Why You Need To Be Responsible For Your Own Feelings

Responsible Woman - Joseph Frank

Photo: Joseph Frank

Do you ever look in the mirror and think you could stand to lose a few pounds? Or do you feel like a lazy sack of lard when you wake up a couple of minutes before lunch?

We all have shortcomings that trigger our negative feelings, and these moments of pain can be useful tools for improvement, yet the world’s managed to frame it as an enemy, as something to be avoided.

They coddle you and say everything’s all right, that you just need to accept who you are, even though you’re not who you want to be. Perhaps it’ll all go away if you just ignore the problems long enough.

All that does is undermine the genius that is the human being. Your feelings are there for a reason. They’re there to spur you into action, to make you hate the status quo, to constantly seek improvement. And improvement almost always involves a healthy serving of discomfort.

The blame game

Chances are, you already have a list of things you’re not happy about. It could be that six-pack of beers you empty after every dinner, or maybe you’re dropping the ball when it comes to family affairs.

That’s good. In fact, that’s exactly what you want, because it means that a better you is waiting right around the next corner—if you actually walk up that street, that is.

Thing is, we don’t play well with our insecurities. We avoid them, or we blame others for how we feel. We point our fingers at everything else except ourselves.

Tim got his promotion over you only because he’s chummy with the boss. Sheila flaunting her beach bod hurts your self-esteem. Everyone else happier than you are only that way because they don’t have to deal with the problems you have.

Man screaming into class

It’s your fault I forgot to buy a cord for this phone. Photo: Icons8 Team

It’s not them, it’s you

I’m just throwing this out there, but have you ever stopped to think that maybe your insecurities are a result of you refusing to take the wheel? And as a result, you could be careening off a cliff right now yet still find it in you to blame the construction guys for forgetting to build the safety railings.

But it’s not my fault! I hear you say. I didn’t choose to be (insert limiting belief here)!

Well that’s the thing about belief, isn’t it? You can choose to believe anything, and either way, you’ll be right.

Having said that though, you should definitely seek help if your insecurities cause you to harm yourself. I’m just addressing the lazy people among us, myself included.

So if, for example, your desire to be slim isn’t just limited to a reasonable pang of discontent like the rest of us, you should know that you don’t have to face this alone.

But for the rest of you lazy slackers, you best read this entire thing, because if there’s one thing I don’t want to take responsibility for, it’s the fact that my writing sucks.

Your cross to carry

Back to the topic of taking ownership. Tell you what, let’s make a deal. From now on, you take responsibility for all your circumstances, good and bad, and in return, you get to determine your very own destiny.

But we’ll start off easy. Let’s first make it clear that you don’t need to be accountable for things beyond your control.

For instance, you could be born in a country that’s going through a recession, or maybe you got rear-ended by a drunk driver last week. You can’t possibly take responsibility for that, but the onus is definitely on you to make the best choices after.

So maybe you won’t have all the job opportunities that come with being born in a privileged country, or maybe it wasn’t your fault that you now have a broken fender and a neck injury, but you sure as hell have the choice to keep applying for better jobs or sticking to your physiotherapy routine.

The worst thing you can do is to not try just because you’ve been dealt the shorter end of the stick. Because what point is there trying to earn a living in a country where ‘living’ means a different thing entirely? That’s exactly the thought you’re trying to avoid.

You are, after all, where you’re at because of everything you’ve ever done to get to this point. Every overlooked promotion, manuscript rejection, competition loss—or lack thereof—was a result of insufficient preparation.

Man's arms stretched wide looking at city skyline

It’s not about what’s around you, but what’s inside. Photo: Lucreative

Failure is where you learn

So what do you do? Take your loss as a confirmation that you suck? Or learn from your mistakes and come back stronger?

You could very well throw in the towel and try your hand at something else, but the same thing’s just going to happen again unless you learn that it’s not the results that matter, but who you become during your path to mastery.

Yes, winning a competition’s great and all, until you realise just how much fitter and wiser you’ve become through your preparations.

A six-pack might look cool, but what’s cooler is the discipline you’ve forged through exercise and eating healthy.

All these values carry over into other pursuits, and they tend to snowball into bigger and better things every time you work at it. That’s what taking responsibility means. Doing what it takes to make things right instead of wallowing on why they aren’t.

Every time you feel bad about something in your life—or yourself—try not to see it as an external event happening to you, but as another avenue for improvement.

It may not seem like it at the time, but a little perspective shift is all you need to see each obstacle as a lesson. And for all that is holy, stop blaming other people for your shortcomings, because that just allows you to continue standing in your own way.

You can, we all can

Look, I’m no self-help guru, so I can’t promise you a checklist that will guarantee you a better life. But I can tell you that it’s possible to be responsible for your feelings—all of them.

And as humans, we’re totally capable of doing that. Look at Viktor Frankl, a prisoner in one of Hitler’s concentration camps who’d still found it in him to keep living despite the atrocities committed against him.

He’s just one example from a long list of people who’ve taken things into their own hands despite their circumstances—Mandela, Ralston, Vujicic—and while you might not be able to emulate their achievements without first starting small, they make great exemplars of what you’re capable of.

Stay the course

Thing is, despite our best efforts, we’ll never truly know what our future holds. But that’s good, isn’t it? After all, how hard do you think you’d work if you knew exactly what was in store for you?

Nobody can tell you that you’d be more successful as an artist than as a banker. Nobody can tell you if you’d even make it as an artist.

