Personal Responsibility

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately and have been encouraged to really think about the traits I want to possess and what I look for in others. As I reflect on these traits I deem important, I’m finding that having a sense of personal responsibility is a recurring theme.

What do I mean by personal responsibility? I mean the ability to say, “I messed up,” and take ownership when something has gone wrong rather than seeking to lay blame elsewhere. This isn’t a behavior or personality trait that necessarily comes to us easily. As kids, we blame our siblings for things our parents already know we did. As adults, we point the finger at former friends/colleagues when things don’t go our way. Why? Because it’s way easier to say, “Hey, you over there! You’re responsible for how I feel/ended up here!” instead of looking at how we found ourselves in a situation to be hurt/mad/frustrated to begin with.

A prime example: Since my earliest drinking days, I have gotten BEASTLY hangovers. I’ve never been the friend who was able to go hard on Friday night and rally for bottomless brunch on Saturday morning. For this, I am truly grateful. Seriously. Every hangover reminds me that I made the choice to overindulge the night before. I tell myself—typically while hugging the porcelain throne hoping for sweet death to open up the floor below me and swallow me directly into purgatory—that this is my penance for acting buckwild the night before. It’s on me and no one else.

Now…before you jump down my throat: Are there times where things truly are not our fault? Yes. And do terrible things happen to wonderful people? Sometimes, bad things just happen. I’m not talking socially or institutionally, as most of us know that there are social constructs that do not create a level playing field for everyone. I’m talking about individuals who would rather blame everyone and everything around them than take a minute to reflect on how their choices and behaviors landed them where they are. “It’s always me. I’m always the one to get hurt. I’m always the one getting the short end of the stick.” Okay, but why?

Y’all, all I’m saying is that sometimes you’ve got to look at yourself for why things aren’t going right. If I feel like the world is caving in around me and nothing is going my way, what can I do, right here and now, to change? Sometimes, the answer leads to big life changes: leaving the job, ending the relationship, ceasing communication. But it often doesn’t have to be that drastic. My grandma always told me that while you cannot control what happens to you, you are always in control of the way you respond. Once something has happened, are we looking at ourselves for an answer? Or are we pointing the finger elsewhere?

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