I remember 3 years ago when I was dealing with some personal struggles and I had an amazing spiritual coach working with me. His message, though he never really said it like this, was: take responsibility for everything.
I hated that.
I hated it because at the time I thought taking responsibility was the same as assuming blame. And I didn’t want to assume blame for what I perceived to be other people’s fucked-up-ness. I didn’t want to let people off the hook. I wanted people to understand how “hurt” I felt and that their actions and words were, well … fucked up. I wanted to wait for other people to realize their mistakes and change their ways. I wanted other people’s actions and words to be different.
Well, I might as well have been wishing for a miracle, waiting for other people to realize the error of their ways and change those ways so that I could finally be happy and affirmed! Because really, do I have any control over how other people act or what they say?
And yet I was pinning my happiness on those very changes I hoped they’d make. For my sake.
Saying it out loud like that sounds a bit ludicrous. Silly, right?
I’ve blogged about it many times on JillFit—the idea that pinning our happiness on others being a specific way is a fast route to disappointment and well, unhappiness.
Because can anyone really make us happy? Can anyone take on that kind of onus for us?
I think no.
Which comes back to the idea of responsibility.
And in light of this insight, the ONLY option to happiness and full self-realization is to take 100% responsibility for everything. Every situation we end up in, whether we’re to blame or it’s at the fault of someone else.
Blame can be placed on someone else for getting us into a specific situation, but the responsibility for moving forward and OUT of that sitation lies with us. Why? Because the alternative is waiting for others to take up the cause. Which may or more likely, will not, happen. No thanks! I don’t know about you, but I’m very reluctant to let the fate of my success lie in the hands of someone else.
So, in a sense, this is liberating. Isn’t it? We get to have a say—THE say—in how our future unfolds. Our results—good or bad—lie only in our hands. We don’t have to rely on anyone else for our happiness or success. Empowering, no?
“You complete me”: Doing us a disservice?
You might ask, “But Jill, what about relationships? Partners? Spouses? Where does this leave them? Aren’t there expectations and aren’t we supposed to ‘complete each other? We can rely on them, right?’”
Frigging Jerry McGuire: “You complete me.”
While I understand the sentiment and I love romance as much as the next person, I think this belief does us a disservice. It infers that we can never be complete without that one person who’s supposedly meant for us. And it keeps us searching for someone to do the work for us, instead of taking full responsibility for our outcomes and happiness solo.
BUT! But, when we own up to our own circumstances, taking full responsibility for where we end up, we get to allow the other person—our partner—to be along for the ride and cultivate enjoyment rather than holding that person to certain expectations or a certain role we need them to play. We get to enjoy them and love them without expectation.
I love being married. But not because I need someone else to make me whole, but because my partner challenges me to get better. He inspires me to grow and learn and be more vulnerable and take MORE action on my own, not less. That’s the power of a strong relationship—two people who are 100% complete and whole on their own, coming together to make something stronger and more fulfilling. Jade and I call it “our third person.”
So how do you become a complete and whole person on you own? Again, it comes back to assuming responsibility for moving forward, taking action and finding solutions. Because we can complain OR we can look for solutions, not both.
But the typical compulsion is to complain because … sympathy! Comisery! Pity parties!
We humans are so funny, aren’t we? We’d rather be in a bad spot together than alone at the top. We want to know that we’re not alone in our misery. And I get that, too. It feels good to have relatedness, and geez, I certainly want others to “get” me. But what about instead, working together to find solutions and move forward? To get better? Elevate together, instead of staying mired in misery, going back and forth affirming one another that yeah, we have it bad.
It takes courage to NOT play the victim.
The reason this is a particular sensitivity of mine is because I played the victim for many years, so many years. I remember going through a rough business relationship and blaming the other people involved constantly. And yet I didn’t do anything. I just went around telling anyone who would listen how bad my situation sucked. They always agreed. Of course they did.
But I felt no better. Nothing changed.
Because despite being affirmed that things sure did suck, there was still no place to go. I still didn’t take action. I didn’t have options. Or, at least ones I could see. It felt impossible to make a change. And yet, the alternative to taking action to make a change was to be miserable. Which I was.
The only real option in any situation where we find ourselves in misery is to take responsibility for it, and make a change for ourselves. Not take the blame, necessarily. Because it may not be your fault you’re in that space. But placing blame is not actionable. It’s a crutch. It’s how we make excuses to not take action. It’s how we stay in the victim mindset.
So, next time you find yourself in a tough spot, where you feel “done wrong” or “betrayed” or “hurt,” allow yourself to feel the emotions of it, but ultimately remember that only you can change your outcomes, whether that’s through your choices, your effort or just even your attitude.
Because the reality is that life doesn’t “happen to you.” You create it, in every moment and with every choice.
What will you choose? :)
Related: Consider the problem might be you