Why everything is your responsibility, and why it’s the best thing you’ll hear all year

You are not to blame for everything that happens, but you are still responsible for everything in your life

People blame others for their misfortunes. Even though I don’t know you, I know you’re guilty of it as well. Trust me on that one.

Circumstances are different for us all, but there are universal truths that we all share. There are three main themes when it comes to things we pass the blame on, things, other people and ourselves.

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Blaming the source of the discontent

Things happen that we deem as negative and we pass the blame on another person. Imagine being cut off in traffic. You become furious and immediately blame the person who cut you off. Understandably the person who triggered the incident, at least in your mind, is to blame.

Blaming something that happened in the past

We all go through difficulties in life. Some are more fortunate than others, but we all have things in our past that changed how we view life. But these things often hold more power over us than we should allow them to. If you were shy or perhaps bullied as a kid, that experience might cause you to see other people as a threat. Even as a fully grown adult, your childhood experience is hurting your life.

Blaming yourself

No amount of blame is usually passed upon others like that which we pass on ourselves. Much of it is absolute rubbish, of course. A couple that I can personally relate to are: 

If other people mistreat me, my behavior caused it (I deserve being treated badly)

Something went wrong during a project in which I only played a small part, but I shoulder the entire blame, at least internally

Road to recovery

I’m sure you have experience with all of the three themes I mentioned. What is more important than being able to relate, is to see the truth.

You see, even though we can find all sorts of things to pass the blame on for whatever ills befall us, we will never make any progress that way.

The only way to make progress in life, and to become successful, is to accept responsibility for our own lives and our happiness.

How to free yourself from things other people do to you

Taking a look at #1 from above, let’s imagine you were just cut off in traffic. The immediate response is often anger, “What an a***ole!” 

More productive is to take stock of your own emotions and evaluate the situation rationally. What will being angry help with the situation? Even if the other driver is a douchebag and cuts you off intentionally, will it make any difference to either of you if you become angry?

What being angry accomplishes, is that you will be angry and miserable. Period. 

Instead, try to look at it as an observer. You were cut off, but no harm was done.

The driver is out of your life and nothing you do will make any difference. Furthermore, you did not do anything to cause it and there was nothing you could have done to prevent it.

In effect, nothing you do either way will have any effect on the situation. 

Take a minute to contemplate that. Nothing you do will change anything.

It’s easier said than done to avoid being angry when someone does us an injustice. But it can be done with practice and the rewards are great.

Just imagine someone cutting you off, and not being affected by it. The other driver passing into your life and out again without so much as a ripple on your calm inner river.

It’s an enticing thought, no doubt, and it’s entirely within your reach. But to get there requires a certain amount of practice and discipline.

Breaking free from your past

People can be awful, and sometimes they do things that hurt us. And there are instances where we are hurt so deeply that the pain lingers for years, decades, or even our entire lives.

There is no excuse to be made for those that have hurt you. Even if they do so unknowingly, you always deserve to be treated with respect. Don’t ever forget that.

But those cases where we were hurt, how do we break free? Can we?

Excluding any gross injustice on our part, the pain that resides within is almost entirely of our own making. 

You see, everything that we say happens *to us* is a fallacy. Nothing happens to us, but we often take things that are said to heart, interpret their meaning, and let the pain they cause fester for years. 

I used to be a very shy kid. Every time I would attempt to come out of my shell a little bit, it only took a single comment for me to recede to where I came from.

A little change in my clothing, a new haircut, something that would give me a little confidence boost would almost always be shot down at school. The comments weren’t negative, even. Maybe a girl would say something like “Ooh, a new haircut?” with a touch of condescendence. That’s all it took. My confidence would crumble once more.

But as I got older, I realized that those comments and any opinion other people might have didn’t need to have any effect on me.

I turned it upside down. Negative comments about my appearance and performance would often fuel me to go further. I came to find that embracing me for myself, my individualism would help me keep my confidence. It also made me look more confident so other people started to see me like that.

Today I’m a much more flamboyant version of myself than only a few years ago. I still get a lot of comments, some could easily be interpreted as negative. But I embrace my style and person and keep my chin high.

No words or actions of others can affect you unless you allow them to. Especially something from your past. Take this to heart: Your past does not affect your current situation. Let it go entirely, right now. Embrace who you are as a person and be proud of it. 

How to stop blaming yourself

For the longest time (and even today, I still do this sometimes) I let other people’s opinions control my every thought, action, and emotion.

My thought process was such that whatever negative thing happened, a snarky comment, fury over something I did (or often didn’t do that was expected by someone) was all my fault.

My behavior was probably borderline co-dependent, but with everyone in the world instead of a single person.

The patterns can take a long time to emerge and then even longer to learn to be aware of. And to break free is probably a lifelong journey.

There are things in my upbringing I could use to blame my family for this. But for the reasons I mentioned earlier, blaming things from my past is not a productive way to heal. So I take full responsibility for my actions. Whatever may have influenced my thinking over the years, they are mine to control.

A simple example from work. Any time a coworker would be in a foul mood, perhaps snap something when I tried smiling and giving a cheerful greeting. I would then take that as a judgment of myself. Something I had done prior, the email I sent last week wasn’t good enough. My focus was entirely on my blame, that had to be the cause.

But in doing so, I’m taking too much credit. I’m saying that I am so important, that everything that I do has such an effect on people that it can control their feeling and actions. Quite impressive, don’t you think? Except it’s not true, of course.

My actions can influence other people, some more than others. But claiming every negative impression is my doing, is a bit of a stretch.

So the solution is a bit of rational thinking. That sourpuss of a coworker is more likely to be having a bad day, all of their own. And even if they were mad with me, see above. They should not allow me to control their emotions any more than I should allow them to control mine.

Other people’s behavior is not my responsibility. My emotions and thoughts are my problems, everything else is not.

Be kind to yourself, you deserve it

Even though you are responsible for everything in your life, you should always try to give yourself a little bit of a benefit of the doubt. Just because things around aren’t going the way you’d like, doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong.

Remember what is yours and what is not, and your life should be much simpler:

1. Your thoughts and feeling are your problems

2. Everything else is not

Take full responsibility for the first one, and don’t spend another minute on anything else.

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