Step Up and Step Out: Taking Personal Responsibility

Step Up and Step Out: Taking Personal ResponsibilityImage by Sarah Richter

The focus of the two opposite emotions of sadness and joy is ourselves. There are four pairs of core attitudes about ourselves: 1) feel worthy vs unworthy, 2) self-reliant vs depends on others for approval, 3) judge ourselves positively vs negatively, and 4) take personal responsibility vs passivity.

This article is about the fourth pair of core attitudes: taking personal responsibility vs passivity. When we stand up and lovingly assert ourselves, we feel joy. We feel virtuous and good because we are following our inner wisdom. However, if  we have unexpressed sadness this leads to us feeling small and unimportant, and consequently acting passive. When we feel reticent to speak up and act, it is a sign that we are compensating for not expressing our sadness or crying enough.

Passive behavior also results when we avoid the emotion of fear. By failing to acknowledge and express the fear that naturally arises when we step in unfamiliar territory, we feel unsafe putting ourselves out there.

When we're gripped by being passive, we are not in tune with our inner voice. The truth is it's not about whether others like us or not. It's about lacking the energy, drive, or confidence to do what we know within is for the best.

Being passive developed as a pattern for a really good reason -- we were avoiding feeling our emotions and had to find some place to channel the sensations we were experiencing. Maybe dad was a tyrant and we felt like we had no choice but to be quiet and duck. Maybe our classmates laughed at us when we made a mistake. Expressing our outrage, anger, and sadness would only inflame a dangerous situation.

But today, we're grown up and need to handle situations in an adult manner. It's time to shed our meekness and stand up and be counted. It's a choice. Yes, it's frightening, but not speaking up doesn't feel good or empowering.   

How To Take Personal Responsibility

Don't want to reorganize your filing cabinets? Take the garbage out? Make sales calls? Visit your in-laws? The list can go on and on. 

Instead of automatically digging in your heels and thinking: "I don't want to ... the outside world is making me do this," pause. This kind of thinking is an indicator of unexpressed anger, of not accepting what is, of knowing you don't want to but feeling you "should." Like a child having a tantrum because he doesn't want to go to bed, you feel justified in stubbornly resisting. However, there is a price to pay, both within yourself, and for others.

To spare yourself and your world from missing out on feeling love, switch your thinking and take personal responsibility. You have a choice. The truth is "I am responsible for what I think, feel, say, and do." or I'm responsible for my experience." or "I'm responsible for my life." If you are complacent, I suggest you repeat one of these "truths" at least a dozen times a day, minimum, AND relentlessly interrupt your thoughts that justify taking the comfortable way out. 

Another good truth to help you remember to step up and step out is: My job is to take care of myself. Contrary to our fantasy about someone coming to our rescue, the reality is that it is our responsibility to do what we know is called for in every situation and every moment that honors ourselves and our world.

This task can seem extra hard if we're in a relationship where our partner has the habit of blaming us for what he or she perceives isn't working. Instead of feeling guilty for taking a stand, please stay strong in the truth that we are all equally responsible for creating our realities.

When it seems as though others are telling you what to do or you're telling yourself how you should act and you feel resistance brewing, step out of your rut and ask yourself these questions. What's the specific event or task? What do I know in my heart of hearts is best, is the high road, or will keep me in my personal integrity?

You intuitively know what's right. It's an inner feeling. So listen and obey that rather than your knee-jerk resistance. You'll become a different, lighter, freer person. You'll treat your customer with kindness so they will shop with you again. You know that taking out the trash is the least you could do to help around the kitchen. You know when it's time to call your aging parent. You know when it's time to give an employee a raise.

Listen within and obey. Fear might arise, but just shiver it out and follow what you know in your heart. You'll feel less anger, more love, and more in the flow. You'll get out of that selfish "me me me" mentality and experience the joy of staying true to yourself. Those around you will ultimately thank you too.

Quotes from Well-Known Folks about Taking Personal Responsibility

"Everyone has choice, when to or not to raise their voices. It's you that decides." -- George Harrison

"Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands." -- Anne Frank

"There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you." -- J.K. Rowling

"In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility." -- Eleanor Roosevelt

"Attack the evil that is within yourself, rather than attacking the evil that is in others." -- Confucius

"If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn't sit for a month." -- Theodore Roosevelt

"Manliness consists not in bluff, bravado or loneliness. It consists in daring to do the right thing and facing consequences whether it is in matters social, political or other. It consists in deeds not words." -- Mahatma Gandhi

©2019 by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.
All Rights Reserved.

Book by this Author

Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life
by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.

Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.With practical tools, real-life examples, and everyday solutions for thirty-three destructive attitudes, Attitude Reconstruction can help you stop settling for sadness, anger, and fear, and infuse your life with love, peace, and joy.

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About the Author

Jude BijouJude Bijou is a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFT), an educator in Santa Barbara, California and the author of Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life. In 1982, Jude launched a private psychotherapy practice and started working with individuals, couples, and groups. She also began teaching communication courses through Santa Barbara City College Adult Education. Visit her website at AttitudeReconstruction.com/

* Watch an interview with Jude Bijou: How to Experience More Joy, Love and Peace

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