By Michael Arndt
Growing up, I hated the word responsibility. I hated being told I was responsible for things. I didn’t want any responsibility, I don’t think I thought I was capable of taking any. I was so downtrodden and could not accept that I was responsible for everything that I created in my life. It felt overwhelming and caused me feelings of anxiety. It was easier for me to just blame others for my problems. As I have begun the journey into recovery, I have learned that I cannot fully heal and evolve into my best self unless I take full and ultimate responsibility for my life, my healing, my actions, and also the people I allow into my life.
I could wrap my mind around being responsible for my actions and my healing. But when I was told that I also had to take responsibility for the people I allowed into my life, I balked. At first I could not accept that level of responsibility. It would require that I push my sphere of responsibility outward. I had never considered this before.
But it sunk in, and over time I began to see what that really meant. It meant that if I make the choice to continue interacting with someone who has shown me that they are not capable of respecting my boundaries, or that they are not capable of respecting my desire to be healthy, I am responsible for the damage caused. Sometimes it can be as simple as not walking similar paths in life with similar goals. But if I try to force these relationships, or even simply allow them to continue, and continue to allow those people into my life and my space, I am responsible for the consequences. I cannot sit back and say to myself that I didn’t know better. I cannot sit back and complain that I am being negatively affected by the relationship when I allowed it to continue, whether it was out of fear of being alone, fear of confrontation, or because they were filling some base need for me. If I allow it, then I am responsible for it.
I began to see that just because I am responsible for something, does not necessarily mean something bad — it isn’t a judgment about who I am at my core. I think this was at the heart of my aversion to responsibility when I was younger. I thought that if I took responsibility and failed, it meant I was a bad person. This could not be further from the truth. Taking responsibility is ultimately about protecting one’s self and one’s energy. It is the tool by which we can honor our best selves, and protect our hearts and our minds. Without responsibility, we live in a perpetual disempowered state of victimhood in which we have convinced ourselves we have no power and are at the mercy of other people and circumstances.