Resisting Stress: Responsibility Issues

by Jerry Kennard, Ph.D. Medical Reviewer

We are often our own worst enemies. We will invest a considerable amount of time worrying about issues we have no control over and overlooking those we can. As right-thinking humans we see that the needs of others matter as much as ours and if life was kinder we would be surrounded by people who reciprocate. But of course life is more often about working or living with people who aren't so accommodating, who are takers rather than givers, or who see their needs as paramount.

Which brings me to the next point. Some of us have a particular problem and that is we are much too concerned with the needs of others. We're too worried about what they think, what they want, what their needs are and what might make them happy. If they get moody or upset all the stops are pulled out in order to settle them down, make things right or stop the upsets from escalating.

Not only is this overly demanding on our resources it is one that is often self-imposed. Why? Well it invariably comes down to our own sense of self-worth and confidence. Despite the fact we know it's impossible to please all people all of the time we still try. Anxious people tend to do this as a form of self-defense. They believe that by attempting to please others and keep them sweet it will deflect personal attacks and criticism.

In fact these attempts at pleasing others results in too many uncertainties and it pushes us off balance too many times. Trying to be good, look good and avoid mistakes all the time are impossible goals. Here are a few things I believe are more workable:

  • We all make mistakes and that's a fact of life. It's our responsibility to own up or manage the situation when this happens, but it's not our responsibility when other people mess up.

  • We are not responsible for the happiness of other adults.

  • We are not responsible for how other people view us.

  • If you have tried to do the right thing and someone takes it the wrong way, it's not your responsibility.

  • We can't take responsibility for the way other people feel. If we've tried to be good and tried to be kind, that's all we can reasonably do.

Well, that's my list. Perhaps you disagree with some of the items, or you may be able to add to it? I leave that responsibility to you.

Jerry Kennard, Ph.D.
Meet Our Writer
Jerry Kennard, Ph.D.

Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s work background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of