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Accepting Personal Responsibility

Chapter 16: Accepting Personal Responsibility

Tools for Personal Growth

By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.


What is accepting personal responsibility?

Accepting personal responsibility includes:

  • Acknowledging that you are solely responsible for the choices in your life.
  • Accepting that you are responsible for what you choose to feel or think.
  • Accepting that you choose the direction for your life.
  • Accepting that you cannot blame others for the choices you have made.
  • Tearing down the mask of defense or rationale for why others are responsible for who you are, what has happened to you, and what you are bound to become.
  • The rational belief that you are responsible for determining who your are, and how your choices affect your life.
  • Pointing the finger of responsibility back to yourself and away from others when you are discussing the consequences of your actions.
  • Realizing that you determine your feelings about any events or actions addressed to you, no matter how negative they seem.
  • Recognizing that you are your best cheerleader; it is not reasonable or healthy for you to depend on others to make you feel good about yourself.
  • Recognizing that as you enter adulthood and maturity, you determine how your self-esteem will develop.
  • Not feeling sorry for the bum deal you have been handed but taking hold of your life and giving it direction and reason.
  • Letting go of your sense of over-responsibility for others.
  • Protecting and nurturing your health and emotional well being.
  • Taking preventive health-oriented steps of structuring your life with time management, stress management, confronting fears, and burnout prevention.
  • Taking an honest inventory of your strengths, abilities, talents, virtues, and positive points.
  • Developing positive, self-affirming, self-talk scripts to enhance your personal development and growth.
  • Letting go of blame and anger toward those in your past who did the best they could, given the limitations of their knowledge, background, and awareness.
  • Working out anger, hostility, pessimism, and depression over past hurts, pains, abuse, mistreatment, and misdirection.

How can failing to accept personal responsibility result in negative consequences?

When you have not accepted personal responsibility, you run the risk of becoming:
  • Overly dependent on others for recognition, approval, affirmation, and acceptance.
  • Chronically hostile, angry, or depressed over how unfairly you have been or are being treated.
  • Fearful about ever taking a risk or making a decision.
  • Overwhelmed by disabling fears.
  • Unsuccessful at the enterprises you take on in life.
  • Unsuccessful in personal relationships.
  • Emotionally or physically unhealthy.
  • Addicted to unhealthy substances, such as the abuse of alcohol, drugs, food, or unhealthy behavior such as excessive gambling, shopping, sex, smoking, work, etc.
  • Over-responsible and guilt-ridden in your need to rescue and enable others in your life.
  • Unable to develop trust or to feel secure with others.
  • Resistant to vulnerability.


What do people believe who have not accepted personal responsibility?
  • It's not my fault I am the way I am.
  • I never asked to be born.
  • Now that you have me, what are you going to do with me?
  • I want you to fix me.
  • Life is unfair!
  • Why go on; I see no use in it.
  • You can't help me, nobody can help me. I'm useless and a failure.
  • God has asked too much of me this time. There is no way I'll ever be able to handle this.
  • When do the troubles and problems cease? I'm tired of all this.
  • Stop the world; I want to get off.
  • Life is so depressing. If only I had better luck and had been born to a healthier family, or attended a better school, or gotten a better job, etc.
  • How can you say I am responsible for what happens to me in the future? There is fate, luck, politics, greed, envy, wicked and jealous people, and other negative influences that have a greater bearing on my future than I have
  • How can I ever be happy, seeing how bad my life has been?
  • My parents made me what I am today!
  • The problems in my family have influenced who I am and what I will be; there is nothing I can do to change that.
  • Racism, bigotry, prejudice, sexism, ageism, and closed mindedness all stand in the way of my becoming what I really want to be.
  • No matter how hard I work, I will never get ahead.
  • You have to accept the luck of the draw.
  • I am who I am; there is no changing me.
  • No one is going to call me crazy, depressed, or troubled and then try to change me.


