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Their Stuff/My Stuff: Creating a boundary of ownership

by | Anxiety, Blog

Do you ever find yourself saying…’It’s their fault for ruining my day today’ or ‘If they didn’t do this I wouldn’t feel this way’? What about when someone else gets mad about something and you think “I shouldn’t have done that.” 

One of the more challenging issues that come up in therapy is learning to take ownership for your stuff and to stop taking ownership for someone else’s stuff. 

We think of this as a necessary boundary that can dramatically improve your mental health. 

Depending on how you were raised and the relationships you had over the years, there is often a blurred line between somebody else stuff and yours. Sometimes people take ownership for everything that happens between them and others. Other times people take no ownership for their behaviors. 

We could create an entire list of the reasons why some people own too much and others don’t own enough of their stuff. Everything from anxiety/control to past trauma to family dynamics can play a role. Here are some simple steps to learning to own your own stuff:

  1. Understanding your why can be important in developing this boundary of your stuff/my stuff. Why do you take on others stuff or why do you not take on others stuff? 
  2. Becoming more aware of when you take on others stuff or are unable to own your own stuff. Awareness is half the battle in this work. 
  3. Learn to communicate what’s your versus theirs. 

Here are some simple ways to differentiate between your stuff and someone else’s: 

  • Identify if you actually played a role in the event, situation, emotion, etc. If you didn’t then you cannot own (or feel responsible for it- that doesn’t mean you won’t feel empathy). If you did play a role, what was your exact part of the incident? Did that part contribute to the outcome?
  • Are you feeling overly responsible because that’s who you are, someone made you feel that way, you have some underlying guilt, or it was a triggering event that brought up your own stuff? (If its the latter- that then becomes your stuff to own but only the part that is triggering your unresolved stuff.)
  • Sometimes the part you play is your deeper stuff that you haven’t dealt with yet. It’s okay that this happens but consider going to therapy or having a strong support person to help you talk through those deeper issues.