I want to write about power and responsibility (not so much about tequila and bad sex, sorry. Although it really wouldn’t make very interesting reading anyway*). The two are intrinsically linked; when you have power, you have responsiblity, and if you don’t take responsibility, you don’t have power.
Read that again.
Possibly the biggest way that we handicap ourselves in life (aside from fear) is by giving away our power. And the main way we do that is by not taking responsibility. Often people don’t even realise that it’s an option in their particular situation but the truth is it’s always an option. Life is not something that happens to us, it is something we create with each decision we take. The reason responsibility leads to power is that it shifts the locus of control from external to internal – when the locus of control is perceived as being external you are helpless, when it’s internal you can take action.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our ability to choose. Our ability to choose determines our growth and freedom” – Stephen R. Covey
People often reject responsibility because they genuinely feel that something negative has ‘happened’ to them, or been ‘done to’ them. Unpalatable as it is, this is essentially just victim mentality and while it may often feel entirely justified, it’s a waste of your precious time and what’s more, it’s actually downright bad for you. It’s horribly easy to fall into this trap and even easier for it to become a habit, and the more often it happens the less power you feel you have and the more things seem to be ‘inflicted’ upon you. Basically it’s a vicious downwards spiral of doom which is best avoided entirely.
Power is defined as being “the ability or capacity to perform or act effectively“; this implies not only the capacity to act, but also to change, to choose our mental and emotional attitudes and beliefs, to create and shape our experience rather than being passive and simply reacting to it.
Having said all this in favour of responsibility I feel the need to also mention the other extreme (something many women are horribly good at), which is taking too much responsibility. You are essentially only responsible for yourself, and if you have young children, them also. That’s it. If you have an abusive partner: NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. It is your responsibility to take care of yourself and get the hell out of there, but it is not your fault that he behaves as he does. Lines tend to get blurry in close relationships, so it’s helpful to bear this distinction in mind. I come across many women who are struggling with guilt for things they bear no responsibility for at all (often from assuming responsibility for partners or in the workplace). Bearing your own burden is enough ladies; draw the line.
Some examples of ways in which we lose our power:
- Justifying – when we justify ourselves, our actions, beliefs, desires we send a message that we don’t fully stand behind what we did/believe/want etc. Taking responsibility means owning your decisions. You owe no one an explanation but yourself
- Victimhood – obvious in theory but sometimes astonishingly sneaky; it can drop over you soft as a shadow, often for little things like getting let down by a friend, or bad weather. Always take a moment when you notice it and check where your grumpy/poor-me/irritated mood is coming from
- Indecision – when you vacillate between options you cannot act, and in your self-inflicted inability to act, you have no power
- Confrontation-Avoidance – we can disempower ourselves with what we say (e.g., justifying, asking for permission), but also with what we don’t say; unspoken words have no power and fester inside you
- Resentment – like victimhood, only angrier. This one’s a real cancer-producing poison, and hanging on to negative emotion expends a lot of energy, reducing your power
- Lack of presence – we can only act NOW. Being focussed in the future or the past reduces your power in the present.
- Insecurity – self-doubt boils down to not owning who we are. Low self-confidence equates to less power because we don’t fully give ourselves permission to do what is right for us
- Guilt – guilt is regret with an extra dose of self-flagellation because you feel what you did was intentional. It’s in the past and the past doesn’t exist; forgive yourself, learn, let go. Guilt keeps us stuck in the past (which we can’t change) and feeling negative about ourselves (which builds unhealthy thinking patterns)
Take responsibility for your involvement with everything in your life. Remember that you have the power to change and choose everything internal, and many external things as well. You are powerful. Notice the little habits that you have where you give away your power; the self-deprecating remarks; the acceptance of things that are unacceptable; the resignation that has you settling for less than you deserve, less than you dream of.
You have unlimited power – but you have to own it to be able to use it, and owning it requires taking responsibility for everything that you are and everything that you do.
* My line of thinking when constructing this title was something like ‘What else is directly correlated the way power and responsibility are?’ and the first thing I thought of (I SWEAR I do not know why) was tequila and sex. Then I couldn’t really figure out if they actually are or not, and in trying to figure it out things got quite twisty and weird in my head so at some point I just gave up. By then I was totally incapable of thinking of another title so it just got left like that. I hereby acquit myself of all responsibility for the bizarreness.