All the way back to elementary school, we are encouraged to consider the impact of our words and actions on others. Recall the golden rule; “Treat others as you wish to be treated.” These concepts are reinforced as someone's feelings are hurt. This is the early stage of teaching empathy. Being accountable for one's actions and appreciating how they’ve made another feel is an important part of navigating this human process we are all in together. However, is there a point where this becomes harmful to ourselves?
Consider the child afraid to raise their hand in class, or the adult feeling isolated because they’re unable to engage in casual conversation. What do these scenarios have in common? Fear. Everyone is crippled by fear; they have accepted responsibility for their words and actions long before they have the opportunity to occur.
If you find yourself riddled with anxiety over what to say or do next, you may be accepting too much responsibility. This is not a free pass to say and do whatever you please but permission to lighten the burdens. While we each have the responsibility to treat others as we wish to be treated, we also cannot control another’s feelings. Your even-toned compliment to a colleague may be interpreted as a sarcastic, hurtful one if the colleague is already berating herself over her white, after Labor Day outfit choice. Use your words and actions with honest intentions and accept responsibility for what is within your control.