Once at a bar I got the shit kicked out of me by a dude who, apparently, took umbrage with my flapping mouth-hole, even though I wasn’t even mouth holing at him. There are any number of possible reasons that could be offered for why he did what he did, including . . .
- I was too loud and obnoxious
- He was a homophobic cunt
- He was too drunk
- I didn’t know kungfu
- He had PTSD
- He found me secretly irresistible and didn’t know how to cope with those confusing feelings
- “Toxic Masculinity”
- An alien implant in his prefrontal cortex short-circuited
I now prefer the “secretly irresistible” option because who wouldn’t, but back then I was pretty sure the reason he kicked my ass was a homophobic thing. Probably was. But I now know that the reason doesn’t matter.
What really matters was that I and I alone was responsible.
“WTF?!” I assume you just exclaimed while spewing coffee all over your computer screen. “Did he just blame the victim, himself?”
Nope. Read on . . .
The Meaning Of Total Responsibility
I hereby propose that we petition the dictionary companies of the world to change the spelling of responsible to responseable to make what I’m getting at more obvious. The dude, who I will henceforth refer to as Captain Douchebag, may have been guilty of a crime, an outrage, or simple random assholery. But these are mere labels of meaning, reasons, that I ascribe after the fact to make sense of shit.
But reasons aren’t the same as responsibility. What happened may have been his fault, but . . .
I and I alone was responsible for how I, well, responded, to what happened, and no reasons I come up with can or will ever change that. They may influence how I respond, but not the fact of my total, inviolable, responsibility.
We are response-able.
For everything in our lives. Always. No exceptions. Period.
This may sound harsh, but Facts are like your ex and don’t care about your feelings. Also, think about it: No reason I may offer for why Captain Douchebag punched my pretty face with his uglyness-fist changes the reality of my black eye one bit. A “good” reason doesn’t make my eye socket feel any better, and a “bad” reason doesn’t make my shiner any blacker. The one and only thing I have control over is my response.
There’s a powerful and liberating flip side here if you stop and think about it. Namely, if you are always 100% responsible for everything in your life it also means no one and nothing can ever completely dictate your future. Responsibility means agency. It means self-sovereignty. And, to use a word that is now out of vogue but shouldn’t be, it means power.
Sure, your current circumstances, environment and even the people you know can hem you in or limit the scope of your response. But you always have some choice in how to respond to anything that happens to you in life.
You never completely lose that power.
Your responsibility can’t be taken away.
Off With Her Head!
When Marie Antoinette was climbing up to the guillotine to have her head lopped off she accidentally stepped on her executioners foot and said, “Pardonnez-moi, monsieur.” Pardon me, sir.
Think about that. Her gilded world had collapsed around her overnight, she probably couldn’t think up a good “reason” why any of this shit was happening, and she was probably having a bad hair day to boot. The crowd was leering, jeering, hurling insults, and an ignoble death was only moments away. Yet despite this she responded with a bit of common courtesy.
That’s some class, bitches. And balls of steel if you ask me.
And it also goes to show that so long as you’re still kicking there is no circumstance you may be in that is so ugly or dire that you can’t claim some degree of ownership and demonstrate response-ability.
Reasons Suck As Excuses
Not to say it’s always easy. Often it’s not. If one day you find yourself being marched to a guillotine and your response is to shit yourself, scream for mercy, and curse the gods I certainly wouldn’t blame you. I suspect, however, that most of the things you bewail as reasons why you’re not doing what you really want to do and living like you really want to live aren’t so dramatic, or permanent, as a good old fashioned head lopping.
Here are some reasons–aka excuses–for abdicating responsibility that I’ve either been guilty of myself, or have heard:
- My parents were abusive
- I have an addictive personality
- He cheated on me
- I would, but I can’t afford to lose this job
- But I don’t have a degree
- I was diddled by a priest once
- Social anxiety
- I’m depressed
- The Patriarchy
- Male Privilege
- White Privilege
- The 1%
- I’m too old
- I’m too young
- But my situation is different
- I’m afraid
- I can’t
- It’s all fucked, so fuck it
All or any of these may, or may not, be valid reasons why you’re life currently sucks big hairy ballsacks. But not a single one is a good excuse for not owning your shit and moving forward because none of them can magically divests you of responsibility for your future.
Not a one.
Because you can’t be divested of your responsibility. And, really, isn’t that pretty damn awesome when you stop to think about it?
Tips For (Re)Claiming Your Power Of Responsibility
So if what I’ve said so far hasn’t made you want to retreat to a safe space or organize a protest against me for being “offensive,” then you may want some solid suggestions for reclaiming your sense of responsibility and the power that comes with it. Especially if you really feel the weight of past experiences, hurts, failures, current indecision, or whatever else holding you down or holding you back.
Now . . . I’m not pretending at perfection here. Despite the fact that my mom insists I’m a perfect angel of light, I’m actually a fucktard in many ways. I have had more than my fair share of failures and still struggle in many areas of my life. But one thing I think I’ve managed, finally, to pretty well master is a sense of total personal responsibility. Mentally, if not always practically. In other words, I may still fuck up but I own that and rarely blame anyone else for my messes. Nor do I any longer surrender my cognitive agency when things outside of my control happen TO me.
