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It's Possible to Abuse The Concept Of Self-Responsibility

Do you know how it goes?

They say, Tina, but you are a Creator of your life.

And I say, well, of course, I AM... how could I not be?

But then, I also think, well... don't push it.

It's not that simple.

Because yes, I may be a creator of my own life, as you are, and indeed we both are, but things are also not as simple as everyone wants to persuade us. After all, we're humans. We're neither goddesses, half-gods, nor machines.

This isn't to say that we cannot create a good life. Of course, we can. Absolutely. I'm a firm believer and don't need any convincing or proof; I have enough of them. This is also why I work what I do. I believe in Phoenix Rising, as I believe in a decent, good life, and I know we can create, grow, and build it. It is attainable. It's more than possible.


I also think we should strictly bypass the ill concepts that the world offers us.

One of them? The concept of absolute, aka ultimate self-responsibility.

Let's roast it.

A hallmark of self-responsibility

Self-responsibility is an exquisite diction.

It talks about freedom, autonomy, and choices.

But it also had become somehow twisted, unsurprisingly, because this happens with many other beautiful things that once get into human hands. It's difficult not to notice, talking about inner growth and personal empowerment, how self-responsibility is an attitude praised in almost evangelical keenness. Self-responsibility is a cornerstone of the Western "wellness obsession," pushing longevity and high performance as the ultimate prize. Many are amazed by this concept of self-responsibility; they talk about it, align their lives with it, earn money from it, and teach others to do the same.

Rightly so.

I think there is no getting around self-responsibility when trying to transform our lives for good and for the better.

Self-leadership and personal power do come from within ourselves. I can't disagree with that; that's my view, too.

I firmly believe - and this belief springs from my own life experiences - that when we become adults, we also receive the gift of being super responsible for ourselves and our impact on others. It goes hand in hand. As we grow up, so do our responsibilities. A child at 4 has her responsibilities, so does a teen at 14, and so on. Whether we like it or not, our responsibility grows with age, education, and experience.

Psychologically, it reflects the power of our ego structures and how we can consciously navigate inner psychic tensions and conflicts. An instrument of choice is a hallmark of self-responsibility; its pure existence is profoundly therapeutic. Ideally, as fully conscious adults with fully developed frontal cortex, age 25 and up, we ultimately can exercise the choice in every situation we encounter. At least we can choose a perspective. At its finest, we can act upon our perspective.

However, is this always the case?

Of course, it is not.

"Having a choice" is an energetic and practical possibility. And possibility per se doesn't say much about actual power or ability to exercise that possibility.

While personal choice, also an agent of autonomy, is undeniably important in the conscious creation of life, from the start, it's essential to recognize that many people in this patriarchal social order often don't have the means to exercise that particular possibility naturally. Instead, they face systemic barriers, societal pressures, or dire external circumstances that can significantly limit their options and ultimately influence their choices.

Considerations such as upbringing and socioeconomic status, cultural context, access to resources, and systemic inequities wield substantial influence over the choices available to people.

Therefore, it is crucial to consider how social and structural factors affect and limit our personal choices when discussing personal responsibility and choices as "hallmarks" of personal developement and growth.

The Myth of Ultimate Self-responsibility

We can approach the concept of self-responsibility in different ways.

1. Self-responsibility

In its most basic form, self-responsibility means that we understand that we're fully responsible for our lives, our choices, and the outcomes that result.

It means we take full responsibility for our thoughts, feelings, and actions and how they affect ourselves and those around us. This concept emphasizes that we have the power to shape our own lives.

2. Ultimate self-responsibility

From this, it's not far from the assumption that we alone are responsible for our personal growth, well-being, and success. And this is where we encounter the ultimate self-responsibility hype.

Fundamental interpretations of self-responsibility can get seriously twisted by the promise that we're ultimately the creators of our lives.

I've met people who wanted to believe they were the creators of their own lives. They either felt inspired and empowered by this attitude one day only to feel terrible guilt and shame when things didn't go how they wanted or planned. What an anxious state of being!

This attitude of ultimate self-responsibility, I call it the "Louse Hay attitude," gives the rather false impression that someone exists in the universe and nothing influences their existence apart from them alone.

3. Ultimate self-responsibility meeting toxic positivity

And then... finally, we have another "special," the final upgrade that happens when self-responsibility gets mutated by the itch for ultimate positivity, aka "toxic positivity." I think these two together are exceptionally potent. They are as healthy as Madonna's household rules.

Madonna. House rules. PHOTO: MADONNA/INSTAGRAM

In this spectacular frame of reference, everything is expected to feel good, and if it doesn't feel good, you force it to make it look good, or you pretend it feels good.

In that frame of reference, if something doesn't work out, it's 100% the person's fault that it doesn't because they didn't think positively enough or didn't try hard enough, or they allowed dark moods like anger, or despair to happen in the first place.

As if only when people are optimistic and work hard, everything works out. As if people had tried harder, it would work out for sure. As if feeling good is a definition of mental health. As if causes for difficulties lie only individually within people.

