Personal Responsibility

17 Sep

Taking responsibility is terribly important to me. It is important for me to do in my life, and it is very important to me that the people in my life do so as well. I firmly believe that it makes me like people more and more, the more they take responsibility for themselves, and that it is the key to being happy with yourself.

It means examining your own behaviour and reflecting upon your actions and how they affect other people. It means taking those reflections and using them to improve yourself; it means adopting humility and apologizing when it is called for. Taking responsibility means that you can’t identify as a victim of your circumstances. You look at what is happening in your life and see what you can do to improve it or what you did to get there. Victims are never happy because the world is against them in some way. Lots of things legitimately happen to people that are beyond terrible, but the people who manage to move on and feel okay again are the ones who let go of the victim label and take responsibility for their future, for their attitude toward life, for how they affect others. This is why we say “survivors or sexual assault” for example, and not “victims of sexual assault” because victimhood is disempowering. (the responsibility does not reside in how to not be assaulted, but in how to go about life afterwards, of course).

Say for instance that I was late for work. It is very easy to feel that it was not my fault because my alarm didn’t wake me, or I hit too many red lights on the way or something…but I am not taking responsibility for my own actions that are underlying these things – like maybe I stayed up too late so that I ended up sleeping through the alarm, and if I had prioritized leaving the house with enough time, those red lights wouldn’t have held me up. There are always red lights. Every action, every interaction can be looked at like this. It is challenging yourself to get over the ego (screaming, “It’s not my fault!” or, “Poor me!”) – the ego that loves to be hurt and the centre of everything. But getting over it makes you feel better and makes you so much more likeable.

My friend Nic is very good at this. I have learned a lot from her in this regard. She is always looking at situations that she is upset about and saying, “I had to give myself an attitude adjustment.” She is transferring the responsibility from the other forces to herself, knowing that the only thing she is able to change is herself, so she does, and moves on, and is happier. If she kept blaming the outside forces, she would be hung up on feeling angry and powerless. She never makes herself a burden to anyone because she pulls at least her weight in every situation and doesn’t hold onto resentments. I think this is why in 11 years of friendship, I have never been mad at her. It is kind of impossible. She is the most personally-responsible person I know.

If you find yourself angry at someone or feeling hard done by in some way, look at the situation and what you did to create it, what you can do to change it, and what you can do to change yourself. I am serious that this is the key.

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