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Keys to Recovery: Accepting Personal Responsibility for Our Actions

 Crossroads Programs for Women September 06, 2015

By Bonnie Harken, NCLC

One component of being emotional healthy is accepting reality as it is—not as we would like it to be, or the lies we tell ourselves. False perceptions or false beliefs can lead to a lot of what the mental health field calls “stinkin thinkin.” It lies at the heart of destructive behaviors that cause us, and those around us, a lot of pain. “Stinkin thinkin” sabotages our ability to be happy and find peace in our lives.

Denial, projecting blame on others, or just telling outright lies to avoid responsibility are some of the ways we avoid facing reality. Have you ever heard anyone say, “I have been married four times; I have really bad luck with men (or women).” Hmmmmmmmmmm…The person who makes this statement fails to recognize that there is a common denominator in that equation: the person who married four different people and had all end in divorce.

There is no more impactful thing you can do for yourself than to take responsibility for your life. There are all sorts of benefits. Say you make a mistake on a project at work; if you admit your mistake, people are more likely to believe you about other things you do. Your word has more meaning to other people when you take responsibility. But it’s not just a matter of trust. You also earn lots of respect when you take responsibility for your actions. If you develop a reputation for being the person who accepts responsibility for his or her actions, people will often simply ignore the fact that you made a mistake altogether.

There are negative emotions that come with not accepting personal responsibility. When you blame others, you may feel anger or resentment towards that person. You will almost invariably feel guilty or ashamed. The worst part about denying responsibility is an overall sense of powerlessness. When you feel like you do not have control over your life, you can easily become depressed or relapse back into unhealthy behaviors.

Some of the defense mechanisms we use to avoid taking personal responsibility are: blaming others, making excuses, complaining, and “playing the “victim.”

Make the conscious choice to break the habit of surrendering your responsibility by:
  • Recognize that you always have a choice of how to respond, regardless of your circumstances.
  • When something goes wrong, openly acknowledge it as your fault, even if you feel there were external circumstances that contributed.
  • When there is a problem, do not ask yourself who is to blame. Instead, ask yourself: “What could I have done differently?” 
  • Accept yourself and your circumstances. It is not other people who made you the way you are–only your own thoughts and actions.
  • Do not depend on other people to feel good about yourself. If you need external validation to be happy, you surrender personal responsibility for making yourself happy.
  • You should be constantly challenging your own beliefs and filters through which you view the world. Your limiting beliefs make it significantly more challenging to take personal responsibility.
  • If you mess up, do not beat yourself up over it. Just take responsibility and move on. When someone else messes up, do not hold it against him or her. If you cling to a desire to blame them, then you are shifting the focus away from your own personal responsibility for your life.
  • Accepting personal responsibility involves letting go of the need to feel responsible for others. Everybody is responsible for himself or herself, whether they realize it or not.
When you admit to yourself that you are solely responsible for your life, you immediately recognize how much control you really do have. Any goal that you want to achieve is within your control, and external circumstances do not control your fate. Personal responsibility is also the foundation for personal development. By acknowledging your role in the process, you give yourself the opportunity to improve. In recovery, accepting responsibility shifts the focus onto your control of the situation instead of feeling like a victim. By accepting personal responsibility, you gain the freedom to create your own life, any way you want it. You are fully in charge of your recovery!

Bonnie Harken NCLC, Founder and CEO, of Crossroads Programs for Women has spent the last 30 years assisting individuals begin their journey of healing. Look for upcoming programs at Crossroads Programs for Women. Begin your journey of finding renewal, hope, joy, direction, and passion. Each program is a blend of lectures, group discussion, and therapeutic exercises offering a healing curriculum. We explore the spiritual components of healing from a non-denominational Christian perspective. Why continue to struggle? Tomorrow does not have to be like today. We can help you. Visit or call 1-800-348-0937.

Sources available upon request.
Photo credit: Juanmonino/iStock

Watching television news provides us with one of the best examples of why we are in deep trouble as a culture. Even with almost everyone owning a camera which can provide on-the-street, real-time historical documentation on events and with videotaped broadcasts of almost everything said by anyone, people still deny having said or done things for which there is a plethora of documented, videotaped evidence to the contrary. Back to Top

 Crossroads Programs for Women| September 06, 2015

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