Plus, you might spend decades mastering your craft only to have a local genius whiz past you with one year’s worth of work. I get it. Life’s not fair that way.

But that brings us right back to the main point of this article: Will you see it as a learning lesson and forge on? Or will you blame this kid and his doggone talent? You decide.

For that to happen though, you’ll have to first take the responsibility.

It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
      I am the captain of my soul.

—William Ernest Henley


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43 thoughts on “Why You Need To Be Responsible For Your Own Feelings

    • Especially when it’s easy to blame someone else—such as when something wasn’t your fault. But things do get better if we take responsibility for that anyway.

      Always great to have you here!

  1. I like how you distilled the reality at the root of feelings and the behaviors they drive, and the trade off between taking responsibility and controlling one’s destiny. It’s true, responsibility is less comfortable than believing what you want, but the reward is getting a grip on life and making the changes necessary to improve it. Life does not have to be fair to be meaningful– meaning comes from responsibility.

    • Wow, you sure did put it in a way more elegantly than I did. And yes, some things can be hard to take responsibility for, but it’s through this mindset that you get the freedom to craft your own life. Loved your comment. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Excellent points. I am a professional blamer, finger-pointer, and excuse-maker. I have gotten a little better over time once I began to realize I am much happier not allowing my imagined perceptions of what other people think I should feel to dictate my emotions.

    I like the quotation at the end. Sums everything up nicely.

    • Welcome back Hetty! Always a joy to see you here :)

      Oh yeah, I can totally relate with you. I didn’t blame people, but I didn’t take responsibility for my circumstances either.

      But I soon learned that that meant I was leaving the fate of my life to external circumstances, and that realisation sucked.

      Thanks for your thoughtful perspectives as always.

  3. I believe we categorize our wants as needs. And it starts building up with expectations. So while feeling dejected- just refresh the thoughts and think is it necessary to feel this way! It’s easier said than done. But, it’s all in our chemicals.

    • It’s all chemicals indeed. That’s an important perspective—to see pain as something necessary to feel. I never thought of it like that before. Thanks for this enlightening comment!

    • Aw yis. Even as I type this, I’m always open to more perspective shifts. I like being able to see things from various points. I forgot who said this, but it reflects what I aspire to be:

      “I don’t want to be right. I just want the truth.”

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by!

  4. well said, Stuart. I am certainly guilty of blaming others or my circumstances when things don’t work out as planned. I’m getting better, but it is still a work in progress. Thanks for your inspirational message!

    • Haha we’re all works in progress aren’t we? I say one thing but the moment I don’t reach my word count for the day, it’s immediately my dog’s fault, or my neighbour’s, etc. No, thank YOU for constantly stopping by and supporting me with your wonderful comments!

  5. I love this post! It is so easy to look at our own misgivings and quickly find someone else to be responsible for them. Shifting the blame onto someone else does not give us a chance to learn and grow. Instead it gives us an excuse to think we can do nothing about our failure or mistakes because we cannot make someone else do something to fix it for us.
    Taking responsibility for ourselves is a wonderful way to get to know ourselves better and be more honest with ourselves too. :)

    • Great points! Yeah, the often missed part about taking ownership is the chance to learn and grow, and without mistakes—or admitting to them—there’s no chance that’s gonna happen.

      I love that you loved the post!

  6. I gotta learn from you how to write the way you do. Luv how you heighten and add, expanding one straightforward idea in so many ways, both distinct and interlinked! Well said!!

    As someone’s who’s often guilty of playing the victim’s card, I have much to learn and a long way still to go in conquering my fear of failing. Keep dishing these gems out ya?! Appreciate…

    • Aww thanks for the constant support, Kel. I just realised you were based in Singapore, according to the SWF post on your blog. I thought you were American all this time!

      I appreciate your comment, and thanks for stopping by!

  7. This is both insightful and helpful – thank you! I was born with EDS and became Bipolar during high school. When I first became ill I was bitter and hostile to my classmates, all those folks who had it easy. It wasn’t fair… and it isn’t fair. But life isn’t fair, and after several years of therapy I’ve learned to focus on what I can do rather than what I can’t. (As a side note, therapy is amazing. I highly recommend it if for no other reason than the fact that you can vent about everything that’s going wrong and have a sympathetic listener.) Focusing on what I can do helped me get a house, a job I can manage, and eight first drafts of books under my belt. It’s helped me learn to improve my skills… and it has also earned me friends in people who respect the work I put and my focus on trying even when I fail. I love this post – it’s so true, and it’s something that we can all be reminded of. <3

    • Whoa, eight manuscripts, a job, AND a house? You’re doing much more than people who have it easy, and I know I’ll be stoked if I could even do half of what you do (only completed three manuscripts to date).

      I’m so honoured that this piece was able to resonate with you, and your heartfelt comment really made my day.

      I myself haven’t had much success with therapy, but maybe I just had bad luck of the draw.

      I’m so grateful that you chose to drop this wonderful comment today. Thanks so much, Renee!

  8. Hi Stuart. Excellent blog as always. It’s always easy to blame everyone else but yourself and it’s always good to be reminded. Shared to Twitter.

  9. That’s a great way of putting it, that uncomfortable feelings can lead to improvements “if you actually walk up that street.” Action is that middle ground between denial and depression, both of which just lead to endless cycles.

  10. Your content is perfect for an inspirational book! If you consider publishing your own book, do consult us! We (Yellow Scribe) are a publishing house and have come up with interesting fruity packages which have been listed on the Home Page of our site! Do have a look if interested! Thank you!😊😊

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