Are you afraid to be accountable for your choices? Discover why and what to do about it.
What’s the first thing you think when you make a mistake? If you’re like most people, you will either blame someone else or blame yourself.
Blaming, even blaming yourself, is not at all the same thing as being accountable.
Why is it so hard to be accountable for ourselves – to take responsibility for ourselves? One of the problems may lie in the connotations we have applied to these words.
When you think of the words “responsibility” or “accountability,” what comes up for you?
What are the judgments attached to these words?
• I’m bad, wrong, humiliated.
• It’s my fault. I’m to blame, and this means I’m not good enough.
• I’m inadequate.
• I’m unworthy and therefore unlovable.
What are the fears attached to these judgments?
• I’m going to be rejected and I will end up alone.
• I’m going to have to give myself up to make up for my mistake.
• I’m going to have to hear about how bad I am.
• Bad things are going to happen now.
If anything like this comes up for you, no wonder it’s hard to be accountable!
Think back to your childhood. What happened when you did something your parents or caregivers didn’t like?
Did any of these scapegoating experiences happen to you?
• I was yelled at.
• I was hit.
• I was lectured to and judged.
• I was shamed and blamed, made to feel like a terrible person.
• I was made to feel responsible for another’s feelings.
• I was isolated and shunned.
• I was shamed in front of others and made to feel humiliated.
If any of these happened to you, then the message was clear: “I’m not okay if I make a mistake. Mistakes are bad and wrong, and I’m bad and wrong if I make a mistake or do something that someone else is upset about.”
Wouldn’t this make it very hard to be accountable for ourselves?
How I Learned to Be Accountable
Since perfectionism was one of my control strategies, I agonized whenever I made a mistake. I would feel so awful – so humiliated and mortified. I would get very defensive when someone was upset with me – until I finally decided that it was okay for me to be human! It was only after I took the badness off making mistakes or upsetting others that I was able to hold myself accountable for my choices.
Life became much easier when I realized that I can’t be human without making mistakes and that I can’t learn, grow or take risks without making mistakes and sometimes upsetting others. I even learned to laugh at some of my mistakes!
Taking the badness off mistakes makes it easy to be accountable
Now, ‘accountable’ no longer scares me. It just means that I’m responsible for my choices and their consequences, which I now find empowering rather than intimidating.
It’s amazing how much relief I feel when I take responsibility for the outcome of my choices – good or bad. Being accountable means that I don’t have to pretend anything. I don’t have put on a front or hide anything. It means that I accept that I have a wounded self who is controlling – who can be angry, mean, judgmental, shut down and resistant, and that, because I don’t judge my wounded self, I can be accountable for when I’m closed and controlling and less than loving to myself or others. And because it’s okay for me to make mistakes and be unloving, I can learn instead of shame myself each time I’m less than who I want to be. The learning is the prize, the jewel within the mistake or the unloving behavior – the jewel that I could never access when I was afraid to be accountable.
Article written by Dr Margaret Paul
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