Caretaking: the act of taking responsibility for other people while neglecting responsibility for ourselves. When we instinctively feel responsible for the feelings, thoughts, choices, problems, comfort, and destiny of others, we are caretakers. We may believe, at an unconscious level, that others are responsible for our happiness, just as we’re responsible for theirs.
It’s a worthy goal to be a considerate, loving, nurturing person. But caretaking is neglecting ourselves to the point of feeling victimized. Caretaking involves caring for others in ways that hamper them in learning to take responsibility for themselves.
Caretaking doesn’t work. It hurts other people; it hurts us. People get angry. They feel hurt, used, and victimized. So do we.
The kindest and most generous behavior we can choose is taking responsibility for ourselves—for what we think, feel, want, and need. The most beneficial act we can perform is to be true to ourselves, and let others take responsibility for themselves.
Today, I will pay attention to my actual responsibilities to myself. I will let others do the same. If I am in doubt about what my actual responsibilities are, I will take an inventory.
From the desk of Melody Beattie
Originally posted January 9, 2015
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