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.
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.
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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