(None of this is true.)

Yes, the promise of ultimate self-responsibility states that every person can perceive and respond to his or her circumstances and choose actions in so that he or she actively shapes his or her entire life, down to the smallest detail. And is this a great promise! But... it can get grandiose and omnipotent, too.

In practical reality, no one can do "anything", and no one can do everything, as no one can ignore the reality of their inner world, which is never reflected through "smile-only."

This is one toxic and narcissistic ideal.

Equality? Both accurate and illusionary

Self-responsibility sounds uplifting, generous, simple, and logical.

The problem is, it also sounds like solidarity because the promise of self-responsibility is also built on an assumption of illusionary equality - we're all equal; we're one, and if you can do it, so can I.

This is, of course, also not entirely true.

The self-responsibility concept can pass "the unified field of consciousness test" anytime.

On a level of unified consciousness, we are all equal.

But this story is over as soon as we land on planet Earth.

When we weigh everything in our material reality on this planet - yes, we're all born, we breathe, eat, excrete, and then die one day.

What about all our lives in between? All those multicolored and tangible, dense, material, practical realities we live, day in, day out? Can we argue that life gets pretty diverse?

As much as attitude of self-responsibility sounds nice, and generous, and even soothing, expecially when it gets into the ultimate self-responsibility mode, it ignores the complex individual conditions and circumstances we all have on a very material plane, and it dismisses how those circumstances have shaped and continue to shape us.

It's common knowledge that our entire personality is shaped by innumerable interactions with our environment, literally from birth. To ignore or overlook these practical, biological, psychological, and socio-economical imprints and neglect them with the belief that "we can all do anything because we're all energy beings" is, to put it politely, narrow-minded.

However, experience shows that this view is well-received by many because, for some reason, people seem to like to hear motivational pamphlets and enjoy success stories.

One of the posts that keep showing up in my feed and I dislike very much is this one:

I don't know who needs to hear all this, but no one sane thinks JK Rowling's story applies to everyone. Yet the masses respond to it.

(I only hope the archetypal nuance of the heroine's story makes it so attractive.)

Yes, our abilities to respond are diverse!

Besides the possibility of choice, self-responsibility mainly includes a demand of being response-able. Self-responsibility is not only about the deep organic awareness that we're the authors of our own choices and that we decide how to direct our attention, what to focus on, what to exclude from our mental processes, and how we act.

Self-responsibility is also about literally being able to respond in a way that we can make choices in our highest good. Yet, are we truly all equal in these "abilities"?

No, we are not.

A neurodivergent woman entrepreneur

Now, forget about JK Rowling, Louise Hay, and Madonna.

Imagine a woman building her business. This might be you, your friend, or your daughter. Imagine she is neurodivergent - while she's not aware of it. This means her brain works differently - her ways' of perceiving, learning, and communicating are different from people with a neurotypical brain.

Neurodivergence is neither a diagnosis nor a flaw nor a disorder that needs to be “fixed,” healed, or corrected, but it does impact how one functions in daily reality.

Suppose your friend's mind is running in Attention Deficit mode. She probably has trouble getting organized, is often hyperactive and restless, or seems disinterested or withdrawn. She may start crying when she gets lost on the streets, or she laughs louder than most of you at dinner; she's super funny and gives you gazillion reasons for wicked belly laughs and shoulder you can cry at. Even though emotionally intense, she's innovative, finding unique solutions and connections with her unusual, out-of-the-box thinking.

Business-wise, trying to build her own business, she follows a super successful, classy, organized coach or, say, a bunch of them.

These particular coaches have no issues with executive function issues themselves. She either does not know that problems with executive functions even exist. Now your friend gets into the collaboration, probably start with, let's say, goal setting. So a woman is setting goals, she is reverse-engineering the process - a standard approach to goal setting that everyone, and their cat, knows.

But what she doesn't know is, if you're a neurodivergent ADHD entrepreneur, there's no way you can do that easily, reverse-engineer. No freaking fucking way.

Problem is?

A woman will then work 3 or 5, or 10x harder than her coach for the same strategy. It's not about intelligence. Or laziness. Or commodity. The point is that she'll probably fail at that suggested approach and feel like a failure because she's competing with someone who doesn't have the same mind as she does, namely - in the case of neurodivergence - a vibrant mind that sometimes also resembles scrambled eggs with tuna, dark chocolate, and avocado. Because that's a neurodiverse brain with ADD or ADHD or dyslexia or dysgraphia or autistic traits - it just works differently.

A lot of women have these traits without knowing it. But they struggle, and some struggle really hard. And no one gives them credit for it because no one recognizes or acknowledges how much effort they've already put into their careers, their relationships, or raising children with special needs who likely have similar neurobiology.

And that's just one small example from the neurodiversity corner of how neurodiversity affects a woman's professional life and how she can work hard and diligently and need so much grit to accomplish things that people with neurotypical brains accomplish with ease.

Even though she takes ultimate self-responsibility for herself, how much effort she puts into her career is incomparable to someone who doesn't have these traits.

