Why is self-responsibility (apparently) so difficult to achieve?

“Instead of blaming others, let us look into ourselves and see what we are doing about the problem. The more responsibility you take up, the more you grow.” - HDH Bhagawan Sri Nithyananda Paramashivoham

Responsibility is a key component towards progress, yet people continue to be and get comfortable with not understanding this or taking responsibility. How come something that limits progress be so normalized?

As humans we tend to find evasion mechanisms to avoid suffering, and that might be in a very abstract way one of the main reasons to flee from responsibility.

Some might think: “How could responsibility make me suffer?”

Well, this is the problem… the fact that responsibility (as many other attitudes and values) should be internalized and not just be part of the way we interact with the world. Therefore we find two ways to be responsible: towards the outside or in ways that make other think we are responsible, and towards the inside… even when others don’t notice it.

Here are a few examples for this:

  • Some people think they are responsible because they comply requests and are puntual. Yet, they do not comply to their self-care.
  • Some people think they are responsible because they pay their bills and taxes on time. Yet, they do not comply with their personal habits.
  • Some people think that keeping up with a wellness program makes them responsible (and in a way it does). Yet, they do not comply to figure out which other wellbeing areas they are taking for granted in a fantasy that only one way of wellbeing (financial, mental, emotional, physical, social…) will do the whole trick for them. Every-friggin’-thing matters!
  • Some people think they are responsible because they never miss to please their bosses, becoming the employee of the month, year and decade. Yet, they do not comply to be the self-carer of the day, or less. This could also apply to pleasing just anyone (friends, partners, lovers, parents, and even social media followers).

Such examples could go on and on… but the point here is to make visible that people constantly believe that they are responsible for what others expect of them, but leave themselves aside.

Is it because such people haven’t realized that living for the outside and forgetting about their inner world and wellbeing should also be a priority.

Is compliance to the outside a bad thing to care for?

Nothing is good or bad itself. The problem with actions, attitudes and behavioural patterns is the lack of consciousness related to them.

As long as we realize our motivations, our needs or any other components for our decisions we are taking responsibility. But this is the tricky part and the suffering-prone part of responsibility. Let’s see a some possible cases:

Case 1: If a person is seen as very responsible because they always deliver weekly reports first, how could this trustworthy attitude possibly be in conflict with self-responsibility?

If this person delivers first as a strategy to be the boss’s favourite team member because he/she is dependent on the approval of other people, then this strategy might be a way to avoid realizing that he/she lacks self-recognition and self-assessment mechanisms.

If this strategy actually works, then this person might extend it to other attitudes such as: being the first to have the fashionable item to gain social acceptance, being the one to always know all the information about a certain topic for the same purpose, and other similar attitudes.

This does not mean that a person should not be passionate about their work, fashionable items, their topics or interest or what they like to be experts of. It means that there might be an ulterior motive other than just the thrill of it.

Do such people do any of these things for the love to them or do they do them for recognition?

Case 2: If a person is continuously acting like nothing is ever wrong with them, or as they always have the ultimate truth for everything… how could acting like a strong or wise person be in conflict with self-responsibility?

If this person is always projecting that everything is in his/her life in a compulsive way, it could be a strategy to hide his vulnerabilities and be in contact with them. Of course this kind of attitude brings the spotlight to a fear to be inadequate to the world and being rejected for not being at their best… reasons can be endless.

This does not mean that people should not be proud of their progress, achievements and success. It means that always-perfect is a fantasy that can be harmful for the own person.

Why? Well, because it limits the possibility to be vulnerable because they do not want to seem weak or stupid, put a foot outside their comfort zones since mistakes are unacceptable in their minds, learning new things since that might put them is a less-wiser position and so on.

In any of these possibilities, the person is avoiding to take responsibility on figuring out why do they feel so afraid to seem vulnerable, weak, stupid… if they are not “perfect”. Usually finding the root patterns for such feelings and fear has to do with painful moments and experiences that not everyone is very keen to see and face. It seems easier to create a whole egoic character that becomes an armour protecting a fragile person.

