Minding Your Own Business: Taking Ownership of Your Life
I’ve talked before about minding your own business. Part of minding your own business is staying in your lane, not minding other people’s business, staying clear of trying to control or influence them to behave the way we want them to behave.
Another part of minding your own business is taking 100% responsibility for our own thoughts, behaviors, lives.
It means being honest about what we think, feel, and do, and why. It’s acknowledging that we have choices and are constantly making choices.
One of the biggest challenges in therapy and transformational work is that we don’t want to feel bad about ourselves. After all, we entered into personal growth work because we weren’t feeling great about our lives and ourselves to begin with.
As we engage in self-inquiry, we inevitably uncover ways that we aren’t being fully honest with ourselves and/or others. This is when resistance to change comes into play. It’s not unusual to want to leave therapy at this juncture. However, being honest with oneself is a critical component of feeling better in the long-term.
Taking ownership is one of the most empowering things you can do!
Let’s take a look at why taking ownership can feel so challenging, and how we can embrace ownership for our choices.
Taking Ownership of Your Life
Taking ownership of your life is important if you want to be free. So how do you take ownership? It starts with coming face to face with the truth.
So what is the truth?
Discovering the truth requires peeling back the layers of our defenses. Our stories, our beliefs, our ego’s attempts to deflect responsibility for our experience.
Notice when you are making excuses. This might come in the form of blaming someone else or the circumstances we find ourselves in.
- “I would have helped you, but I was too busy at work.”
- “I only lied because I knew you would be upset if I told the truth.”
- “I drive down that street every day and everyone drives over the speed limit. It’s not fair that I’m the one that got pulled over and ticketed.”
Notice the deflection in each case. We try to save face by blaming something outside of ourselves. But deep down inside we know the real truth.
- “I didn’t help you because I chose not to. I chose to do something else instead.”
- “I didn’t tell the truth because I didn’t want to face your disappointment in me.”
- “I got a ticket because I was speeding.”
Telling the truth is simple and liberating. It doesn’t mean that we won’t face consequences for our behavior, but it does mean that we don’t carry around the additional burden of being dishonest.
When we are honest, we can hold our heads up high. No more slinking around in the shadows of our half-truths.There is liberation in self-knowledge.
We can’t know ourselves if we’re not being honest. We’re also more likely to repeat harmful behaviors if we’re not being honest with ourselves. As we explore what we are doing, we can move on to understanding why we do things.
Let’s say we’ve had a trauma and we feel triggered by something someone says, by a scene in a movie, or an opinion in a social media post. We can lash out angrily, blaming something outside of ourselves for how we are feeling. “How could you say that!” “There should be a law against that kind of movie.” “That meme hurt me.” You see that in each case there is an attempt to criticize or control the external world.
By blaming the trigger, we’re not curious about ourselves. We are in self-protection mode. However, in the long-run, self-care instead of self-protection would be more useful. Self-care would involve acknowledging the trauma and working to heal from that trauma so that triggers have less power over us.
Honesty opens us up to freedom and the possibility for transformation. Because when we don’t depend on external factors to dictate our thoughts and feelings, we’re free to choose for ourselves instead of avoiding triggers. We can heal the parts of ourselves that get triggered so we can move more freely through the world.
Accountability is not the same as blaming or being harsh with ourselves
We can swing to the opposite side of the spectrum and instead of blaming others, become harsh with ourselves and think we’re bad or unforgivable for our thoughts and behaviors.
Loving kindness to yourself as well as others is foundational to spiritual growth. Opening up to transformational work means accepting your human frailties. We will behave in ways that are harmful to ourselves or others. It is unavoidable as a human being. We might as well accept it and try to understand and grow from it.
Whether we like it or not, we are accountable for our actions or inactions, unless we are in an altered state, i.e. dementia, brain damage, mental illness, etc.
It can help to focus on the facts of the situation rather than the emotions behind it when taking responsibility. Ownership without self-blame might look something like this:
- “I did x.”
- “Yes, I did x and now I see that this was the outcome of that behavior.” (intended or unintended)
- “Now, what am I going to do next?”
Taking accountability isn’t the same as beating yourself up and helps you move forward.
Compassion is key.
In compassion, there is no room for blame or judgement.
When you have compassion for yourself, you realize that you acted from the level of consciousness you had at the time. See your level of consciousness as a fact rather than a judgement.
After all, do you judge a baby for crawling instead of walking? Do you blame the baby and get upset when she falls down?
If you want to change the level of compassion, look at where you were before you reached that level, and notice that you grew. Accept that you’re always growing, developing, and that the process isn’t linear.
Ownership Leads to Empowerment
We might think we’re being kind to ourselves by avoiding being honest and taking ownership for our own thoughts, actions, and lives, but we’re actually telling ourselves we don’t trust in our resilience or ability to handle the truth. When we don’t see ourselves as capable, we’re short-changing ourselves. We’re not as fragile as we think we are.
Ultimately, you make choices that create your life. Be compassionate to yourself, and be honest about why you do what you do and allow what you allow. That honesty doesn’t always feel good, and it might be complex.
For example, if you stayed in an emotionally abusive relationship for many years, you might want to put all the blame on your partner rather than take ownership for your part.
This does not mean the abusive behavior was your fault, because it wasn’t. But noticing your part in it will empower you to make different choices in the future instead of allowing the cycle to repeat.
You might ask yourself, with compassion, why you stayed. Because of financial stability? Because you loved your partner? Because you were afraid to leave or be alone? No judgement here, just be honest.
You may ask how you made it easier for your partner to treat you that way and how you were complicit. Perhaps, making excuses for him, not setting boundaries, or putting your partner on a pedestal. Again, this is just information, not an invitation to beat yourself up.
In this example, if you blame yourself for the abusive behavior, you might think: “He said something terrible and I took it the wrong way.” In fact, that’s probably something your abuser told you: “You’re too sensitive. You took that the wrong way. You can’t take a joke.” This only perpetuates the abuse toward yourself.
If you take ownership, however, your thought might be “He said something untrue about me, and I believed it.” With that thought, you realize you can choose to believe what your partner said to you or not. You have the choice.
It also helps to stop identifying with the word “abuse.” Even if that’s what it was, identifying with drama words like that can keep us in a state of blame instead of ownership and empowerment.
Instead, stick to facts. Instead of “he verbally abused me,” think “he said I’m stupid and careless.” Instead of “he put me down” think “he said something I know isn’t true, and I took it in. I believed it.”
The freedom comes from knowing that you have a choice. You can choose what to believe in, and you don’t have to buy into it.
When you have that freedom, you can act. In the case of an abusive relationship, you can ask yourself “do I want to be with someone who says I’m stupid and careless?” And you can choose what to do next because you know you have ownership of your thoughts and actions.
Getting honest is often uncomfortable, but it is empowering to realize you always have a choice. Again, have compassion for yourself and know that you acted from the level of consciousness you had. This allows you to grow to a new level of consciousness where you’re able to make a different choice.
Until we take ownership, we’re not free. We’re being avoidant, we’re letting external factors determine what we feel, think, and do.
Minding your own business is empowering!
You might notice that self-talk and the language we use with ourselves plays a big role in taking ownership. The way we talk to ourselves and others affects all our relationships! If you want to improve every relationship in your life (including your relationship with yourself), join me on May 3rd for a Conscious Communication workshop! Learn more here.
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