Radical accountability: Holding yourself responsible so you can hold yourself POWERFUL


arielmstallings
Photo by Kai Schreiber used by creative commons license

My son and I were hanging out in the lot behind our home when one of my neighbors came down the alley in a small moving truck. She used her remote to open the sliding lot gate, and as a friend guided her from the alley, she proceeded to take the corner little too tightly. The side of her UHAUL mashed up against the gate, dramatically knocking it off its rail.

She backed up, took the corner wider, and made it into the lot. She hopped out of the truck looking understandably frustrated, and the first thing she said was this:

"Fuck that bitch at UHAUL for giving me such a huge truck…"

It's worth noting that the truck was not at all huge. It's also worth noting that the gate will be fine and it's not a big deal, but the moment was such any icky example of responsibility deflection. "FUCK THE WORLD FOR THAT THING I JUST DID TO MYSELF."

This reminded me of the response to a post I wrote years ago about motherhood identity. Right away, we got a couple comments from mothers with specific situations that meant they COULD NOT HAVE IDENTITIES. One reader snapped, "How nice for you," and went on to explain that she was a single mom with five kids in a new town with no support. "Having an identity outside of my family simply is not an option for me."

So first: wow. That sounds really hard. But second: wow. It's fascinating to see the way these we sometimes put ourselves into victim/"I have no choice in the matter" mode. It wasn't my fault I hit the gate — that UHAUL bitch gave me a huge truck! My situation is uniquely difficult in ways you can't even fathom, so of course I am exempt from having any control over my response to it.

Rather than put our energy into figuring out how we might be able to shift our situations, we'd rather spend time explaining why our situation is so uniquely shitty that it could never be anything other than shitty.

Here's the thing about blaming others: it might feel sort of good for a moment, but ultimately when you hold yourself accountable for your choices, you regain a sense of agency and power. When you blame others, you're trading responsibility for power… and I truly believe we all want to feel more powerful.

You have to hold yourself responsible, so you can hold yourself powerful.

Again, I TOTALLY get it — I have my moments in the muck of feeling angry and frustrated and GAH fuck everyone why is it all so hard and none of it is my fault fucking fuck fuck fuck. Those moments totally are important and necessary.

But just as necessary to me is finding a way OUT of those moments… finding your way back to "Ok, that sucked. How can I move forward now?"

How do you do that?

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  1. I used to work in a bakery that was chock full of drama and "omg, can you believe, this is so stupid" and so on. One day I came in and I was getting ready to work myself into a righteous rage for the day, and my sweet older mild mannered coworker stopped me and he asked very kindly, "Rena, is that how you want to be today?"

    It's hard to put into words how profound that was for me. All of that building rage evaporated instantly and I realized, "You know, I *don't* want to be that way today. I don't have to be upset about this at all." It was a mental shift that's stuck with me ever since, life is so much more pleasant when you're not outraged all the time.

    • "Is that how you want to be today" — FUCK YES. We don't have any control over what happens to us (sometimes jobs at bakeries suck and are full of drama), but we do have a little agency over how we react.

  2. I give myself a moment (or a dozen) to give the angries a chance to work themselves out – and myself a chance to get distracted ("How dare that no-good, sonofa-…Oooo, shiny…!")

    If I still can't cool down, then I try to remember the song referenced in this clip:

    https://youtu.be/fKy7ljRr0AA

    And I always end up grimly nodding my head and admitting, "yeah…I should be an adult about this….it's what he would have wanted."

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