This article first appeared on www.phoenixcoachingsolutions.co.uk
As I lay on my makeshift bed, I close my eyes and wait for the inevitable. It has taken a long time to get me to this point – this is where I check out. I lay unmoving, waiting. The next day I am still waiting. Err … ok, so my overdose hasn’t worked and I am still here. I guess I had better ask for some help! How did I come to this? I had been a functioning depressive for may years. Outwardly smiling and efficient at work, yet in my personal life – I was falling apart. I was in debt, I couldn’t afford to make repairs to my house and I quite simply stopped functioning outside of work.
The final straw that broke me was when my precious dogs were removed from my house. They were well fed, they were healthy, but their living environment – our living environment was chaotic and unkempt. What followed was a year of being apart from my beloved dogs (my only reason for living), being pursued by an uncaring (towards humans) animal charity and appearing in court on my birthday to answer charges of neglect. Fortunately, I was able to secure a barrister from London, and I was acquitted and my dogs returned to me. They both died of old age at 12 years and 16 years.
So what changed for me? What took me from the depths of despair to being in control of my life, happy and NOT depressed?
Personal responsibility is the key to happiness
I spent many years trying to figure out why I was a screw up. After all, I was a bit of a goody two shoes growing up and thought of myself as a good girl. I also thought of myself as someone who wasn’t very good at anything, lacking in confidence and – unlovable!
As many of you will know, we are all shaped somewhat by our upbringing and those early experiences. I have to say that looking back – I certainly did not have a bad upbringing. The way I learned to rationalise it was that it just wasn’t the right upbringing for me. I was one of five children, and I was painfully shy. In my view, as an extremely sensitive child, I was simply “lost” in the noise and chaos of family life. Those who shouted loudest got the attention. Over time, I learned not to ask for help or for my needs to be met. This is something that stayed with me right throughout my life until just recently.
I always seemed to assume responsibility for others and I also felt a bit like a modern day Cinderella. This version of my psyche remained with me for many years, although I tried hard to shake it off. There were many times when I thought I was “there”. But it never stuck. For many years I was a very unhappy, angry, and passive aggressive person.
I spent a good proportion of my adult life either severely depressed, anxious or binge drinking and pretending I had a happy life. It was difficult at times, not to lament how my life would have turned out if only ….
So what changed? What changed for me was the recognition that it didn’t have to be that way. I didn’t have to blame my parents and I didn’t have to blame my sister for the sibling-rivalry-bullying that I perceived growing up. I could take personal responsibility for myself.
It was so liberating.
“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies with their own hands.” __Anne Frank
Taking Personal Responsibility for Happiness Involves Surrendering
I came across a very interesting article as I researched this topic. I wanted to know what others had to say about the phenomenon of taking responsibility.
So, what are they key aspects of taking personal responsibility, and how can YOU achieve this?
Not blaming others for your misfortunes or the way you feel.
Being happy regardless of the external circumstances or situation.
Your functional state is based on interpretation rather than reality.
You can be happy regardless of negative events in your life.
Ok, so I can almost hear you asking: but how do I achieve this? Believe it or not, it is really quite simple. In order to be happy in the face of adversity, perceived or otherwise, is to work on your confidence. If you practice being confident that you can be happy regardless of what is going on around you – then over time, this will become your reality.
You can read the full article here:
Taking personal responsibility is empowering
I have to say that I wholeheartedly agree that taking personal responsibility is crucial to being happy. Although the article talks about developing a mindset of surrender in order to achieve a state of personal responsibility, I would take that one step further.
The fundamental reason that we can struggle so much in our lives is because if we think something, we feel it – and therefore it becomes real for us. This is not the same as it being a reality.
We may blame our partners for our bad mood because they yelled at us. Therefore, we are attributing our emotional state to them rather than considering that perhaps they are reacting because they have something troubling them. We have a tendency to internalise what we experience, and our experiences are shaped by our perception.
By taking personal responsibility for our own thoughts, feelings, reactions and actions, we set ourselves free. We don’t have to feel bad that something did not go our way, or someone spoke unkindly to us. We can recognise that something may be going on for the other person to make them act this way.
Asking questions is an extremely powerful way to diffuse many situations. Rather than react and exclaim: I feel bad because you are being horrible to me – we can say something along the lines of: You seem to be upset, do you want to talk about it?
I would like to share a couple of examples from case studies where this has been empowering for my clients:
Case study 1: Fiona was going through a very difficult time, she and her family had been living under financial strain for a number of years and her marriage was falling apart. She had come to the conclusion that, for her, the marriage was over; but was afraid to verbalise this to her husband as she was afraid as to how he would react.
I showcased to Fiona how – instead of making statements about what she wanted that her husband may find challenging or threatening, she could ask questions that would open up a dialogue between them without confrontation.
Example: We can’t go on like this. What do you think we should do? What do you want to happen next?
By using this approach, Fiona is taking personal responsibility for her own feelings, thoughts and actions, and not those of her husband. She is also providing an opportunity for her husband to share his fears, needs and expectations around how they should proceed.
Case study 2: Simon shared with me that he found meetings stressful, particularly ones where he was tasked with highlighting some difficulty that needed action. At one particular meeting he got very flustered when the senior managers that he was presenting to stared to challenge him.
Simon had internalised the challenge and felt that it was a personal attack on what he was saying and that he didn’t know what he was talking about.
I highlighted to Simon that instead of experiencing challenge as a negative event, to instead experience it as an opportunity to get to know more about the other people in the meeting.
Simon came to understand that when others challenged what he said, it was not about him, but rather, about their own fears around what this would mean for them. By asking the question: “I hear that this is a problem for you, could you expand on that” it creates an opportunity for barriers to be brought out into the open and solutions to be found.
Personal responsibility is truly liberating
I hope that, from this article, you get a sense of how truly liberating learning to take personal responsibility is. It is so important, and has been so crucial to my own happiness and fulfilment, that it is the central tenant to my Coaching Programme: Becoming PHENOMENAL.
Look out over the coming weeks and months as I share elements of this programme – that will guide you along your journey of taking responsibility for your thoughts, feelings, reactions and actions – and becoming the PHENOMENAL version of YOU.
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With warmest wishes,