done in time. I can’t leave.”

I tried very hard and managed to succeed 90% of the time to NOT take her meltdowns personally. And it was hard to stay in the “not personal” zone since she was moving from TX to CA to be closer to me … she was moving because I kept reminding her of her promise to not go through another hurricane season on the Texas Gulf Coast. It was hard to stay in the “not personal” zone when I was exhausted physically, mentally and with my own grief of saying goodbye to my childhood home.

Yet there were two key things that made it easier to stay in the “not personal” zone. Key One – I’ve known my mom my whole life and know she freaks out about change in general, so of course this move being one of the biggest changes in her life would bring on the freakouts; Key Two – I was committed to self-care which included meditating, journaling, quiet yoga and eating healthy.

Of course, I slid into the 10% land of “personal” at times, feeling like I was an awful daughter, a tornado of planning, action, and follow-through forcing my mom from her home (in spite of Hurricane Harvey’s evidence everywhere doing the forcing from her home). In that 10% land of “personal”, I felt like I was dragging her to CA. I wondered if I was doing irreparable harm in some way by keeping my foot on the gas pedal to make the move happen. In some of my lower energy moments, when Mom was crying and raging in her grief against the change, I would let her know what I was feeling, too. She immediately said, of course, she wasn’t blaming me or holding me personally responsible; that, of course, she had made the decision and that she was simply confronting her fears and grief.

As the daughter of this emotionally intelligent woman, I know all this. As a spiritual guide, I know all this. As a coach, I know all this. In fact, when clients gnash their teeth in a session over a coming change in their lives, I know their blustery vents have nothing to do with me. When they share any of their feelings of fury, fear, sadness, grief, frustration, smallness or feeling less than … I know those feelings are just feelings and not truths – especially truths about me.

As a loving friend and family member, I know other’s emotions are not about me and yet, they can confound me when I’m already low.

The one thing that is all about me is my response.

Coaching a client recently I shared with her a phrase one of my early spiritual mentors shared with me: The good news is, nothing is about you! (Meaning, the “stuff” of the world, other people or situations are not about you.)  The bad news is, everything is about you! (Meaning, how I respond, shut-down or remain open, experience a situation is about me.)

That razor-thin line between the good news and the bad news is the opportunity to decide, sometimes in a split second, how we want to respond – to a situation, someone’s rant toward us, someone’s emotional meltdowns, someone’s glowing praise, heck, even the world’s happenings.

I’ve learned when I enter the land of taking things personally I am trying to make something about me that isn’t about me. And that generates those feelings of over-responsibility, creating stress, anxiety, worry and the like. (Talk about an invitation for my Chief Operating Officer of Control to come out!)

I’ve also learned that when I remain in the land of not taking things personally I remain calm, clear-headed, not flooded by emotion and therefore, genuinely responsible.

The next time I find myself standing on that razor-thin line, I plan to keep choosing the not personal, responsible-for-me side!

I love supporting women to free themselves from over-responsibility and the “Ugh” factor around taking things personally. Please reach out for support if you are drowning in emotions that erode your confidence and make you question yourself. I’m here for you.

Love & Light,


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