I joined a gang – a blog gang. We are all posting on the same day about the same subject. You can find the links to the rest of my gang’s (I love saying that) posts at the end. This time our topic is Personal Responsibility. If you know me or read my blog, you know that this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Let me just dive right in.
To me personal responsibility is owning that while I can’t always control my circumstances, I can always control my reactions to them and how I allow them to affect me going forward. Thus I may not be able to control if someone breaks into my house, but once the break-in is over I choose to take responsibility for how I react to it and how I allow it to affect me in the future. Personal Responsibility doesn’t mean that I think that I can do everything alone. It means that I take responsibility for asking for help when I need it. If I find that having my house broken into has left me feeling unsafe, then I take responsibility for feeling that way and, if I want to feel differently, I take responsibility for figuring out what it will take (alarm system, therapy, starting a neighborhood watch etc.) to feel the way that I want to feel, and then making that happen. That doesn’t mean that what the thief did was ok, or that they shouldn’t be punished – it wasn’t and they should; but that’s a separate thing from how I choose to react and be affected in my life.
To be clear, this is a conscious choice. I could always just feel unsafe in my home and blame the thief for making me feel that way. That’s a perfectly viable life choice. If my goal is to justify why I live in fear so that other people will blame someone else and not me for my situation, then it seems like that kind of attitude would be just what I need. If my goal is to live in my house without fear, I’m just not sure how blaming someone else for the way I reacted to my circumstances and throwing up my hands will get me there.
If I’m not responsible for how my circumstances have affected me, then who the hell is? And more to the point, how can I change my circumstances? Do I just have to hope that a group of awesome people shows up at my house to protect me and make me feel safe again? So, what about fat people? One of the things I hear a lot is that obesity is caused by a “lack of personal responsibility”. People have said that in comments on this blog. But I don’t think that people really mean that I don’t take personal responsibility. If they read the blog they are well aware that I take complete responsibility for my health and well being, I just don’t happen to buy into the idea that I have to be thin to be healthy. I’ve done tons of research, drawn conclusions, created a strategy, implemented it in my life, and had fantastic outcomes in terms of my health (mental and physical), self-esteem, and body image, and now I offer the option that worked for me to other people.
I think that what people mean to say is that my idea of health doesn’t match theirs and so their definition of personal responsibility is that I am personally responsible for doing what is necessary to make them happy with who I am and how I look. That doesn’t work for me. I am not the boss of anyone else’s underpants – I get to make choices for me, you get to make choices for you. The thing that makes being fat different is that people feel that by looking at me they can ascertain that I’ve made “bad choices” and not been “personally responsible” and therefore they feel that they have right to judge me and say rude, cruel and accusatory things to me about my health and its impact on our society. Since their guesses are grossly erroneous, I suggest that their assumption is flawed. You cannot look at someone and tell their level of health, or how much personal responsibility they are taking for it. Even if you could, it’s absolutely not your business if someone is making healthy choices for themselves – that’s why it’s called personal responsibility. I can’t stop people from smoking or drinking or being bad drivers or crossing the street without looking or a million other things that may have to be paid for with my tax dollars. That’s just life.
I see this blog as an exercise in personal responsibility. Personal responsibility means that I speak my truth honestly and authentically, or I don’t speak at all. It also means that I understand that it’s MY truth, not everyone’s truth, and that I could be wrong and I’m responsible for that, too. I seem to have something that a lot of people want (high self-esteem, great health, great body image, great life), it wasn’t always this way and so I share the things that got me here in case it’s helpful to someone. The only goal of my sharing is to give people an option and then respect whatever they choose. To me that’s true personal responsibility and I hope that it catches on.