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Are You Hiding Behind Responsibilities?

3 months ago / by Sweta Vikram

We often use our work and family duties to avoid making time for ourselves or taking on new challenges

South Asian mother reading a book with her daughter on couch wearing blanket
Image via Shutterstock

Raise your hand if you have used your children, partner, parents, pet, or work as an excuse for escaping, omitting, or running away from anything in life.

What do I mean by that?

When we first met, a client — married with two children — said he couldn’t exercise because he had a family. I knew it was an excuse. But I heard him patiently and then asked, “Why do you assume working out means abandoning your loved ones?” He just looked at me.

I asked him the most difficult question: “Are you hiding behind responsibilities for your children, so you don’t have to work out?” Sure, he told the world that he wanted to exercise. He informed his wife and close friends that he desired to be fitter. But his unwillingness was masked under “I-have-responsibilities-and-I-don’t-have-the-time-to-move-my-body.”

Baby Steps to Success

This client and I worked together for two years. I had to remind him a few times a week that movement doesn’t mean competitive swimming, running a marathon, or lifting 200 pounds. Three months into working together, he started going on hikes with his family and hitting the indoor pool with his wife and kids. He got leaner, made better choices when it came to his meals, and was in an overall better mood.

Reframing the Mindset

The client understood that family time didn’t just mean eating at restaurants, watching TV, or going shopping. He lost 66 pounds (his goal was weight loss) and gained 132 pounds of confidence. He understood that he wanted to be fit and active, but his mind told him another story. The inner critique was body-shaming him. His fears grew fangs and replaced any self-love and self-worth. He was using busyness as an excuse because he was afraid.

Real Talk

This client represents most humans. As an entrepreneur, have you used your I-got-to-pay-the-bills statement to not push yourself to grow? As a mom, have you talked about taking dance classes, traveling solo or watching a film by yourself at the movies? But did you not act on any of these desires because fear got the best of you?  Your fear could be anything. Fear of your inner voice. Fear of what-will-people-say. Fear of judgment. Fear of not being enough. Fear of who-am-I-to-deserve-all-this. Fear of how-will-my-family-manage-without-me.

Another client, an immigrant, recently confessed that she was heartbroken that her first-grader asked why she didn’t go to work like the rest of her friend’s mothers. The kid made an innocent remark based on her new world. But this woman sensed disappointment in her daughter’s voice. She had chosen to stay at home and devote her prime years to bringing up her kid. Her ego felt bruised because a single-income family also meant she compromised on her own desires. When I asked her if her daughter was why she was staying at home (no judgment for her choices) or if there was another reason, she burst into tears.

Mental Health Challenges

Being a stay-at-home parent, and as a new immigrant, meant this client didn’t have a substantial support group. Hiding behind motherhood made it easier for her to not tackle her fears of finding a job in a new city, culture, and country. Loneliness, dreary winter days, and excessive alone time meant watching TV excessively and snacking on non-nourishing foods. Well, Ayurveda as well as western science will tell you there is a strong connection between our gut and brain. Our diet impacts our mental well-being. Minimal human interaction met minimal physical movement and led to emotional lows and mild depression.

What causes disease, according to Ayurveda? You can read about it here. We worked together on her diet and lifestyle to change her mindset and lower her Kapha imbalance, among other issues.


I know I make time for people, dreams, and activities if they mean something to me. But I also hide behind caregiving, housekeeping, studying, or writing deadlines and other responsibilities when I need to take on something where my mind whispers, “Are you sure you can do this?”

Losing my parents even before I turned 50 means — all of a sudden — there is suddenly a lot of space in my life. I still have close to two decades (if not more) of work life left. My days are busy, but they don’t yet occupy the spaces and time that caregiving had taken up where I was shuttling between India and NYC every few months for over a year. The empty days remind me that I have been hiding. That course module that I didn’t launch, the program that I pushed by a year, the book that I didn’t attempt, that conference I didn’t attend… I always had a genuine reason. I was a caregiver. My responsibilities included being there for the elderly in my family, and in my husband’s family as well. These responsibilities gave me an authentic excuse: I am a caregiver. So I could pack my fears and bring them on all my trips and keep them neatly tucked away.

Why are we waiting for someone else to hand us a gold star for what we are worth? What are we so afraid of? So what if one fails? It just shows you tried your best. Also, imagine if you succeeded?

I hope this Fourth of July we can find the freedom within. After all, how can we offer anything authentic to anyone else if we are kept prisoner by our own fears?

“Extreme fear can neither fight nor fly.” ~ William Shakespeare