Back in March, I wrote about self-responsibility as an empath’s super-power. Since then, as is the way with most insights, I’ve been taken deeper and deeper into the understanding of the this and how it plays out in the world.
The concept of responsibility has always been a tricky one for me to understand. Where does my responsibility begin and end? What am I responsible for and what am I not? When you grow up parenting your parent, it’s difficult to find that distinction. You become everyone else’s caregiver (whether physically, energetically, emotionally or otherwise) and forget somewhere along the way the power of claiming your own needs.
As I’ve examined this topic more in-depth, I’ve discovered a whole lot of ways I’ve misunderstood the concept of self-responsibility and just how it becomes entangled with other things. Are you a people-pleaser? Chances are, you’re avoiding self-responsibility. Are you a co-dependent? Same thing. Are you tied up in knots at the prospect of offending someone or saying the wrong thing? Could be a self-responsibility deficit.
This goes deep. I’ve come to understand my reluctance to claim my light and my beauty, because I’ve been trying to take responsibility for all my (perceived) wrongness. Herein lies an aspect of self-responsibility. Claim the abuse you’ve endured so you can see where you’ve been living a lie. Claim the ways that trauma taught you to respond, so you can SEE it and heal it.
You can take responsibility for your actions and choices, but not for the abuse that created the foundation of insecurity and doubt from which you made them. Untangle the lies from the truth. And then commit to making different choices, from this moment on.
Self-responsibility is Self-acceptance on Steroids
It’s easy to claim the ‘bad’ stuff, especially if it’s been drilled into you repeatedly and you’ve then sought out evidence of that perspective your whole life. Projected shame plays a huge part in encouraging you to play small or stay hidden.
The ‘good’ side of self-responsibility is when you wake up one day and remember who you really are. You begin to recall all the times you connected with the magic inside you and followed your intuition to adventures and experiences that opened you up to the possibility of more. It’s when you realise that you have the power within you to change your circumstances. All you have to do is ask for what you need.
Self-responsibility is tied into self-esteem, self-confidence and claiming your big dreams. It’s about saying ‘hey, I do this (and this, and this…) really well, and here’s 5/10/20 years’ worth of evidence that for some reason I didn’t want to believe. I was too busy looking for evidence to the contrary.’
It’s about allowing yourself the pleasure of being a SELF, an individuated expression of Source consciousness in this dimension. It means stepping up and owning your mistakes and making reparations where possible. It’s about saying NO to things that aren’t in your best interest, and not being a people-pleaser. It also encompasses owning your desires and your creative energy and pointing out where others infringe on your space and energy.
When you’re not being self-responsible, your life falters. You may be trapped in a shame spiral that keeps you repeating old behaviours or making choices aligned with the shame. It can feel never-ending.
Transformation takes Root
Once you begin to awaken from the transformative process of deep healing, you may notice places you allowed yourself to lapse from self-responsibility. It’s okay – this is a good stepping off point. This is where the physical changes begin.
Real transformation is a wind storm of epic proportions. It picks you up and tosses you around like a leaf, uprooting you from the foundations you’d designed your life around. You may not find a place to land for years, all the while wondering who the hell you are and how you got here. That’s okay, too. It has to be.
When you’re re-defining your Self and your way of being in the world, there is no roadmap. The concept of normal shifts from moment to moment and chaos is the common denominator. Much of the change is internal; while you’re in it, everything else might fall away. It takes immense energy to shift so much.
You may feel like you’re in survival mode, only allowing in the bare minimum because you just don’t have the energy to do more, or BE more. Try not to question the process. The version of Self that’s emerging will be one you love so fiercely you want nothing more than to take responsibility for this magnificent version of you.
Are you Settling?
Without accepting total self-responsibility, you accept less than you deserve – you settle for whatever’s offered, even if it feels discordant. You’re not seeing your value at its highest point. You’re seeing the you you’ve been trained to believe (explicitly or implicitly) is the truth.
