“It’s not my fault”, “There’s nothing I can do about it”, “I wish things were different, but that’s just the way it is.”
There are some people in life that no matter what happens, they struggle to accept responsibility.
Caught in cycles of victimhood and blame they constantly look outside of themselves for reasons when things go wrong.
Taking responsibility in life is undeniably hard. Here are 10 compelling reasons why we struggle to accept responsibility, and how to turn that around.
Why do people have a hard time taking responsibility? 10 powerful reasons
1) It’s easier to look for a scapegoat
One of the primary reasons taking responsibility is so hard is simply that blaming everything and everyone is just so much easier.
That way, after we’ve finished judging the situation from the comfort of our ivory tower and thrown around a few grumbled complaints, we’re safe in the knowledge that our job here is done.
We can put our feet up, grab a nice cold beer from the fridge, and pop on another episode from our favorite show.
Is it really any great surprise that sounds like a preferable option?
If we can avoid creating any more work for ourselves and rest easy at night by telling ourselves it’s all out of our hands, this is the obvious lazy solution to find.
2) Dodging responsibility can be fun
In the same way, dodging responsibility can be so much easier, it can also be way more fun.
Blaming other people inflates your ego and makes you feel better about yourself in the process. Because pointing out how someone else is in the wrong, automatically makes you in the right.
Refusing to take responsibility for yourself can lead to some fairly frivolously enjoyable behaviors too — chasing your own pleasure rather than making sacrifices for your greater good.
Avoiding responsibility helps us to sidestep obligation or any sense of burden we feel that may bring with it.
Rather than sorting our lives out, instead, we can choose to hide from the actions that we know will improve it, and seek pleasant distractions elsewhere.
Being selfish and choosing not to take responsibility for how your behavior, words, and actions impact others allows you to always suit yourself.
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3) It takes self-awareness
One of the biggest obstacles to change and growth in life is not being able to see the initial problem.
If you are incapable of identifying an issue, how can you correct it?
This is the challenge for those who lack self-awareness.
Self-awareness involves being conscious of different aspects of yourself — which include your traits, your behaviors, and your feelings.
It requires you to analyze yourself through reflection and introspection.
Without the presence of self-awareness in your life, you cannot begin to take responsibility for yourself.
It is the mirror in which you check your reflection. Without that mirror, you won’t be able to take stock of the image that stands in front of you.
According to the self-awareness theory, whenever we compare ourselves against our own standards of correctness we either give ourselves a “pass” or a “fail”.
People lacking in self-awareness find it difficult to objectively identify where and when they have failed.
4) It takes courage
Whenever you take responsibility you have to be prepared to face the shadow sides of yourself.
Accepting responsibility means acknowledging when you may have made an error or mistake.
It demands that you take a long hard look at yourself — the good, the bad, and the ugly. That can be an uncomfortable and even painful process. If you don’t have strong foundations of self-love and self-worth, it can be just too scary to face.
Being prepared to see your own flaws and act upon them takes immense bravery and courage.
It can feel much easier to brush your bad qualities under the carpet than do something about them.
Nobody is perfect, but taking a long hard look at yourself certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted.
5) It takes effort
When we recognize that the power to create our own results in life starts and ends with us, there are no more excuses.
The problem is, excuses are remarkably handy for allowing us to be lazy in life.
We didn’t get that promotion because the boss doesn’t like us, not because our work needs to improve.
We don’t have time to get fit because we’re far too busy, not because we are choosing to prioritize other things.
There’s no doubt that choosing better requires effort. We use excuses to let us off the hook whenever we are called to make an effort that we cannot be bothered with.
If we remain defeated and tell ourselves, it’s not my fault and there’s nothing I can do, it lets us off the hook.
Whatever happens to us in life, we are the ones that will ultimately make something of it — whether it be good or bad.
Accepting and acknowledging that although we cannot control what happens in life, we can always control our reaction demands that we make an effort.
6) You have to swallow your pride
Avoiding responsibility, through blaming external factors (whether that be circumstances or other people) in many ways elevates us.
If you think that everybody owes you, that life itself owes you, this inflates your pride.
Pride allows us to feel superior and above wrongdoing. When we admit our capacity for mistakes, we must admit our capacity for weakness.
Pride does not like to accept weakness because many of us get a sense of our social status through our pride.
That is why feeling a loss of pride is part of what provokes aggression and other antisocial behaviors in response to ego threats.
Swallowing your pride and admitting fault can shake the image we have of ourselves and our status in the world.
We often strive to regulate our sense of pride because of how intrinsically linked to self-esteem it is.
7) Being defensive is instinctive
Whenever we feel under attack Mother Nature has programmed us to instinctively fall into the stress response fight or flight mode.
