Taking responsibility

When I was growing up, adults always told me how responsible I was. Some friends’ parents even told me that they preferred their daughters to hang out with me because I was so responsible. Which makes me wonder…what did their daughters do when I wasn’t around??? Hmmm…I never really knew what it meant to be responsible, but I assumed that if everyone says I’m responsible, then I must be. It wasn’t until recently that I realized I had never taken full responsibility for many aspects of my life. It’s not that one day everything went crashing to the ground and that I was left staring at my mess of a life. It’s just that for as long as I can remember, I would wake up, go into school or work, and walk home, always carrying around this feeling of pity for myself. If something didn’t go according to plan at work, I would feel wronged and frustrated, not at myself but at the lab environment or even at the riddles of nature itself. At home I would feel sorry for myself for not having enough time in the evening and for having to cook on a weeknight because Sunday had slipped through my fingers and so on. In psychology this is referred to as “victim mentality,”  a learned personality trait in which a person tends to regard him or herself as a victim of the negative actions of others, and to think, speak and act as if that were the case — even in the absence of clear evidence (or so Wikipedia says). The thing is, it was never obvious to me that I had a victim mentality because I didn’t actually think that people were out to get me. It was more of a general “life’s not fair” attitude. I had these underlying beliefs “There’s not enough time in the day,” “No matter how hard you try, you can’t get what you want,” “You’re not supposed to enjoy everyday life,” etc. that would run in the background in my mind and make me feel grumpy and wronged.  Yes, sometimes I would stop and remember that I actually had it pretty good and should feel grateful, but these moments of appreciation were not big enough to pull me out of the pity trap. Then I started researching victim mentality online. There isn’t a lot of information about how to get out of a victim mentality other than “Stop believing you’re the victim!” haha. But I did stumble across this good article, http://www.forbes.com/sites/annakupka/2012/10/03/5-steps-to-transform-your-life-step-5/. And I can say that the first three steps have transformed my life dramatically. The first step in particular “Take responsibility for your life,” made me finally understand what responsibility means. For me, it means that I’m the “conscious creator” of my life instead of the victim. Now I can see that things that happen to me are just like shifts in the wind or different combinations of cards dealt to me, situations to which I must creatively adjust my sails or my game and continue on an altered course. I don’t have to get frustrated and feel sorry for myself when things don’t go as I expect. In fact, it’s more fun to embrace the challenges presented by the unexpected twists in life. This may sound too chipper for this blog (right?), but hopefully it helps someone out there in cyberspace at some point, even if that person is me in the future. There’s nothing worse than feeling like a victim all of the time. But the good news is that it’s possible to change your victimhood just like it’s possible to change nearly everything in your life…once you’ve taken responsibility for it, that is.


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