A few years ago, I went through a really bad breakup (Pause—is there ever a good breakup?). Without going into detail, I’ll just say that the guy I was dating is not a great human, and how he chose to end the relationship was not okay.
When that final blow came from him, I quickly dove head first into the warm waters of wallowing. I had dozens of reasons—all valid—for why I felt I was entitled to lay in bed, shut off the outside world and drown in my sadness. I was entitled to eat bags of chips. I was entitled to escape my feelings with a bottle of white wine. I was entitled to shut my phone off and cancel work.
All of this was true. I was allowed to respond in whatever way I wanted. I had given my all to the relationship, done everything I could to make it work, to make him happy.
But what was also true was that what I was facing at that moment was 100% my responsibility. It was up to me, and only me, pick up the mess—literally and figuratively—and rebuild my life. My choices and the state of my life were in no way his responsibility.
We have all faced a similar situation in our lives. Whether it’s been a breakup, a judging panel not liking us, an unfair termination, an addiction or the diagnosis of a physical or mental illness, we’ve all felt the sting of adversity. Someone hurt us. Someone abused us. Something cheated us.
This stuff is rarely—if ever—our fault.
Yet, what we choose to do with this stuff is 100%, fully and entirely our responsibility.
This means if you were abused as kid, it is never your fault, but it is your responsibility to give yourself an amazing fucking life. It means if you were left at the alter, it is your responsibility to move on, to love yourself in all the ways that person was unwilling and to claim your happily ever after. Taking responsibility for your situation and what happened to you does not necessitate forgiveness. It does not necessitate skirting your feelings or absolving someone else of blame. But it does necessitate that you woman or man up.
What so often happens, though, is that we create a story to justify where we are—and we’re entitled to do this. If we’re out of work, struggling to lose weight or drowning in debt, there’s a reason why we are where we are. More often than not, these reasons aren’t our fault. But, as we begin to formulate a story around our current situation, we can sometimes turn these reasons into excuses. And, over time, these excuses turn us into victims.
The truth is, we have no control over other people’s behavior and actions. But we have the responsibility to take ownership for ourselves; this is the only variable in life that we can control. Initially, taking complete ownership over your life will feel like someone threw a pitcher of cold water at your face. It will shock you. You may cling to your entitlement and do everything you can to avoid responsibility. I wanted to do this after that breakup, and you are allowed to do this. But the longer you avoid the cold sting of taking 100% responsibility for your life, the longer you’ll remain a victim.
You are not a victim. And when you choose to take total ownership, a funny things happens: You quickly fall into a sense of overwhelming calm. You become determined, and you realize you're in control. This is where true empowerment comes from. Because suddenly, you understand that all that amazing stuff you want in life? You have the ability to give this to yourself. No matter what has happened to you, no matter what someone has done to you, you get to choose to make your life amazing. By choosing to take complete responsibility—for where you are right now and where you're going to be tomorrow—you give yourself the most important gift in life: The understanding that this life is 100% up to you, and making it great is entirely in your hands.