Integrity is connected to radical self-responsibility. Self-confidence, self-esteem and self-respect are all tied in to the act of taking self-responsibility. Self-actualisation, the final step in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, cannot be attained without fully accepting who you truly are. It’s an expansive understanding of yourself as a Soul having a human experience which incorporates the good, the bad, the ugly and everything in between.
With self-responsibility, there’s no one to hold you accountable except you (and who else matters?). This is a massive step in your growth process, especially if you’ve tended towards people-pleasing or co-dependence. Take the reins of your life and ride out into the world with your head held high. Whatever you’ve experienced has led you to this exact point in the space-time continuum. You have always held the key to unlock your deepest truths.
Breaking free of old patterns is challenging – there will be so many opportunities to fall back into the familiar. Ultimately, it comes down to commitment and desire. Do you want to live into the old stories for the rest of your life, feeling a gap between your potential and your actual experience? Would it feel better to expand beyond what you’ve perceived as limitations and frighten yourself by trying something different?
BE Exactly where You Are
I’m not sure it’s possible to claim total self-responsibility until you understand where you haven’t. I look around at my life to see what I’ve created when feeling powerless, and it’s not ideally where I’d like to be. And that’s okay. The first step to self-responsibility is to get real (really, really, real) with exactly where you are.
You can’t get where you want by beating yourself up for where you are.
Start right here, right now, and see what changes you can make. Take inspired actions every day to move towards the vision you see. Don’t look at temporary arrangements as settling, but as stepping stones. (Settling feels different within – trust yourself to know the difference). Look at different areas of your life that aren’t as you’d prefer, and examine where you can do something different. Shifting the energy is key.
It doesn’t matter if you feel like you’ve never known how to take self-responsibility; it’s never too late to start. Look to stories of people who’ve hit rock bottom only to discover their deepest power to change.
This is a step-by-step process. Don’t look to quick fixes or wait around hoping to be rescued. If you need to start from scratch, do it. If you have something you can build on, that’s good, too. There is no formula for life or for self-responsibility, because the key is in the word SELF. It’s an internal process. Find the diamonds within you and bring them out to shine.
(Re-)Claim it All
Claiming all you’ve been through is evidence of your strength as a soul, who chose to step into this expansion in this lifetime.
Say, ‘hell, yes, I’ve made huge mistakes and will continue to do so, because it’s how I learn and shift and make better choices.’ Don’t buy into shame-based collective stories of responsibility as adhering to the structures that define our way of being. Sometimes the route you take will feel like the opposite of what you’ve been taught to believe is responsibility, and in those moments, a space opens up for shame to take root.
Your deepest responsibility is to your soul’s expression, and no one else knows that better than you. Define your mistakes by your own standards, not by what’s expected from without. There is no ONE way to be human, and when you adhere to external definitions, you are not taking full self-responsibility.
You cannot BE who you are becoming, looking from a past perspective. You can only take responsibility for aspects of you that feel true in each moment, and as you expand and heal and shift, so will those. If it feels right to do so, re-claim things you have given up or denied for one reason or another. You’ll know by the way they light you up inside and enhance your energy.
Feel into the things you do that feel habitual (and not entirely ‘good’). Have you taken some things in your life as far as they’re meant to go? If you continue with something that’s no longer resonant, you make space for resentment or apathy. Self-responsibility means brutal honesty with yourself as to where you want to go and how you want to get there. When all else seems lost, choice remains. There is immense power in choice.
Responsibility vs Self-responsibility
One of the sticking points I’ve had around self-responsibility has been sorting through the shame post-abuse. All the times I tried to individuate as a child and teenager, I was shamed. As I began to release the shame (an almost lifelong companion), I started to see the places I HAD been taking self-responsibility and the ways I was made to feel bad about it.
For example: At 30, I went to university for the first time. It was something I’d always wanted to do, yet had lacked the confidence. I took out student loans and worked full-time while taking correspondence courses. After completing the first year by distance education (with straight As), I was accepted.
