The act of taking responsibility means to willingly offer ownership and accountability for your own actions and their consequences, but how many of us actually do this? If you have a think, how often do you go to blame a person, a situation or any other external being for something that isn’t right or gone to plan? It’s probably a little more often than you would first consider (and want to admit) but the more we actually do it, the better we can feel about our lives.
In our consumption-filled world where so much of the external really is out of our hands, we can habitually fall into a feeling of powerlessness and meaninglessness; a place where we feel our own drops wouldn’t cause the slightest ripple. We can so easily forget that every single action of ours causes a reaction both on the outside world and our inner world.
My yoga practice has taught me how to be responsible for myself and my own wellbeing, including the bad moments. I’ve blamed everything and everyone under the sun for my failures, negative traits and sadness but as I’ve learnt, that doesn’t change very much! If I can’t get into an asana, I’ve blamed the dinner from the night before, a tightness or ache. I’ve blamed my body proportions for not being able to get into Supta Kurmasana by myself and I’ve said it was my exhausting work or stress that causes my tiredness. These may well all be valid reasons but it didn’t change my practice, it just made it harder because I become increasingly negative.
To bring this into context today, my hip has been playing up again recently for a multitude of reasons and I finally decided to stop moaning and take action. I stopped hoping it would get better on its own with rest or a gentle practice and went to an osteopath. As obvious as this sounds to do, I just hadn’t done it for the last two years because I wanted to shun any accountability, didn’t want to admit something was actually wrong and instead simply hope my way out of it. Interestingly though once I took back ownership, I felt that bit more settled, in control and happier.
As we begin to understand that our environments - past and present - have an affect on us, they’ve become a short cut for shunning responsibility. Parent issues, bullies at school, the crappy ex who cheated, the friend who stopped caring. Of course these are relevant and a cause but it’s not THE cause, unless you make it to be. As we know, we don’t have control on these situations or problems but we can work with our own reactions to them to lead happier lives. It is our own responsibility to change - no one else’s.
Action doesn’t always need to be something that glaringly obvious either. If you’re not feeling happy about a situation, just talking about it to someone is a form of admitting the issue and the start of accountability. As a wise friend once said to me, “our emotions get bigger and more complicated and we have to let them out.” If we continue to hide them away, not giving them the respect to be acknowledged, we are not taking responsibility.
As a thoughtful society who are aware of environments and their preceding issues, we can even use other people’s issues as an excuse for our own actions. She’s hypersensitive to lateness because she was stood up before, but I was only 10 minutes late so she really needs to grow up - sound familiar? What is happening here is our guilt coming into full force and soon becoming irritability and anger at one’s self for not being as nice as we want to be, but instead we deflect this so it’s not our issue but theirs. Yoga teaches kindness and compassion with yourself so you can stretch this arm out and offer it to others. If someone feels sadness or anxiety about lateness, accept that - it’s not about you, it’s about them. Take responsibility for being late and upsetting them, sincerely apologise and then forgive yourself.
On the flip side, taking responsibility can also be avoided when a compliment is paid or an achievement made. We can be as quick to dismiss our own role in positive moments as in the negatives. It may well be due to being British, a woman and a bit of an introvert but my default position has to been to use my environment and any other factor as reasons for my achievements or success. Yoga, again, has taught me accountability and how to be proud of myself for any accomplishments because it is only me both on the mat and off.
It’s undeniably easy to blame something outside of your own conscience for the good and the bad, but as the saying goes, “a poor workman blames his tools”. It’s so incredibly important for our own emotional and mental wellbeing that we take responsibility for ourselves; it helps to give us a sense of purpose, autonomy and most importantly, an honest reflection of who we are.