A female entrepreneur with a history of trauma

Now, a second example.

Imagine yourself as an entrepreneur with a traumatic past and launching the new product you've worked on for the last two quarters.

Then a trigger happens, you unexpectedly meet someone from your past, triggering a trauma response in the middle of your launch. You couldn't have planned this, but it happened.

You start to dissociate, your brain goes foggy, then you begin to wake up in the middle of the night, your heart is racing, and your belly hurts because all the muscles in your belly are tight and contracted from panic.

Do you believe you are in the same position in your career with this trauma past as someone who has never experienced trauma, panic attacks, or dissociation? Is your success as guaranteed as someone whose amygdala never turns on red, whose frontal cortex and their ability to think straight, strategize, etc., is pretty much always functional? (This exists, believe me!)

You can invoke spells on your ultimate self-responsibility all day, but at the end of that day, your work and efforts don't put you in the same position with someone who... for example, hasn't been beaten up by their parent, called names instead of being hugged.

Life is different when no one was adoring you like a sweet little mystery of life, deserving all good, all the best, all the most magical imaginable.


Circumstances matter

How has the illusion of ultimate self-responsibility become so every day?

The fact is, we live in more than a unified cornfield of consciousness. Practical reality plays a crucial role.

Circumstances matter, ancestry matters, your personal or family financial portfolio matters, and your upbringing matters.
You can do a lot with your life no matter all of those, and at the end of the day your self-responsibilty will save your ass, but you need to restrain from buying the myth of ultimate responsability and beating yourself because you can't do it all!
Always take your cirrcumstances into the account, not to play victim, but to shower yourself with extreme levels of self-compassion while you are building a life you are meant to serve.

So when you're trying to create something substantial, epic, or simply some random acts of kindness, a simple life, and things aren't going smoothly and efficiently as you would expect or your coach would expect or the strategy would predict? And you know you have issues with your history; you've been abused, beaten up, called names, neglected? Or your brain works in a wonderful, not-wonderful and for sure different way?

Keep in mind that we live in a world where ignorance is high about systemic circumstances - and experiencing trauma or being neurodivergent is a systemic circumstance because the system is treating your differently because of it, often completely invisibly - without giving you credit or help or support for all the hard work you do!

The concept of self-responsibility isn't wrong per se. But you have to be careful how you take it in. You have to know who you're - and from where you come, and only then can you approach it safely, without turning it against yourself.

If you know yourself - your story, strengths, and vulnerabilities- you can bypass the hype of self-responsibility that is so bluntly propagated in this society, forcing people to feel guilty for things they can't do or goals they can't achieve. While? Some legitimate circumstances impede or even stop personal and professional progress.

It's perverse to claim that we all have the same abilities, possibilities, and opportunities.

That is a lie, and we all know it, but at the end of the day, we all try to pretend that we're all competent, all capable, and all responsible. But we're not. We're human beings; we aren't machines. We're human beings; we aren't gods.

I don't think anyone should ever accept the fear of doom, lack, and scarcity as a way of being. But we need to have compassion for ourselves.

We must refuse to use the concept of ultimate self-responsibility to manipulate ourselves or others away from the realistic influences we have on each other, and that system has on us.

We must have our dreams and visions but refuse to condemn ourselves for missed opportunities and unachieved plans. Self-reproach does no one any good. It weakens us, and choosing it to compensate for our disappointments makes no sense. I think the biggest challenge in building a good life is undoubtedly the dilemma of freedom of choice in how we use it to create the life we want.

The attitude of self-responsibility is always helpful, but like any medicine, we must take it wisely.

Most of all, we must remain realistic, i.e., not unoptimistic but grounded. It's helpful that we know our history and our past because we can develop a deep understanding of ourselves, our struggles, and our struggles.

Upholding "Madonna's household rules" is unrealistic, but this atrocity is so pervasive that it exists on an unconscious collective level among us.

We must set apparent and solid boundaries for it. Otherwise, we may become victims of our entitlement, filled with unrealistic expectations and demands. If we override our nature and who we're, ignoring our body and mental and emotional abilities, we'll become unhappy, frustrated, and miserable.

It's much better to keep a calm attitude toward ourselves.

Self-responsibility is a powerful concept that fulfills our innate desire for control and personal autonomy. However, it can quickly turn unhealthy, leading to guilt, inadequacy, and other challenges. Ultimate self-responsibility may seem promising, but it can quickly overlook the complex realities of our unique circumstances and how they shape us - approach with care.

Practice free will. Practice choice. Let's all act on ourselves and take full responsibility for our thoughts and actions. But can we also stay realistic and fair? Keep the game very down-to-earth. We're human beings. We're neither gods nor machines. We can perform miracles, but that doesn't mean we should make ourselves miracles and push ourselves to unrealistic claims of ultimate responsibility for everything that happens in our lives. We're all part of a greater whole, and although we're powerful, we're also limited in many aspects of our reality. There are always things we can and cannot do, and knowing the difference makes life much easier.


Tina Božič Psychotherapist View my bio

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