That’s why when we experience criticism or blame, our natural reaction can often be to fight back rather than accept.
It’s hardwired in us to have a protective reflex to attack sources of threat. This is a protective response to keep us from harm — either physical or emotional. So even when our feelings are hurt, this kicks in to attempt to shield us.
Even though the danger is far from life or death, it can still feel that way in your body and mind. After all, blame from your co-worker over poor work can feel like a threat to your livelihood and safety.
This can explain why we find ourselves in petty arguments where we refuse to drop the blame game, and instead seek to retaliate (even when that only escalates the problem).
Although this can feel be an automatic response that you are not conscious of, self-awareness of this habit can become the antidote to ending the cycle.
8) We want to avoid shame
Let’s face it, being “to blame” makes us feel bad because it usually provokes a sense of shame within us.
Shame and guilt are self-conscious emotions that everyone feels throughout life at some point. They’re defined as:
“Negative affective states that occur in response to a transgression or shortcoming, and both are self-conscious emotions, meaning that self-reflection is critical to their occurrence”
Feeling shame can bring up a whole host of negative emotions that make us worry about being rejected, flawed, or inadequate in some way.
Taking responsibility for even seemingly small transgressions is difficult because it all feeds into this deeper fear running in the background that we are not good enough.
Shame serves a social function to prevent us from significant wrongdoing. Nobody wants to feel alone or ostracized and so it can be tempting to shirk responsibility rather than face the shame of your actions.
9) You’ve been taught to blame
From an early age, we all learn what is right and wrong, fair and unfair. Our parents, our teachers, and society instills this in us.
But this ingrained sense of justice also leads to judgment, shame, and guilt. And so we also learn that side-stepping blame allows us to avoid these uncomfortable emotions.
Lie, divert attention elsewhere and shift the blame and you might just get off scot-free.
“It wasn’t me, it was her fault”. Pushing responsibility onto others is often a pattern of behavior that starts when we are young and continues well into adulthood.
Denial is a coping mechanism that gives you time to adjust to distressing situations.
Whenever we find ourselves in denial we are trying to protect ourselves from something that is happening by refusing to accept the real truth about it.
Much like an absence of self-awareness, denial keeps us stuck because we cannot see through the skewed veil of perception we are placing on the world.
When we are in denial we tend to:
- Refuse to acknowledge a difficult situation
- Not face the facts of a problem
- Downplay possible consequences of the issue
When it comes to taking charge of your own life, denial allows you to hide from responsibility by completely hiding from it.
8 ways to take more responsibility for yourself:
1) Ditch your excuses
Making excuses when you mess up prevents you from growing through this learning opportunity.
When it comes to those everyday excuses we can make, bring awareness to the language that you use. For example, “I won’t” or “I choose not to” are more empowering than “I can’t” or “I should”.
Rather than find excuses for any decisions or actions you take, acknowledge that you have a choice.
2) Stop blaming other people
Blame does not improve a situation and only leads to anger, resentment, and bitterness.
Even when others make mistakes that impact you, ultimately you decide how you are going to feel about it.
3) Improve your habits
Creating better habits is a practical way to lay the foundations of greater self-responsibility.
It is these small choices and decisions that you make which help you to positively shape your own life — including what you eat, how often you exercise, the quality of your sleep, etc.
4) Work on your self-love
As I’ve said, it’s usually the people with low self-esteem that cannot handle the responsibility of being accountable.
Their image of themself is too fragile to handle the perceived criticism. That’s why self-love is an important component in building self-responsibility.
5) Embrace your flaws
The more you try to run from uncomfortable emotions or qualities within yourself you don’t like, the more you will feel the need to avoid responsibility.
Trying to ignore the shadow side of life or yourself only leads to denial.
6) Stop looking outside for the answers
Accepting that nobody is coming to save you is the first step of taking responsibility.
The ball is in your court, and you won’t find the answers you are looking for to improve your own life anywhere except within.
7) Be true to your word
Honoring the commitments you make to yourself and others is a powerful way of putting responsibility into action.
8) Be mindful of complaining
Moaning is an insidious habit that rewires your brain and is bad for your health, yet something that most of us indulge in.
Whilst a mild amount may be a way of letting off steam, complaining can easily spill over into victimhood and blame.
Bottomline: Why is it important to take responsibility for your actions?
Taking responsibility for yourself and your actions is so important as it turns you from a victim into being in control.
Taking responsibility certainly doesn’t mean having to shoulder the blame for every little thing that may go wrong. It’s more about facing whatever life throws at you and knowing what happens next is ultimately down to you.
Only when you face up to your own power and the influence you have over the direction of your own life can you steer your ship in the right direction.
Sometimes that will involve accepting your mistakes, correcting your behavior, and making amends.