Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image by: pexels.com
You know how as a kid you can’t wait to grow up? You just want to decide for yourself how much of that bag of chips you’re going to eat. You want to choose what’s for dinner and you know perfectly well what bedtime is healthiest for you.
And then it happens: That magical moment where you move out of your childhood home, away from your parents, and learn to take care of yourself. And with it, comes responsibility. You become responsible for taking care of yourself, and, if you’ve chosen to have a family, you carry the responsibility of taking care of your children, or pets, or others in your care. Some of these responsibilities we choose, some come with life in general, some are thrust upon us without us having much to say in the matter (such as a child with special needs or a parent who falls ill.)
There are responsibilities we pick up as we turn into adults: Getting to work on time, taking care of our living space, cooking dinner for our families. And then, there are those responsibilities we don’t necessarily have to pick up, even though it’s better that we do: Exercise enough, eat healthy foods, treat ourself as our own best friend.
When you know better, do better.Maya Angelou
When you know what the right thing is in a certain situation; when you know what the right call is, you need to make that call, it’s your job to do just that. It’s our responsibility to do what it takes, even when it’s uncomfortable, or even painful. We owe it to ourselves, and to the world around us.
These are 10 ways in which I’m learning to take up my own responsibility. Some are easier, most are challenging.
I’m responsible for:
- Dealing with my own trauma’s.
My own trauma’s, whether big or small, have an effect on how I behave today as long as they haven’t been resolved. Perhaps I lash out at those around me because I feel hurt when triggered, or perhaps my fear keeps me locked inside myself instead of bravely seeking new adventures. Either way, there is no one who will resolve those trauma’s for me, even if someone else might have played a role in how they started. It is my responsibility alone to start healing them.
- Guarding my own boundaries.
Some of us grow up learning that in order to be liked, you must give, and give, and give more. We don’t learn how to say ‘stop’ or ‘enough’ even when we should. When we were young, hopefully our parents helped us protect our own boundaries and make sure that we stopped when needed. Now we need to be our own parents and feel when enough is enough. And when it is, we need to risk disappointing others in order to protect ourselfs and just say ‘no!’.
- Respecting the boundaries of others, even when they don’t themselves.
As soon as we are aware of what the limits are of other people, we are responsible to help protect those. Sure, my mother may always say ‘yes’ when I ask her to make soup for us. But if I know she’s having a rough week, I won’t ask her, because I know she finds it hard to say ‘no’.
You already know which people in your life have a hard time with guarding their limits. If you know what they are, you must help them guard it (and, gently, help them guard themselves).
Edit: This does not mean you shouldn’t allow those around you to indicate their own boundaries, even if they find that difficult to do. My mother and I have had conversations about this, expressing how hard it is to say ‘no’ and how open we will try to be in hearing the ‘no’ of others. It gets easier over time!
- How I treat other people. How I talk about others.
I know what feels good in relationships: Compliments, understanding, kindness, joy. I also know I don’t like it when others gossip about me, or make fun of me, or belittle me.
I know all of those things, yet I’ve done all of those things as well. I know better than to treat people in a way in which I don’t want to be treated. It has never served them, or me, in any way. How I treat other people is my responsibility.
- How I talk to myself.
Sure, we’ve all picked up our own individual dialect of self-talk and we’re perfectly fluent by now. It’s usually a combination of the voices we’ve heard around us from childhood, and it’s easy and familiar. Often, however, we don’t use the friendliest tone with ourselves. Learning how to speak to yourself as if you are your own best friend (and you’d rather become your own best friend since you’ll be spending your whole life with yourself) is much like learning a new language: It’s awkward at first, and it takes conscious effort to memorise new words and sentences. But you get better at it over time, and you owe it to yourself.
- The way I treat my body.
What I put in my mouth, what time I go to bed, whether I take the bicycle or the car to school… All these choices impact my health and making the right choices here is my responsibility. And yes, we’re lured into buying candy by supermarkets, and we have to push against our own evolutionary cravings for fat, sugar and salt and preference for comfort over discomfort. But we know all this, and we also know tricks to get around these obstacles. And once you know, you can do better.
- What I buy.
I’m aware that each dollar/euro that I spend is a vote that I cast: For a company, a product, a way of doing business. Knowing that gives you the responsibility to spend consciously. Who grows your food? Who makes your clothes? How did the animals get treated before they landed on your plate? For sustainable fashion, there are plenty of great websites out there. (The website https://cosh.eco/en/ is built around just that principle.)
- What I watch, read and listen to.
We control the information we consume, and what effect it may have on us. Allowing yourself to be caught in the latest news stories and overall sense of fear is a great way to relinquish control over your own well-being. It only takes a glance at your facebook/twitter/instagram/(some other social media I’m now too old for)-feed to see what Covid-19 has done in instilling fear in the people around us (and in ourselves, we’re definitely not immune to this).
- My own mistakes, and setting things right.
It’s hard to deal with ourselves when we don’t act in the way we’d like to. We always strive to be the best versions of ourselves, but it’s impossible to be that version all the time. We make mistakes. We’re human, it’s part of the deal. Being an adult means acknowledging when you were wrong, and taking steps to right that wrong. I have, on more than one occasion, treated my children badly. I could push that uncomfortable feeling away, which seems like the easy way out, or I could face it and apologize for the times I yelled, or handled them harshly, or wasn’t there when they needed me.
I recently apologized to a friend I’ve known for over 25 years for the times I wasn’t there when we were in high school together. She happened to have let go of it completely, but I still felt that my guilt stood in the way of fully opening up to her and getting closer. It felt incredibly liberating.
- Making choices that help create my own happiness.
This is probably the hardest one out there. We don’t control many of our circumstances, and we can’t be held responsible for every unfortunate event in our lives. But we have choices, many of them, every single day. And we can take our life into our own hands to make it the best it can possible be. Only we can do that. No one else can do it for us.
Responsibility may seem old-fashioned, but it is, in fact, super sexy! It gives you the chance to take your life into your own hands and make something amazing of it.
What is that wonderful life going to look like for you?