Self-responsibility: the state, or fact of being responsible, answerable, or accountable for something within one’s power, control, or management.

It seems straightforward but I have found that it is largely lacking in many people. In this article, I will explore some of the reasons why, and the ways in which, self-responsibility can be so elusive.

Learned helplessness (or irresponsibility).

Learned helplessness (or irresponsibility) may be linked to a very lax upbringing – for example, if you had created a lot of chaos in the lives of those around you and your parents constantly made excuses for your behavior. This is not related to helplessness but instead the belief that every mishap – even when instigated by you – is someone else’s responsibility. This may also apply to those who are not necessarily trouble makers but simply over-protected by their caregivers: “Don’t worry, darling, we’ll take care of it.”

Learned helplessness is often linked to experiencing some major abusive, traumatic, or life-threatening events that you could not do anything about – it may be brought about by other people (e.g. violence, betrayal etc.), or “acts of God” (e.g. tornados, floods etc.). This type of learned helplessness – usually – needs several of the same kind of experiences in order to become an ingrained pattern of powerlessness.

Then you have the ‘authority’ figures in society that make the laws (or other rules) you must abide by in order to live in this world (e.g. government and corporations). ‘Authority’ can also take the form of ‘experts’ such as, medical and other health care professionals; religious and spiritual leaders; anyone with a higher degree in any field of study, and so on. This would involve relinquishing the power or control that you have over your own mind and body to those that you believe know more about you than you know about yourself, due to their expertise. You are conditioned (i.e. brainwashed) into believing these people have authority over you.

Some of the ways in which lack of self-responsibility is demonstrated. 

“You love me and know what’s best for me.”

Here you have loved ones who will, more often than not, offer you unsolicited advice as to what you should be doing with your life. Even when you ask them for said advice, you are still responsible for the choices that you make subsequent to their help. In my own experience, my mother’s guidance is usually spot on for a few different reasons: she is a wise woman; she knows me well; she is a good judge of character; she does want the best for me. However, there have been times in my life when her suggestions were more about what was best for her. The most significant example I can think of, was the time I told her that I had been sexually abused by a family friend. I had already had some therapy before I disclosed this to her, and wanted to continue whenever I had the need for it. She wanted me never to speak of it again, especially to non-family members, due to her own shame as a mother who failed to protect her child. If I had listened to her, I would have prevented my own healing and growth. And, if I was one of those people that blames others for their own decisions, I would say that my mother screwed up my life because she told me not to go to therapy anymore.

You’re the professional, you know what you’re talking about.

My mother once went to a counselor who had the audacity to tell her that she had to do exactly what she told her to because she was the one with the degree in mental health (needless to say, that my mother never consulted her again). Professionals with this kind of attitude are usually not so blatantly arrogant but…I have to give them some credit for letting you know who they REALLY are from the get-go. This can apply to all sorts of people who get paid for whatever service (or product) it is that they are providing for you: lawyers, accountants, hair stylists, doctors, etc. The guidance offered by these people is, more often than not, something that will affect your life in some major way. If you are not one to take responsibility for yourself, you will blame them if their advice does not pan out for you. You will only ever be blameless in such a scenario if they take actions that affect you directly without your consent. For example, if a doctor performs surgery that you did not want (or need), or a hair stylist goes ahead with a hair style that you did not request.

“You are holier than me so only you know what God wants for me and from me.”

This falls into the religious and spiritual category of professionals that believe their advice is divinely inspired in a way that makes them God-like (or, at the very least, the servants of God performing work that ordinary people cannot do for themselves). The number of people who are surrendering their will to people like this in spiritual/New Age circles, has reached epidemic proportions, in my opinion. (I have written an article where I explore some of these themes here: You Are The Authority On Your Life. I will look into slightly different themes below.) These people often ridicule Christians and those that follow other fundamentalist religions believing they are somehow more ‘evolved’ because their ‘priests’ (or gurus) use divination. These divinatory tools include: astrology; runes; tarot, or oracle cards; palmistry; scrying and so on. There are also those who use their intuitive (psychic) abilities with these tools. Some use only their intuitive abilities (i.e. psychics and mediums).

Those who use some form of divination when guiding their clients, have usually studied their craft for quite some time. The most complicated form of divination is astrology and even though it may be the most accurate in deciphering personal characteristics and showing the road map of your life, it is not set in stone. Your characteristics can change and your path can take a different trajectory based on the decisions you make at pivotal junctures in your life. What I had forgotten until recently was some information I came across from two astrologers over a decade ago – a psychological astrologer named, Michael McGowan, and a famous astrologer, Jungian psychoanalyst and writer, Liz Greene. Both of them offered reasons as to why an individual’s birth chart is not always an indication of ‘destiny’ or ‘fate’ – here they are:

  • Some people are more interested in not rocking the boat so they live lives based purely on their conditioning, or what others expect of them. They do not follow their hearts so they do not make choices based on what is demonstrated as the life they ‘should have had’ based on their individual chart.
  • There are those that grow beyond their patterns and karma to such an extent that the issues presented at the time of their birth are no longer relevant (or become less relevant because of the inner knowledge acquired over time). Also known as “self-realized individuals.” I have experienced this to some extent due the rigorous personal work that I have undertaken that has prevented me from repeating abusive situations in my own life. (I do not believe that I am self-realized just yet…)
  • Certain people cannot cope with the hand they have been dealt in life. That is, the adage “God does not give us more than we can handle”, is untrue in many instances. For example, a man who was abused throughout his childhood is supposed to help those in the same position after he has undergone his own healing. Instead, he ends up in psychiatric care for the rest of his life because facing what happened to him was too heavy a cross to bear.

Contrary to what many will tell you, your world will not fall apart if you do not make a choice based on whatever is indicated in your birth chart. In many instances, you will do better than what is indicated if you have overcome some major hurdle that was holding you back since childhood, or some other lifetime (for those of you who believe in reincarnation).

In conclusion…

You are responsible for yourself and your life. This does not mean that you can control everything, or everyone. There may be personal traits that are part of your nature that cannot be changed (similar to some physical traits), but this does not make you any less accountable for the choices that you make in life. Your choices lead to actions that, ultimately, create your reality.