What terms are used to describe those who have not accepted personal responsibility?

martyrs  self-pitying  depressed  losers  quitters  chronically angry   dependent personalities  complainers  addictive personalities  blamers   stubborn    persons in denial    troubled people stuck  fearful   pessimists  despondent  mentally unstable  obstinate  hostile  aggressive  irresponsible  weak  guilt-ridden  resistant to help  passive  irrational  insecure  neurotic  obsessed  lost

What behavior traits can be developed in order to accept personal responsibility?

In order to accept responsibility, develop the ability to:

  • Seek out and to accept help for yourself.
  • Be open to new ideas or concepts about life and the human condition.
  • Refute irrational beliefs and overcome fears.
  • Affirm yourself positively.
  • Recognize that you are the sole determinant of the choices you make.
  • Recognize that you choose your responses to the people, actions, and events in your life.
  • Let go of anger, fear, blame, mistrust, and insecurity.
  • Take risks and to become vulnerable to change and growth in your life.
  • Take off the masks of behavior characteristics behind which you hide low self-esteem.
  • Reorganize your priorities and goals.
  • Realize that you are the party in charge of the direction your life takes.
What are the steps in accepting personal responsibility?
Step 1:  To decide if you are having problems accepting personal responsibility, answer the following questions in your journal:
  • How frequently do you claim that others have determined what you are today?
  • How easy is it to accept that you are responsible for your choices in life?
  • How easy it is to believe that you determine the direction your life takes?
  • How easy is it to blame others for where you are today?
  • What masks do you hide behind to avoid accepting personal responsibility?
  • How rational are you in dealing with the part you played in being who you are today?
  • How easy is it to accept blame or admit mistakes?
  • How easy is it to accept that you determine your feelings when negative events occur?
  • How easy is it to depend solely on yourself for acceptance, affirmation, and approval?
  • How willing are you to be the sole determinant of the health of your self-esteem?
  • How frequently do you feel sorry for yourself?
  • How easy is it to let go of guilt if you stop rescuing those in your life?
  • How willingly do you take preventive steps to ensure your physical and emotional health?
  • How successfully have you practiced self-affirmation in your life?
  • How successfully have you practiced anger work-out and letting go in order to get on with your life?


Step 2:  Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 5 as to the level of personal responsibility you have accepted in each of the following areas: (Use the following scale as you write in your journal.)
1 = always irresponsible 2 = usually irresponsible   3 = irresponsibility balanced out with responsibility (neutral) 4 = usually responsible 5 = always responsible


Rating Levels of Responsibility Taking in Relevant Areas of My Life
  1. Taking the preventive and maintenance measures to ensure physical health
  2. Taking the preventive and maintenance measures to ensure emotional health
  3. Controlling weight and over-eating
  4. Stopping smoking, excessive drinking, and drug abuse.
  5. Controlling excessive gambling, shopping, and sexual behavior
  6. Controlling workaholism
  7. Taking the preventive, and maintenance measures to ensure healthy relationships
  8. Taking the necessary steps to overcome my current problems and troubles
  9. Taking the necessary steps to protect myself from being victimized by my rescuing and enabling of others
  10. Managing my time, managing the stress in my life, overcoming my fears, and preventing burnout in my life

Score:  A rating of 3 or less in any of the areas indicates a need to accept personal responsibility.


Step 3:  Identify your beliefs that prevent acceptance of responsibility for yourself. Develop new, rational, replacement beliefs to help you accept responsibility for yourself.


Step 4:  You are now ready to develop a plan of action. For each area of your life, identify that tools you will use to accept personal responsibility. The following Tools for Coping tools are available to help you determine your action plan:
The Tools for Coping Tool Box

  • Handling Irrational Beliefs
  • Self-affirmations
  • Handling Guilt
  • Building Trust
  • Handling Insecurity
  • Becoming Vulnerable
  • Overcoming Fears
  • On Becoming a Risk Taker
  • Spirituality
  • Time Management
  • Stress Reduction
  • Preventing Burnout
  • Overcoming Perfectionism
Write your plan of action in your journal. Date and sign it. You are now ready to begin accepting personal responsibility.


Step 5:  If you still have trouble in accepting responsibility for yourself, return to Step 1 and begin again.