If such person finds in the “I’m the best” strategy a way to cope with emotional underdevelopment, he/she might continue to use it in as many social scenarios as possible, even creating them.

When you are trying to make progress and success, is it for your own or is it a way to cover up your emotional fragility?

OK, what exactly does emotional fragility mean and show…?

A fragile person is one with emotional cracks and chips, just like everyone else. EVERYONE. We have all gone through hard, hurtful, horrible… situations. All of us have. We all have root patterns. We all have egoic characters. Every-single-person.

Therefore we are all prone to act like fragile persons, but in this perspective we all can remain fragile for life but wearing a egoic armour or outgrow out fragility and strengthen from the inside out… in an emotional way that will show in many areas of our lives.

Before going any further, let’s think or a situation where a person has an accident and breaks a leg, nothing overly tragical for the metaphor’s sake. This person has two options:

  1. To act like nothing happened and stand back up as soon as possible to do a normal life, what can lead to a later limp for life if the leg damage wasn’t properly addressed and rehabilitated.
  2. The other option is to make a complete assessment of the leg damage, cast it if needed, be patient on the healing progress being conscious that it may take time and be uneasy, even annoying and maddening. And then have a full rehab program where patience and frustration management are not optional. Then the leg can fully recover and go back to running, training, dancing or whatever with no limps.

The same happens with the emotional cracks and chips; if we act like nothing happened and cover it up just like that… the damage remains unhealed even when we cover it up and will produce an emotional limp that can express in variety of ways and situations. As in a damaged limb, weakness might grow making us prone to depend on emotional external support as canes in order to carry on. Eventually external support and/or approval can become the only option.

In the emotional rehab perspective, nevertheless what has happened to us we can always make a very powerful question in order to take responsibility: How could I possibly have promoted (or not avoided) or allowed this situation to happen and affect me in this way?

Yes, there are situations that we had no participation at, such as natural disasters, physical harm or abuse, robbery, and accidents, to mention a few. But even in this situations we have the option to take responsibility for how we feel and do something to overcome possible emotional sequelae… or as many sadly do, we can see ourselves as victims and never get back up in our feet, we can always hold grudges and resentment that will poison our soul, act like life is unfair allowing ourselves to take justice in our hands and become some sort of vigilantes, or build an egoic armour to protect ourselves from the world but making our inner self more and more fragile every day.

Facing and outgrowing emotional pains can be hard, but not doing it can eventually become more costly in a number of ways.

Am I not taking responsibility? What are the signs?

Self-awareness is a practice, and we are all prone to make mistakes and just not take responsibility. No one has to be perfect, and if one think he/she has to be something… that would be more and more conscious every day.

Now, if you want to be able to assess your ability to hold yourself accountable and responsible, you could try to identify and reflect on the following:

  • Do you avoid projecting an image or a weak and/or stupid person?
  • How much do you need to be right in an argument?
  • When sh*t happens do you tend to find someone/something to blame?
  • When something goes wrong and it was your responsibility, how often do you make excuses (too much traffic, stupid Government, slow computer, abstract business, “everyone does it”…)?
  • When you do something that hurts other people, do you usually find a way to rationalize the whole thing and put yourself in the “I’m right” position?
  • How much do you complain or criticize on everything that happens in a way that doesn’t match your version on how life should be?
  • How much do you let yourself make learning-oriented mistakes?
  • How often do you need to have the right answer or the very best piece of information?
  • How angry / upset do you get when someone lets you know that you have an opportunity area or say you’re wrong, or that your point of view has weaknesses?
  • How anxious do you get when you are supposed to be patient?
  • How often do you judge yourself and on which topics / areas?
  • How much does your self-worth depend on being the best at something?

Taking responsibility is a decision, not always an easy one, but if you decide to take responsibility for you and your life you will always be rewarded… by yourself, in unimaginable ways. Sometimes, what feels like the end of the world is only the beginning of what truly makes sense.

Green MBA + #CreativeProblemSolving Consultant. Focused on Business Strategy for Digital, Social and Environmental transformation. Founder of @LifeStrategics.