When things aren’t going your way, it’s hard to accept your own role in the situation. Often, it’s much easier to look externally – at other people, at the circumstances, or at just plain bad luck. However, while all of these things can be factors, failing to take personal responsibility can block you from becoming your best self.
Making excuses provides short term comfort, but it holds you back from growing and improving, and from avoiding similar mistakes in the future. But how do you know if you’re failing to take personal responsibility, and what can you do about it?
If you’re ready to empower yourself by taking responsibility and leaving excuses behind, this article is a perfect place to start. We’ll explore the key signs that you have difficulty accepting personal responsibility, explain the benefits of changing your approach, and provide concrete tips and reminders that can help you stay on track.
Ready To Start Accepting Responsibility?
Perhaps someone has pointed out that you have a habit of making excuses, or maybe you’re feeling stuck and are ready to try anything that might change your mindset and behavior.
However, if taking personal responsibility has been difficult for you in the past, know that this is perfectly understandable.
It can seem scary and negative to think about how we contribute to our own difficulties, and if you already suffer from low self-esteem then it makes sense that you’d want to protect yourself.
Thankfully, taking personal responsibility doesn’t have to be frightening or heavily self-critical. Instead, it can mark an empowering new phase of your life in which you take control of who you want to be and how you want to spend your time.
To see why and how, let’s delve further into the difference between taking and avoiding responsibility.
Signs You Might Be Avoiding Personal Responsibility
So, how do you know that you need to work on accepting responsibility? We’ve already gestured toward the kind of excuse-making mentality you might be tempted to adopt, but we’ll now consider the profile of a responsibility-avoider in more depth. Do any of the following signs sound familiar? If so, read on to see how you can start making changes.
If you have a victim mentality, this means that you view yourself as powerless. You’re someone who constantly asks questions like, why do bad things happen? Or why do I always seem to get treated badly at some point?
While it’s natural to feel bad when things go wrong, a victim mentality involves indulging in self-pity and feeling sorry for yourself at the exclusion of considering productive lessons you can draw from your current situation.
In contrast, when you stop feeling sorry for yourself then you’re able to focus on fostering a positive mentality that pushes you toward change and away from stagnation.
If you want to leave the victim mentality behind, start asking yourself “What can I do to make things better?”
This encourages you to see what your power is and how you might be contributing to the problem. Secondly, try emptying your negative thoughts and feelings of self-pity into a journal and then leaving them behind.
Of course, others will sometimes play a role in negative situations in your life – sometimes by accident, and occasionally on purpose.
However, it’s important not to assume that others are entirely to blame for everything that goes wrong. Blame shifting keeps you trapped in the same cycle, making the same mistakes and avoiding the same responsibilities.
If you want to learn how to stop blaming others, it’s helpful to dig into the psychological reasons for blaming others.
In particular, as noted in the introduction of this article, we often do this sort of thing because we find it hard to accept our own flaws.
Work on embracing your flaws – you don’t have to be perfect to be good enough, and everyone makes mistakes! In addition, develop a practice of questioning your blaming practice. When you say “It’s all ____’s fault!”, take this as a prompt to stop and ask, “But what role did I play?’.
Making excuses sometimes takes the form of blaming others, but there are further ways to avoid personal responsibility by making excuses.
In particular, you might start to take responsibility and then veer away into explaining to yourself that the situation wasn’t really under your control. For example, suppose you make a mistake on a work assignment.
You might acknowledge that this isn’t your boss’s fault, or the fault of any of your coworkers. However, you might say things like “Well, I was late to work that day because of bad traffic, and the wording of the assignment was quite complicated, so I couldn’t really have done anything differently.”
So, how to stop making excuses. It takes time and effort to stop making excuses, but the key is challenging your thinking.
Every time something goes wrong, ask yourself to find at least one thing you could do differently next time to help get a better result.
Complaining takes up a lot of energy, but it’s an easy habit to fall into if you find it tough to take personal responsibility. In some ways, complaining is just a way of externally expressing some of the above signs – blaming others, viewing yourself as a victim, and making excuses.
You might do it in your journal or do it out loud to friends, but either way, it completely distracts you from any role you might have played in your own discontent.
One thing that can help you to stop complaining is to set a time limit.
Try to get it all out within five minutes, for example, viewing it as a cathartic kind of purge. Then, move on to being productive and proactive.
A second strategy that can be useful is to make yourself accountable. Tell your close friends that you’re working on complaining less, and let them remind you if you’re overdoing it as an accountability partner.
How Accepting Responsibility Can Change Your Life
Armed with a clear idea of what it means to have a habit of avoiding responsibility, let’s move on to think about why this all matters so much. As it turns out, accepting personal responsibility can completely transform your life. This should give you the inspiration that you need to start shifting your habits and holding yourself accountable.
Achieve Your Life Goals
Firstly, no matter what your life goals may be, taking personal responsibility goes a long way toward helping you meet those goals. Ask yourself: what’s your purpose, or your direction in life? What are the values and aims that undergird all the choices you make? Setting life goals has a huge amount to do with being disciplined in your actions.
In other words, by mindfully approaching each day with a plan for what you want to do, the habits you want to cultivate, and the place you want to direct your energy.
When you don’t take responsibility, you block yourself from your life goals by surrendering control. You say that whether you get to where you want to go is more about other people and about luck.
In contrast, when taking personal responsibility you see that all of this is fundamentally up to you – this opens up a whole new perspective on what you can achieve.
When you accept and see that you have responsibility for yourself, your actions and your own life, you start to become self-aware.
What is self-awareness? This is when you learn to develop an ever-richer picture of who you and what you want, and doing so has knock-on effects on all sorts of other areas of your life.
Why is self-awareness important? Because it means understanding the reality of your own strengths and weaknesses and how to use all of those to your advantage. The benefits of self-awareness also include more mature relationships with better communication.
Your potential is closed off if you can’t accept that you could be contributing to the negatives in your life.
Deep down, you have a sense that there are things you could be working on.
However, you won’t allow yourself to look at those things or to do that work.
There’s a wonderful feedback link between self-awareness and taking responsibility for yourself – each of these traits continuously enhances the other. Consequently, you become increasingly empowered and increasingly knowledgeable.
At first, you might not see why taking more responsibility for yourself increases your happiness. For example, isn’t it uncomfortable and unpleasant to think about your weaknesses and the ways you could do better? Won’t that make you sadder rather than happier?
The answer is that it doesn’t have to – not if you take the attitude that we all have room for improvements and that making mistakes doesn’t undermine your value.
In addition, there’s something truly liberating about taking responsibility for your own happiness. In particular, you realize that to a large extent, when considering how to be happier, it’s already in your control.
It’s not up to your partner, your friends or your family to make you happy, and you can choose to be happier than you are.
So, instead of viewing yourself as being at the whims of fate every day, you can wake up and ask yourself “How do I want to feel today? And what can I do to make that happen?”.