If You’re Not the Boss of Me, Then Who Is?

If you're not the boss of me, then who is? In my other life as a preschool teacher, the phrase “You’re not the boss of me!” was incredibly popular. The kids said this to each other more times than I can count. They said it to me on a few occasions, too. It was the perfect way for a kid to express independence and assert that she is in charge of her own self, dang it. Nobody else can truly control what they say, think, or do. We adults can sure try, but as anyone who has dealt with a toddler or preschooler knows, the illusion of control only lasts so long.

Now, several years removed from my teaching career, that phrase popped into my head again after I noticed many adults I deal with whose actions say the same thing. Except the people I’ve been dealing with show that, as evidenced by their childish, immature, and manipulative ways, they are more likely to say, “You’re not the boss of me! And . . . neither am I.

They dislike being told “what to do” by others, but they’re not even the boss of themselves.

What happens when grown adults run around blaming other people for their actions, punishing other people for things they have done wrong, and hiding their crappy life choices? It’s kind of like dealing with a bunch of adult sized preschoolers. You can’t reason with them. They don’t see things rationally or logically. They want to be victims and pretend that the unhappy and unfulfilling lives they are living are the fault of everyone else on the planet except the one true responsible party – their own self.

Lately, I feel an overwhelming sense of disappointment with some people. Too many are parading through life behind a trail of lies, fake promises, hidden agendas, and carefully crafted illusions. The bosses of their lives are the Joneses, social media, anyone who ever did them wrong, and the people who they allow to run their lives.

Now me, I am the first to admit that it has taken me far too long to see that I am the boss of my own life. I spent many years letting other people dictate how I should live, what was best for me, and what I thought. The past several years were spent in eye-opening (sometimes agonizing) realizations about myself, my life, and the people in it.

But at least I own it.

The stupid, messy ways I’ve handled some things? I only have me to thank. The times I should have stood my ground and didn’t? Right here, I’m guilty of that. The people I let push me around and steamroll me? I gave them permission by not saying anything.

That’s the thing with being the boss of your own self. You begin to understand that the things in your life that you are proud of, you own. The things that you’re ashamed of? You own those, too.

Now, please don’t misunderstand. The things that happened to you when you were a child and the times you weren’t allowed to act and speak, those things weren’t your fault. But now that you’re an adult, if you are still holding on to those childhood acts of injustice in order to justify your right to act out, punish other people, destroy your own health and well-being . . . well, that part is on you.

Being in charge of yourself means accepting that the person who had to endure those tough times was just a child with limited skills and coping mechanisms. Now that you’re an adult, you have resources, people, family, and professionals to turn to, to help you deal with the fallout of decisions you made, or were made for you, when you were a kid.

The reason this topic has been on my mind lately? I have been dealing with several different situations where adults refuse to take responsibility for their own words, thoughts, and actions. Instead, they want to blame others, lie, refuse to act like rational, civil human beings, and generally run around like the world owes them simply because they exist.

The weighty effects of people like this (negative people, people who are dealing with far more mental demons than I could ever dream of conjuring up, mean people, and people who are simply overwhelmed by life) are pretty extreme. When someone in your life refuses to take responsibility for their own thoughts and decisions, it forces you to make difficult choices and deal with the fallout of the bad choices of others, especially when there are children involved.

In short, it’s physically exhausting and mentally draining.

And, I might add, unnecessary. Because really, deep down in the depths of their tiny black souls, most of these people would love to be the boss of themselves and live the happy, fulfilling lives they pretend on the surface they are actually living. However, years of abuse, disappointment, victim hood, or learned behavior that was taught to them by an adult who was equally, if not more, screwed up than they are have taken their toll, and these people no longer feel in control of anything at all.

And feeling out of control is a scary way to live life.

Maybe the reason this strikes such a chord for me is because, up until the last several years, I was one of those people, too. I wasn’t the boss of me, and I certainly didn’t know how to become that. In fact, even though I’ve come a long way, I’m still working on it. And I figured I would write down some thoughts on this to help me along my path. Maybe it offers you some insight, too.

How to Be the Boss of Your Own Life

  1. I have said this in a recent blog post, but it bears repeating: Realize you have NO control over the thoughts, opinions, actions or choices of others. Ever.
  2. Realize that the consequences of what you do, say, feel, or think will sometimes be unexpected or even uncomfortable, but you have to be prepared for that and understand that it’s normal because     . . . see Number 1!
  3. Drive your own horse and cart. When you hand over the reins of your life to other people, it’s no longer your horse or your cart. You are merely a passenger who does not have a say in whether the horse and cart travels to a sunny meadow with butterflies, or careens over the side of a cliff and crashes on sharp rocks. You gave up having any say when you decided you weren’t in charge.
  4. Own your actions. This doesn’t mean you have to be Suzy Sunshine all the time. Quite the opposite, in fact. It means you accept that you are human and you will fail, feel hurt or angry, have bad things happen, have good things happen and make choices regarding your life. In turn, you have to accept that other people will react to your failures, do things that cause you to feel hurt or angry, blame you for bad things, ignore good things, and question your choices. And they have a perfect right to do all of those things, because they are busy being the boss of their own lives.
  5. Which leads me to the most important point here: Be the boss of yourself that you wish you had. The fun, understanding, sometimes tough (but always fair) boss. Give yourself days off, assign yourself work you love to do, run meetings that are fun and productive, and encourage yourself to treat other people well. Encourage yourself to treat you well. Don’t allow yourself to be a victim, or take out your anger on others, or let life get the best of you. Most of all, be the boss who believes with all his or her heart that you can be fantastic and human all at once.


Do you believe you’re the boss of your own life? Do you sometimes feel like the people you deal with act like they aren’t the boss of their own actions or words and it has a big effect on you (or your family, friends, or kids?) Let me know your thoughts in the comments!