So, with that qualification out of the way, here are some simple strategies that have helped me and that may help you.
1. Lay It To Rest
Whatever the reasons you give for why this or that or the whole of your life sucks, choose today to no longer allow those reasons to be excuses for why you aren’t moving forward. Remember, how good the reasons are don’t matter in the least. Not if you want to change your life for the better.
It may be useful to explore these reasons one last time in a journal. But end your entry with a commitment to lay the past, and your excuses, to rest once and for all.
2. Stop Talking About It
Begin today to stop talking about your excuses and negative crap with others. This was a very hard one for me. We get so used to sharing our Debbie Downer stories with anyone who will listen so it can take a while to get that habit under control. This tendency is perfectly natural and understandable because most people are actually pretty decent and if we share our stories of woe with them we get a nice dopamine hit when they respond to sooth or support us.
And that dopamine hit becomes addictive, along with our self-defeating stories.
3. Say “I’m Great, Thanks. You?”
This goes hand-in-hand with the previous tip and I still suck at it, honestly. Working on it.
When people offer us a perfunctory “How are ya doing?” this can be our doorway into sharing our stories of woe. Retrain yourself to nip that in the bud by immediately responding, “I’m great, thanks! You?” Try tossing out a cheesy grin too if you can. Smiling actually releases the feel-good brain juices dopamine and serotonin too.
You may be thinking this will make you a fake. That’s just stupid. But even if it feels a bit dishonest, that’s still a hellofalot better than dumping your crap all over the poor slob who asked you about your day just to be friendly and didn’t sign up to hear about how stupid your job is and that your boss has bad breath.
4. Never Watch Commercials
Never watch commercials. Commercials are a refined, and pretty diabolical, form of propaganda carefully crafted to undermine your confidence and agency by creating artificial needs; to dig holes in your head that the company can fill with whatever product they are peddling. Which is to say, they are made to make you weak and limit the scope of your response-ability.
5. Take A Social Media And News Break
Social media has become, by and large, a cesspool of whining, blaming, hating, virtue signaling, and ranting. I was particularly big on the ranting part, and still stumble into it if I’m not careful.
Which is to say, if I’m fabulously drunk.
Every other post–especially the political ones–seem to focus on glorifying victimhood in one form or another. Besides being a real downer, or just irritating, this creates an illusion of empowerment while simultaneously elevating complaint over action, blame over responsibility.
Whatever it is that now passes for “news” is just as bad. Who ever finishes watching the news with a smile and says, “Damn! That was some great newsyness. I feel empowered now. Time to tackle some life!”?
That shit’s poison. Ditch it. Reclaim some of your mental space. Use that space for something useful.
As in . . .
6. Read Empowering Books And Lots Of Them
Read books that uplift, motivate and inspire you. And lots of them. Podcasts and audio books work in a pinch too.
There’s an old adage that says you become what you think about most of the time. I believe this. Unlike with the social media and news example, I never heard of an avid reader who comes away from a good book saying, “Fuckitalltohell.”
Unless it’s a book on 20th Century French philosophy.
7. Do Affirmations
I’ll likely write a post on affirmations in the future, but for now I’ll just suggest that you try affirmations on for size. I used to think they were new agey crap, but I was wrong. They are game changers when it comes to reclaiming a sense of personal power and responsibility.
Just google some good ones. Or make up your own.
Personally, I like to do them in the shower while washing my balls. But if you don’t have inspiring balls like I do, feel free to do some affirmations while washing your glorious ass.
8. Use The Rubber Band Technique
I invented this technique a couple years ago but have since discovered that someone else had the audacity to invent it before I invented it. Lucky for you I’m too lazy to find out who that jerkwad was, so we’ll just stick to the story that I invented it. The rubber band technique goes like this . . .
Wear a rubber band around your wrist.
When you catch yourself thinking or saying self-defeating, disempowering, things just give yourself a quick snap. Then immediately replace that thought or statement with something positive or empowering.
For example: If I find myself rehashing the narrative, “I’m terrible with money,” I may replace it with, “I’m actually fucking GREAT with money, mothafucka.”
The rubber band snap isn’t about punishing yourself, by the way. It’s what’s called a pattern interrupt. You interrupt a negative thought pattern with the snap, and start laying the groundwork for new, healthier, patterns of thought with the restatement.
If you’re anything like me the first few days you’ll snap the hell out of yourself and be a bit shocked to discover how often you think or talk shit about yourself without even realizing it. Stick with it for a few weeks and you’ll start to notice a pretty freakishly remarkable, and positive, difference.
It’s like snappy magic. Seriously.
9. Have Goals
The site is called “GoalRebel” for Christake, so this should be a no brainer.
Sit your ass down and write out some goals. Long term goals. Short term goals. Big goals. Small goals.
To take really effective responsibility for your life isn’t just about letting go of the things and thoughts that have limited you in the past. It’s about having a future to aim and strive for.
You can’t do that with wishes.
You can’t do that with hope.
And you can’t do that with vague dreams.
You can only do that with written goals.
Whether you use any or all or none of the techniques I used to help (re)claim total personal responsibility doesn’t matter. What matters is that you do.
And that you don’t wait.
If you do wait I cannot be held responsible . . . for kicking your ass.