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Embracing Personal Responsibility

Fearlessly take ownership of your actions and emotions

a super woman

Accountability is probably one of the most sensitive topics we deal with. Being able to admit fault, in any way, is difficult. It requires us to swallow our ego, something we often mistake as confidence because of how we are conditioned.

But taking ownership of how we behave and how we feel is a crucial component of overcoming victimhood and growing personally or professionally. The more we can be accountable to ourselves, in our most vulnerable times, the more comfortable we become with accountability regardless the situation. And as a result, our confidence will outgrow our ego.

Holding ourselves responsible for how we act and feel when we are in states of self-pity is even more difficult but even more rewarding.

Here’s a story:

I grew up playing ice hockey and became pretty decent all the way up through my teenage years. There were no girl’s teams in my area, so I played entirely with the boys through my first two years of high school.

a female hocker player

In 2005, I was recruited to play and finish high school at St. Mark’s, a prep/boarding school in Massachusetts. St. Mark’s would provide me bigger opportunities to get a D1 college scholarship.

Three months into my first year and my first season I was diagnosed with endocarditis, a bacterial infection in the heart that came with a 30% death rate and 50/50 chance of survival after 10 years. After 3 weeks taking antibiotics 7 times a day, I lost every ounce of my elite athlete muscle and I started having brain seizures that left me with no memory of the next year.

A woman in the hospital with Santa Claus

Eventually I fully recovered and went back to St. Mark’s acting like nothing happened, jumping right into softball tryouts the next week. Our first warmup was inchworms, where you put your hands down on the ground, walk out to a pushup, then walk your feet in and standup, repeating the movement until you got all the way across the field. On the third worm, I fell to the ground because I was too weak to do them and I began to uncontrollably, ugly cry right there on the field in front of everyone.

I wasn’t crying because I couldn’t do the inchworms, I was crying because I was embarrassed I couldn’t do them, because I came into St. Mark’s as this amazing athlete ready to prove my worth and I was failing. I felt so defeated by the hand endocarditis had dealt and self-pity was flowing through my tears.

I thought how am I going to come back from this? Everything I had was the result of years and years of work that completely disintegrated in just months.

If you listen closely, you can even hear the victimhood in this story.

That day at tryouts, that moment on the ground crying, I chose to take ownership of my actions and emotions. Instead feeling scared and sorry for myself and crying about it, I fearlessly owned it and took control of it.

After that day, I worked harder than ever. I put all my muscle back on, got back into better shape than I was before, and was at the top my game. I entered into my senior year as captain of all three of my soccer, hockey and softball teams and was fielding looks from several D1 schools. I even won the Fearing Prize, awarded to the best female athlete in the school.

The Takeaway:

Taking ownership of my own victim mentality was extremely hard, especially because I had to live in it for a while before I could even realize that I was in it. In all honestly, it truly sucked going through that experience - and not the experience of fighting endocarditis or having brain seizures, but the experience of feeling worthless and pitiful.

The power I gained from taking control of that experience and turning it into fuel - it rivals almost anything I’ve done to this day, particularly because I gained comfort with doing it again and again and again.

If you need some help understanding how to take ownership, and how to do so courageously, here are some tools to keep in your kit:

  1. Be brave enough to sit at the bottom. It’s important to be brave in taking accountability, but it’s just as important to know that sitting at the bottom is a part of living life so fiercely and part of knowing where the tickover is from self-pity to accountability.

  2. Focus on the endgame. Taking responsibility the first time will help you take responsibility the second time, and the third time, and so on. Remembering that it only gets easier the more you do it can help you fearlessly take the first step.

  3. Level up by being the one-off. Taking ownership is not something many people want to do, it can be awkward and uncomfortable. Those who do take ownership are the few who will level up, and leveling up is empowering. Set yourself apart from the crowd by being the one that isn’t afraid to show up and own up.

Character is the most underrated yet most respected attribute a person can have, and taking accountability is a critical piece of character.

Think about the one person you respect the most, would s/he hesitate to take ownership of their imperfections? Would they allow themselves to wallow in victimhood or suffering, or would they take control of their actions and emotions and pull themselves out?

What about you?

I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself. 
D.H. Lawrence


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