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Personal Responsibility

Posted Jan 15 2011 8:19am

“Success on any major scale requires you to accept responsibility… in the final analysis, the one quality that all successful people have… is the ability to take on responsibility.” – Michael Korda

Becoming successful means not only taking on responsibilty but taking responsibility for ourselves. Going back to reckon with the past does not mean blaming others for our poor lot in life. It means going back to understand what happened to us and moving on.


Too many people come to “self-discovery” with a goal of blaming others and excusing their poor performance in life. Yes, there are reasons, but there are no excuses. Becoming successful means that you stand on your own two feet and find a way to succeed DESPITE what happened to you. It means looking back and figuring out where the road went wrong but not shirking the responsibility of making the road right.

When you first start “waking up,” you might feel ashamed and horrible about what you allowed to happen. Don’t go to that end of the spectrum either. Don’t go there. Blame is one end of the spectrum and shame is the other end of the spectrum. Both keep you frozen and unable to move forward. No blame. No shame. You didn’t know that you didn’t know. But once you know, you are responsible for doing something about it and doing something about it does NOT include self-flagellation. Feeling ashamed and not able to move beyond that to look at the past is another way of avoiding responsibility. It’s more painful than blaming everyone else, but it’s as non-productive.

When I was in abusive relationships I didn’t know that I didn’t know. I had NO clue how this kept happening to me but part of me a) didn’t know any different and b) thought I deserved it.

The day came when someone told me that no one had the right to put their hands on me. The day came when someone told me no one had the right to call me a name. The day came when someone told me that no one had the right to manipulate me, castigate me or put me in no-win situations.

Still, despite the fact that they had no right, there was another part of it that needed to happen so it wouldn’t go on again. I had to stop accepting unacceptable behavior. And for a while, I was hovering in the in-between which was quite lonely. I knew better than to be in abusive relationships, but I did not yet know how to find healthy people or be in relationships with them. But I had a personal responsibility to keep going. I remember sometimes thinking that I wished I didn’t know better. I was in a relationship with a commitmentphobe. Not abusive in any way but pretty wishy washy about a commitment. I had not yet figured out the commitmentphobe thing, but I knew his behavior was not okay and if I kept accepting it, I was an idiot.

I distinctly remember thinking that he was so nice and cute and funny and I had to break it off because I knew better and part of me was fairly upset that I knew better. I wanted to play in the sandbox. I wanted to stay at a certain level of water. But I knew that to continue on at this level was eventually going to be completely tortuous. And there would be so many things that I would have to stop doing and I would need to stop growing and doing my work. And pretend that I didn’t know when I knew.

The secret to commitmentphobic relationships was exploring the relationship with my father who was physically absent and emotionally unavailable. I didn’t really want to dig into that relationship or place any blame on him because being with him, as a kid, was always a respite from my mother. But I had to dig because it was affecting my relationships. I had to know what I didn’t yet know. I had to figure it out.

And again, there was that horrible in-between state where I didn’t feel as if I belonged anywhere or with anyone. But I couldn’t just bury my head in the sand and act like none of this happened.

We are all responsible for what happens to us as adults no matter how bad the past has been. It is not only possible to achieve success despite an unhappy and often terrible childhood, but the resilience one gains from surviving a bad childhood can be channeled and SHOULD be channeled into achieving remarkable success.

If you can get out of a chaotic past without having gone insane, you have the makings of a remarkably successful person. Harness that energy and make your life a resounding success.

  1. Carrie:
    Thank you so much for posting this, I really needed to remind myself about the payoff of the work. Last night I read something that triggered some lonliness, nothing big, just friends going out to dinner and not including me. It was a bunch of couples. But one of my most recent epiphanies has been that with all my craziness and abandonment issues I haven't been the most easy person to be around, let alone love. One of my mantras this week has been I didn't know what I didn't know. But I had a moment of doubt this morning and the thought that I was never going to be healthy and all this work was just going to lead to the conclusion that I was unsaveable entered my head. It is hard to face all of this stuff and remove blame, deal with it and become better. It is so nice to read these observations and understand that I too will get there, it may take a while, but I will. Thank you so much!

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