Character — the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life — is the source from which self-respect springs. –Joan Didion
I will confess I know little about Joan Didion (although from what I read on Wikipedia just now, it seems there is much worth getting to know).
But when I found the quote (above) in another book I’ve been reading, her words instantly captivated me.
I thought – “Aha! ‘Accept responsibility for one’s own life.’ Yes, yes, yes – that is what feels so much better about my life today! I have accepted responsibility for my own life at last, which is why I can now feel so much respect for myself!”
Although I would imagine “accepting responsibility for your life” and “self-respect” will means something slightly different to each of us – depending on what our specific vulnerabilities and strengths may be.
For me personally, it means I no longer automatically look around for someone else – a mentor, a coach, a boss, a parent, a peer, a significant other – to handle my problems and recognize my successes.
It means that, while I may seek out a mentor’s insights or input, I now get to have the last word in any decision on my personal table.
It means I now trust myself to be enough to handle whatever my life brings me on any given day.
Most importantly (for me at least), it means I am now the one in my life who is most invested in my own health and happiness.
I have more to lose – and more to gain – through how wisely and well I navigate each moment of my life than any other being on this planet.
This means I care more than anyone else what happens to me….and I also “man up” to stick up for myself when needed (whether there is anyone else around willing to do it or not).
I take myself to task when task-taking is needed – but I can now do it without the shame or blame that used to come along with it because I know having to first wade through all the hurt shame and blame causes wastes a lot of time and energy I could be using to just do better next time.
I have taken the reins/steering wheel/compass/GPS and I am the one who charts the course and the course corrects.
I also understand that taking responsibility for my own life makes life better not just for me but for everyone. Reason being – it is hard enough just bearing the full responsibility for one life, let alone another.
Finally, as it turns out, I am the only individual on this planet who possesses the exact skills, knowledge and perspective to excel at taking responsibility for my own life. In other words, I naturally have what it takes, whereas for anyone else they would be winging it at best.
This has made taking responsibility for me and my own life a joy as well as a challenge. It is no longer a scary prospect but an exciting one. It is also full of, well, responsibility – and that is not always an easy issue to grapple with.
If I mess up, it is on me to: a) notice, b) acknowledge it, c) fix it, d) make amends to myself and others (if needed), e) give myself a fresh start.
But because I am in charge of me, I also don’t have to wait on anyone else before I can do any of these things. The moment I notice, I can take charge and change.
This is a good feeling. It is a powerful feeling. It is an empowering feeling – a feeling that comes from taking a chance on me and using it to earn my own respect and my own desire to play the role of “me” in my own life.
I am now glad to be “me” instead of anyone else. I truly am (and I wouldn’t ever dare just say that, because of all the years when I wanted to be anyone else but me so very badly). I truly do “get” how awesome it is to WANT to be me when I wake up in the morning – to be glad I have my own life – to be glad I get to be me and do “me things” and enjoy the life I am building for myself, which is precisely the life I most want to have.
Just like I am so glad and grateful to wake up each day and discover I get yet another wonderful day of caring for my two “littles,” my parrot Pearl and my tortoise Malti, so too do I have this same feeling when waking up as me yet again.
It has been a long time coming (nearly 45 years to date) but every moment spent waiting now feels worth it.
Today’s Takeaway: Do you feel like you have fully accepted responsibility for your own life? If no, what do you think you still need to work on to get there? If yes, how do you know – and what does it feel like on a daily basis? I’d love to hear your insights!
Confident woman photo available from Shutterstock