Personal Growth Means Giving Up Something You’ve Held Onto for Way Too Long
Get honest, be accountable and own your crap.
As a clinical social worker, anytime I say that to a client I usually end up getting either a reaction of total fear and panic, or people tell me to go screw myself. Confronting the reality of accountability is one of the most anxiety-provoking conversations people can have, which is why they often work so hard to avoid addressing it…. but when they actually do start talking about it, and then figure out what to do with it, it’s incredible to me the ways that I see people starting to change.
You see, a big part of being accountable means understanding the power of choice and both the positive and negative consequences of things we choose. Yet, we create stories for ourselves. We fill in the gaps, the blank spaces, until we assign responsibility to everyone around us for the crap that happens in our lives. Often, we look at all things external to explain away the reasons we feel lousy.
But the stories we create aren’t always right. They’re not always honest. True, sometimes bad things happen to good, well intentioned people. But more often than not, we look to assign responsibility for our issues to the people and things around us, because if we create superficial excuses, we avoid accountability. We deny ownership of our choices and the consequences – good and bad – that they carry.
Trust me. I did this in my own life for almost a decade. I struggled with confidence, body-image, and self-love since I was a teenager. As an adult, these issues morphed into chronic anxiety and bouts of depression that compounded, leading me to get into a marriage that was co-dependent and all things unhealthy. The first few years of that relationship seemed ok, but after the birth of my daughter, I developed post-partum depression and anxiety.
Most days, I felt like it was all I could do to just keep my head above water. I struggled so much with looking at my very emotional self, because it was so painful. But after having it pointed out to me that I clearly wasn’t ok, I couldn’t un-see the obvious. So I got honest with myself and went to therapy, slowly working my way through the challenges post-partum depression and anxiety bring.
Gradually, my marriage unraveled over the next two years. Truthfully, I don’t think either one of us realized what was happening. In the process of the unraveling, if there was an excuse to be made for choices and poor behaviors, I made all of them. I assigned ownership of those choices to anything and everything I could, except where it belonged—with me. I dismissed all the things that were obvious to everyone else who cared about me, simply because I didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t want to have to be honest about what was going on, and I didn’t want to be accountable. It was simply too uncomfortable – too painful – and I didn’t want to deal with it.
Until I had to. You see, life will only allow us to avoid accountability for so long. Eventually, life will turn around, slap us across the face, and tell us to wake up. We make literally hundreds of choices every single day, and they all come with consequences. When I finally acknowledged my marriage was over, my journey of growth and change began. I could no longer un-see the consequences of the choices I had been making all along, because I finally got honest with myself.
Once I did that, I finally became accountable to my choices and assigned ownership of responsibility where it belonged. There simply was no turning back. I was finally willing to get uncomfortable for the sake of growing, and the last two years have been nothing short of exponential progress.
We avoid accountability for two reasons. First, it means acknowledging most of the things that make us the most uncomfortable, and second, it means we have to take ownership of those issues so that we can do something to fix them. But we avoid, and then we complain that we feel crappy if we’re not growing. Well we can’t have it both ways.
So, you can have your crap.
Or you can have your growth, in all its uncomfortable, messy, beautiful glory.
You can’t have both. It just doesn’t work that way.
So what do you choose? Because like it or not – this IS a choice, and I’ll hold you to it.