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Why Taking Responsibility is Crucial to Better Relationships

Young Asian man with holes in his jeans sitting and looking into space
When is it appropriate to take responsibility?

Is it difficult for you to take responsibility for your mistakes? Do you shame yourself if someone gives you feedback on how you could have done something better? Sometimes, if you were mistreated growing up or suffered narcissistic abuse, you might find it hard to take even constructive, well-meaning feedback from others. You might find it painful and humiliating, even if the person making the suggestions is only trying to help you. You don’t know how to distinguish your original abuser from someone who is looking out for you. This post is meant to help you distinguish when it is useful to take responsibility and when it is inappropriate.

When is taking responsibility appropriate?

If you made a mistake or acted in ways that you regret now, it is important to acknowledge your mistake and find a way to address it with whoever you wronged. It’s very tempting to deny that you acted that way, because you don’t want to get in trouble or don’t want people to think less of you. Even if other people would not judge you harshly, you imagine that they would because you project your own self-loathing onto them and assume they are thinking the same negative things about you that you think about yourself.

Ultimately, however, not taking responsibility erodes your relationships. It degrades your relationships with others because they cannot trust you as much, but it also erodes your relationship with yourself. you each have the opportunity every day to choose the road with integrity and honesty, or the road that might seem easier and more profitable in the short run, which is to justify and deck responsibility. Think about what characteristics you admire and other people. I’m guessing that you admire people who have integrity and are honest. If you don’t take responsibility when you do something wrong, you are acting without integrity or honesty.

It can be hard to see why this is so important until you’ve had negative consequences happen because of not taking responsibility. Sometimes it’s not even a conscious decision that you make, but rather a pattern of cutting corners, ignoring signs and thinking that someone else will take care of something for you that you are supposed to do for yourself.

Don’t let your relationship wounds fester!

Ultimately, however, when you let something go for too long and don’t take responsibility, you suffer more than if you had been accountable for your own actions from the beginning. I see this in relationships between people all the time, and it makes it hard for trust and friendship to flourish between people.

If you expect other people to make up a deficit that you incurred when you were children or younger adults, is it really fair to the other person? you all need to help one another, but you must also help yourself. When you don’t, you run the risk of losing the opportunity to have integrity and power over your life.

It’s not always easy to take responsibility, especially if we’ve done something that you know has hurt someone else or taken away from someone else. However, if you don’t do this, you are harming the relationship as well as your sense of self as a trustworthy person. Owning responsibility and humbly apologizing goes a lot further than masking, denying and justifying. It takes courage to face the consequences of your actions, but in that courage, you are proving to yourself what kind of person you are.

What if someone tries to blame you for something you didn’t do?

There are times when someone tries to blame you for something they did, or for an emotional reaction that has nothing to do with you. Narcissists will also make you feel responsible for hurting their feelings, even if you are simply setting a boundary with them after they hurt your feelings. This can be awfully confusing, especially if you grew up accepting narcissistic abuse from a family member like a parent. You might be so used to accepting responsibility inappropriately that other people might take advantage of this tendency.

Many times, perpetrators of physical or sexual abuse try to make their young victims feel responsible for their actions. They cannot accept responsibility for their own cruelty, and so they blame their victims for making them act violently. Unfortunately, if you have survived this type of situation, you might take responsibility for awful acts against yourself. You may even start to believe what they are telling you and believe that you deserve mistreatment.

Abusive spouses or lovers can play this trick on you as well. It is imperative to get mental health treatment if you believe you deserve any kind of abuse, because it simply isn’t true. That belief pattern can set up a lifetime of victimization and erode your self-esteem. You must prioritize your own mental health needs over those of people who would hurt you emotionally or physically.

This is where taking responsibility is tricky. You do not want to take responsibility for what other people do to you. However, you can take responsibility for getting yourself out of a dangerous situation and taking steps to heal from the abuse.

If you struggle with taking responsibility for something that has happened to you or that you have done in the past, psychotherapy can help. Please call me at 661-233-6771 to find out how you can learn to be accountable and empowered by owning your glorious moments in life as well as your mistakes.



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