One of the things that can prove to be a tricky balancing act is knowing that line between blame and responsibility. Some people think that they’re one and the same thing but blame, which is really a focus on finding fault rather than positive, decisive, growth-led action, is either about being a blame absorber, so taking so-called responsibility for other people’s feelings and behaviour, or about avoiding responsibility by putting not acknowledging our part no matter how small or seeing it as other people’s responsibility to make us feel or act better.
When we have struggled with our self-esteem and figuring out where others end and we begin, we can end up vacillating between taking all of the blame or none of the blame.
The reason why we don’t find that middle ground (responsibility) is because of the responsibility. At either end, we do not have to see our part or even the truth and instead, we can keep persecuting us with the lie that supports the belief that everything is our fault and that we’re “not good enough”. We can remain in our uncomfortable comfort zone and we do not have to be vulnerable and face our innermost feelings and thoughts or take action.
Blaming ourselves (or others) can be a handy safety net that helps us to avoid vulnerability.
In order to transcend past experiences and exit the disappointment cycle which is the lather, rinse, repeat of doing the same thing (our pattern) and expecting different results, we must accept responsibility for us. We must recognise that we are the main provider in our life and that we’re responsible for taking care of our needs, expectations, desires, feelings and opinions. If we do not like the choices that we make, we cannot keep looking around for somebody else to come along and make it alright.
Adulthood is about unlearning all of the unproductive and in some cases, downright outrageous bullsh*t that we picked up in childhood.
We have to parent us. That is not something that we learn overnight, much as no parent knows everything the moment that the baby makes its entrance, and is instead something that we learn over time through trial and error. We have to figure things out for ourselves and discern what feels good and right for us from the chatter.
We discover that our parents are not “perfect” and infallible (even if they’ve told us that they are….) and that the world is not a giant-sized replica of our childhood.
Sometimes we don’t realise that we are responsible for us until we’ve already run the gamut of various toxic relationships and situations where we try to get people to fill parental voids or we finally exhaust ourselves trying to get our parents or other family members to change. It suddenly becomes painfully clear that these people have played their part but if we continue to keep looking to someone else for salvation, security, and validation, we will not ascend into our true potential and enjoy our life because we’re too busy keeping ourselves small by living in the past.
It’s important to note that taking responsibility can be hard if you have spent your whole life feeling excessively responsible for other people’s feelings and behaviour due to your upbringing. Adulthood comes along and it’s like, Feck! I’m exhausted! When is somebody going to come along and take responsibility for me? Where’s my childhood?
If you’re wondering how to go about taking responsibility: it’s about intention and action combined with commitment. Life has no guarantees or a crystal ball so you have to commit to your responsibility without knowing exactly what that’s going to look like (all of our journeys are different and we’re all unique after all) or how your life is going to unfold. Sometimes when I talk to people about responsibility, it’s as if they want some big booming voice to say, It is safe for you to take responsibility. Nothing bad is ever going to happen. Fly my pretty!
Sometimes we are afraid to take responsibility because we fear that something big will go wrong and that it will hurt or that it will be hard to deal with.
Unfortunately big things will go on in your life and if you don’t take responsibility for you, you will not be taking care of you which means you will not have the support system of your self-esteem and the positive relationships that this yields, to help you through. Self-esteem offers you some protection and resilience.
Whether you take responsibility or not, you’re still responsible for your feelings and behaviour. They’re yours. When you take ownership of them, it does not mean that when people behave like jackasses and attempt to tap dance all over your boundaries, that it’s your fault. What it does mean is that how you respond (feelings, thoughts, actions) is down to you.
You can’t know that a feeling is going to show up or that a thought will, but it’s what comes next that is your responsibility.
Taking responsibility means owning your own and letting others own theirs. Honour the separateness. Each time you take ownership of other people’s feelings and behaviour, you’re telling you that you don’t matter while letting them know that they don’t have to take responsibility for themselves around you.
People are going to p*ss you off and life is not always going to go as you like. What are you going to parlay these experiences into? What are the things that you will say (internally and outwardly) about you as well as do, that will either intensify and multiply ‘bad’ feelings or help to get you through? It is more than OK to feel upset but be mindful of the part that you play in extending pain.
The thoughts that you feed you and the way that you treat you, matters.
Taking responsibility means taking ownership of your needs, expectations and desires instead of putting it on others to fulfill them. It means taking responsibility for getting to know and be you instead of expecting others to know you deeper and in more detail than you do yourself.
It means being responsible for your development instead of expecting a parent to fill in those gaps or to make up for what they were not able to in your childhood. To expect this is only to set you up for pain.
There are times when I have felt so angry and lost but I have learned that I only begin to feel better when I am willing to take responsibility for me. I’ve had to learn how to go from the inside out and use self-care to adapt my responses because I cannot control the uncontrollable (another form of trying to avoid responsibility).
Taking responsibility means not focusing on blame. It means figuring out what your next move is as well as what’s yours, what’s theirs, and what if anything, you need to learn and work on in order to transcend that experience. One of the things I’ve learned about blame is that you can’t do any good with it. Blaming leads to shaming and you can end up feeling helpless because blame is a very narrow viewpoint that lacks compassion and empathy. Responsibility is in the present and gives way to a brighter future, blame has you based in the past. Decide which direction you want to go in.