During the time I was at university, my mother gave me her 17-year-old car. It was a gift with strings, as most are when dealing with a narcissist. She needed a car with higher seats because she’d had her hips replaced, and didn’t want the hassles of disposing of the old one. She also (as she told my sister) wanted to teach me responsibility.
The challenge was, having never owned my own car, my insurance payments were high, and almost immediately, the clutch needed replacing. As a student also working 35 hours a week in a retail job, I wasn’t exactly raking in the money. It was challenging to feel grateful when I had consciously made the decision to NOT have a car.
At the time, I felt immense guilt and shame that I didn’t handle this responsibility ‘properly’. Looking back on it, I had been taking self-responsibility by following my dream to attend university, and had committed myself to that goal whole-heartedly. Then, when burdened with another’s perception of responsibility, I had negated my own by shaming myself for my choices.
I Did That!
This kind of sabotage is common in narcissistic abuse. Any time your responsibility veers from energy that supports the narcissist’s version, guilt and shame are used to course correct. Eventually, you do it yourself. Self-sabotage becomes a mechanism to maintain the familiarity of the abuse.
Where shame exists, there is no room for celebration of all the good you’ve created.
Instead of honouring myself for making the courageous choice to go to university, I shamed myself for not being the daughter my mother would have preferred. She didn’t need to shame me, because I was so good at doing it myself. I could list hundreds of examples where I’ve dismissed my own self-responsibility because I was instead feeling the shame of not living up to some (perceived) external version of me.
Lately, I’ve been going back through and celebrating the places I’ve been responsible to my soul’s intention and my heart’s desires. I’m understanding where my accomplishments can be a source of immense self-confidence when I accept full responsibility for them as aspects of myself.
I did that! And that! Wow, I created that?! And holy shit, I made that decision. And oops, I made that decision. I have learned and I have grown and I have loved, so, so deeply, every moment of it.
At some point in my recovery journey, taking self-responsibility has become a joy instead of a source of shame. In fact, it’s how I know I’m getting better. I feel a fire in the depths of my belly encouraging me to reclaim all the pieces I gave away when drowning in someone else’s shame.
INtegrity as an INternal Alignment
How does this tie into integrity? You can’t be integral to a Self that you’re not claiming responsibility for. If all you know is the Self that’s been projected or reflected by distorted lenses, then that’s what you’re taking responsibility for. The wounded, damaged, broken parts of another that they didn’t have the consciousness to accept and heal in themselves. The wounded, broken parts of you that were triggered as a result of that connection.
Integrity connects you to the totality of your soul’s expression in this world. It allows you to claim ALL of it and stand in your deepest truth. It is through taking self-responsibility that you grow in your human experience.
Your Self requires your unconditional acceptance of it. Now. Not when you’ve lost thirty pounds or made up for all the times you said the wrong thing or hurt another. Not when you become the person you could be given all the right circumstances.
Self-responsibility demands that you accept your Self just as you are, in this beautiful moment. It demands that you show up for you when (you think) no one else does. This is why it hurts so much. This is why it can feel so challenging. All the times you’ve been abandoned, rejected, betrayed… The common denominator in all your life’s equations is you.
Self-responsibility goes deeper than specific actions. It involves claiming your Soul’s essence and emanating that unapologetically.
This is where we shout it from the rooftops. This is where we get to say, ‘This is who I am, and at some point I stopped being that because I felt like it was safer not to be,’ and ‘I gave away some of my power over there because I didn’t know it wasn’t okay for me to do that.’
Stepping into total self-responsibility means relinquishing the hold on whatever has been standing between me and it.
I know the enormous power of vulnerability. It’s our stories and experiences that connect us as humans, through our hearts and what we feel. I’ve come to understand that inner work is not about changing who we are, but about embracing and celebrating it ALL. It’s not about trying to become a better person, but about trying to better embody our unique and magnificent truths.
I’d love to hear your proclamations and ways you’re claiming self-responsibility. I’m here to witness and to celebrate with you.
~ Jenny <3