Being accountable means taking responsibility for one’s own actions. Sounds reasonable enough, right? So why is it that so many people find it so damned difficult?
While most of us recognize the importance of holding ourselves accountable in the workplace (where our credibility pretty much depends on it), owning up to the actions we take in our personal lives isn’t quite as easy — especially when nobody’s standing by to judge us.
It’s easier to accept responsibility when people are watching.
Imagine you’re at a party. You spill a glass of red wine on the carpet, a dozen witnesses standing by. There’s no denying you did it so you accept full ownership.
Now, imagine you’re home alone. You get a text from the guy you’re dating. He’s just broken up with you. You’re devastated. As you prepare to drown your sorrows in a shot of tequila, you drop your glass on the kitchen floor. It shatters. Who’s fault was that? His of course. I mean, who breaks up with someone via text!
Being accountable suggests that we’re to blame. And often, we are.
Over the years, I’ve incurred my fair share of emotional blows. Haven’t we all? As human beings, we have the ability to be cruel, or just plain thoughtless. Either way, we’re capable of causing great suffering to one another.
The thing is, when we fall victim to the suffering inflicted upon us by others but refuse to examine our role in the story, there’s no end to our suffering. Even worse, we’re likely to repeat the decisions that got us there in the first place. Thus, the importance of being accountable.
– Here’s a great article about owning your sh*t –
In 2008, my ex-husband dropped a bomb on me.
He told me that in our 10 years of marriage, he had never felt like himself when he was in my company, and he couldn’t see that ever changing. A day or two later, I learned that he’d made multiple calls to another woman in the weeks prior. Within a couple of months, we were divorced and he was officially in a new relationship.
In our decade together, we had tried therapy several times. During none of our sessions did he ever suggest he was anything other than happy. How was I to have known?
“Accountability turns pain into peace.” Amy Jalapeno
The demise of my marriage taught me the value of being accountable.
Was I to blame for our breakup? Hell, no. I was clearly the victim. I knew it and my friends and family knew it, too. But while I found some comfort in their certainty, it wasn’t enough to ease my suffering.
It was an incredibly painful time in my life. I still have flashbacks of the evening I sat in my car on a quiet suburban street and screamed so loudly that I literally woke up without a voice the next day. For months or perhaps a few years following — I honestly can’t recall — I was the walking wounded, unable to imagine ever living without that pain. But then I faced a truth that allowed my healing to begin.
While I had loved him, I was often embarrassed by how he conducted himself socially. There were times I simply couldn’t not tell him how inappropriate he was being. Still, I married him, didn’t I? And I did it knowing full well that there were parts of him I didn’t accept. So really, how could he possibly have lived with me without feeling that he needed to be a different self from the self he felt born to be?
Being accountable doesn’t mean condoning someone else’s wrongdoing.
It simply means owning your part. Not only the role you may have played leading up to a certain situation, but the choices you make after the fact.
We are not always responsible for the events that unfold in our lives, but we are always responsible for how we choose (yes, choose) to respond. If your employer fires you without cause, if your partner cheats on you, and yes, even if somebody you love deeply dies — you ultimately get to decide how to move forward.
I’m not saying dust off your pain, pull up your socks and carry on without grieving what has befallen you. Pain takes time to process. Sometimes weeks, sometimes years. But when you’re tired of living with the pain, remember, you have 100% control of one thing and one thing only, and that’s yourself.
To thine own self be true.
Viv for today xo
(Originally published on August 4, 2017)
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