Anglia Counselling Therapist, Penni Osborn, introduces the concept of personal accountability versus blaming others and how taking responsibility for our own actions and choices can be empowering and liberating.
To be accountable is to take responsibility for our own lives – our choices, words and actions. It involves being open to experience and being willing to accept our fallibility as humans. It means acknowledging that we will, and do, make mistakes – say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing or make a poor choice – and embracing these errors as opportunities to learn about ourselves and therefore grow our empathy, wisdom and resilience.
The opposite of accountability is to blame.
To blame is to point the finger at others and make them responsible for our life circumstances. Of course, there are those instances where we can be the victims of unhappy circumstances, or others’ deliberate unpleasant or malicious acts or other events that are beyond our control. However, many things that happen are, at least in part, a consequence of our own behaviours. Behaviours that, perhaps, we could have avoided or chosen to do differently. Admitting to this can be difficult and therefore it’s much easier to make things somebody else’s fault. The problem with passing the buck, however, is that we risk disempowering ourselves by potentially cultivating a victim mindset – one where we believe the world is out to get us and nothing ever goes our way.
What’s your super-power?
We all have power. The power to choose. The power to heal. The power to forgive. These are our ‘superpowers’. To blame others for our perceived misfortune gives that power away. To blame is to hand control of our lives over to someone else and can leave us feeling helpless and blind to the changes we can offer ourselves to improve our own lives and wellbeing. If in the challenging places we may find ourselves in, we blame someone else, we are holding onto the belief that they have control over us – they’ve got all the power – when in truth, the only person we can control is ourselves.
This is true also of self-blame. When we allow our inner critics’ voice to dominate, our positive inner resources are diminished. We hand our power over to negative self-talk, allowing it to drag us deeper into a life of decreased motivation, reduced self-esteem and false beliefs about who we are and our place in the world.
Accountability, on the other hand, says (courageously and compassionately) ‘’I am responsible for me”. When we accept that we are largely masters of our own destiny and that we are responsible for our choices, actions and words, we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. And it’s through vulnerability we learn and grow, not through avoidance or by trying to defend ourselves. Accountability not only means examining our own behaviours (with compassion and forgiveness) but also allowing others to do the same. It means being honest with ourselves and being prepared to lower our defences, not only to allow others to see us but to let others know that we are willing to try and see them too.
Whilst it takes great courage, accountability is empowering. Through taking responsibility for ourselves and our own healing, wellbeing or life choices we leave those we blame powerless. No longer are they responsible for us and in control. Accountability gives us our ‘selves’ back and puts us firmly in the driving seat of our own lives once again.