Musings on Self-Responsibility

Having worked with people for so many years with the aim of building self-esteem, I have always been on the lookout for decisive moments in psychotherapy, instances when a “click” seems to occur in the client’s mind and new forward motions begins.

One of the most important of such moments is when the client grasps that no is coming. When they realize that no one is coming to save them; no one is coming to make life right for them; no one is coming to solve their problems. If they don’t do something, nothing is going to get better.

The dream of a rescuer who will deliver us may offer a kind of comfort, but it leaves us passive and powerless. We may hope that suffering long enough will somehow lead to a miracle, but that is the kind of self-deception one pays for with one’s life as it drains away into the abyss of unredeemable possibilities and irretrievable days, months and decades.

Some years ago, in my group therapy room, we hung on the wall a number of sayings that I often found useful in the course of my work. A client made me a gift of several of these sayings done in needlepoint, each with its own frame. One of these was “No one is coming.”

One day, a group member with a sense of humor playfully challenged me about the saying. “Nathaniel, it’s not true,” he said. “You came.”

“Correct,” I admitted. “But I came to say that no one is coming.”

To feel competent to live and feel worthy of happiness, people need to experience a sense of control over their existence. This requires them to be willing to take responsibility for their actions and the attainment of their goals.

Self-responsibility is essential to self-esteem, and it is also a reflection or manifestation of self-esteem. The practices that generate self-esteem are also natural expressions and consequences of self-responsibility.

The practice of self-responsibility entails these realizations:

  • I am responsible for the achievement of my desires.
  • I am responsible for my choices and actions.
  • I am responsible for the level of consciousness I bring to my work.
  • I am responsible for my behavior toward other people, whether they are coworkers, associates, customers, a spouse, children or friends.
  • I am responsible for how I prioritize my time.
  • I am responsible for the quality of my communications.
  • I am responsible for my personal happiness.
  • I am responsible for accepting or choosing the values by which I live. I am responsible for raising my self-esteem.

The practice of self-responsibility is one of the six pillars of self-esteem.