Taking ownership of your feelings is important because it empowers you to decide what happens next in your life. When I was younger, I always focused on external causes, but more recently I realize the role I was playing in my emotional response to situations.
It is essential to take ownership of our feelings because that is often the only thing we can control in many situations. We don’t have much say in who or where we find ourselves, but we can control how we respond to our circumstances. Taking ownership gives us power so that we no longer need to be validated by other people.
I can appreciate how difficult it is to get others to respect or understand our feelings. But I also realize how important it is to take ownership over our response to difficult situations.
Read on to learn more about how you can empower yourself through personal responsibility.
Taking Ownership Is Difficult
In a previous article, we talked about how much control we have over our fate. In that article, I discussed how I did something horrible and felt like I had no control over it. Even though I cheated over a decade ago, it still resides in my mind. While I maintain my actions were outside my control, that doesn’t free me of the responsibilities of my actions.
Now, you may be asking, “if you had no control, how can you be responsible?” And while I may be tempted to say “because,” I know the answer requires more explanation than that. The truth is that our actions have consequences, which means they affect ourselves and other people. And while my actions physically hurt no one, there were long-term emotional scars.
When I told my ex about what had happened, she got furious at me and said some hurtful things. This, of course, is understandable; I hurt her first. But what happened while I tried to explain, which made no difference, also lead me to get defensive.
When people attack us, we want to defend ourselves, which often makes our problems worse.
By the time I had told my ex about what I had done, there wasn’t anything I could do about the situation. It had already happened, and things had gone too far. I could say sorry and try to explain, but none of that would have made any difference. On the other hand, I could have tried to defend myself on the public forums of Facebook, but there was no point in that either.
Long story short, I had to sit back and wait for the dust to settle, and while there was nothing I could have done about what had happened, it was still my fault. It took some time, but I finally realized that I had made a mistake, it was my fault, and I had to apologize.
But at the time, that hardly mattered; it took saying something long after the event for it to be more meaningful.
The thing was, even though my ex hated me and moved on, I still had guilt linger on inside of my mind. So in a way, my apologizing and explaining was for myself as much as it was for her. And while it didn’t make a difference to her, in time, I was able to accept what I had done, what it meant and how I could move forward with my life.
I had to take ownership of my feelings; I could blame fate; I could blame my ex for not being there for me when I needed her or for all the wicked things she said about me online after the fact. But none of that mattered. What mattered was that my feelings were inside me and had nothing to do with the outside world, even if it felt that way.
When something eventful happens, it is easy to look at all the factors contributing to it and point blame.
It is also easy to point the finger at other people when they wrong us. But what often gets missed is the differences between what happens in the world and our response to it. What is most important is that we realize what we can and can’t control in any situation.
I couldn’t change anything about the situation as so far as what I did or how other people responded to those things. But I could control how I felt about it or how I responded to it. Indeed, it took a long time for me to accept this, but it made things much easier to deal with once I did.
Why Take Ownership of Our Feelings
The most important reason it’s essential to control our feelings is that it is empowering. Put another way, when we blame other people, we give them power over us. On top of this, while they might not have any real power over us, blaming them gives them power within our mind’s understanding of the situation.
What matters here is that we don’t want to depend on someone else’s actions to make us feel better.
If someone hurts you and you associate your feelings with them externally rather than yourself internally, you will also need to resolve the issue externally. This may make you feel like you need something back from them to feel better. Put another way; you might rationalize that the only way you feel better about what has happened is to get an apology.
But the problem with this is that you can’t always expect someone to realize their mistakes or feel that they owe you something in return. Put another way; if we attribute our emotions to external things, then we require external resolutions. But if we understand and accept that our feelings about something are on our shoulders, then at least there is something we, ourselves, can do about that.
I’m not suggesting that people can’t be shitty or do bad things to us because they do all the time.
Instead, I’m saying that we can’t control other people, so we must learn to control ourselves instead. Emotions often drive our feelings, but emotions are quick responses. So instead, we want to focus on what we can control, like our beliefs and expectations.
While my brother can be a real jerk sometimes, I don’t believe that he will ever change or that I can expect him to think differently than he already does. This means, though, that when he is a jerk, I should expect that, or at least I shouldn’t expect him to act differently than he has in the past.
When we don’t expect other people to be perfect, we can accept them for who they are, flaws and all. We may also realize that they may have wronged us without realizing it, as their belief system may describe their actions as justified and sound.
Once we can separate the person, the action, and our response, we can see the three things as different things.
Seeing things more clearly enables us to have more power over our reactions because we control our responses, not other people. In other words, we need to learn to take personal responsibility for our feelings and how we respond to situations.
When we have taken personal responsibility for ourselves, we have more control over how we respond to the things that happen to us. From there, we can gain power over other people’s effect on us because their words and actions no longer have the same effect on us.
How to Take Ownership of Our Feelings
The first thing you need to do to take ownership of your feels is to stop making excuses. It is effortless to blame other people or point to other things, but we give away some of our power when we do this.
While an excuse might make us feel better about what we have done, it doesn’t help us improve ourselves or move on.
To stop making excuses, you need to realize that you are making excuses. How you would know you were making an excuse isn’t always clear, but if you point blame somewhere else, that is a good hint. Another thing to consider is when you don’t take responsibility, i.e., acknowledging that you messed up, then you are likely making excuses.
Whenever you find yourself making an excuse, accept what you have done and try to turn it into something you can do something about. As we mentioned earlier, if you point the blame externally, then something outside needs to happen for resolution.
On the other hand, if you realize you are pointing the blame outside, you can instead accept responsibility and do something different about it.
To move forward with taking ownership of your feelings, you need to look at yourself and ask yourself, why am I doing this? Why am I responding this way? While it might be challenging to come up with answers to these questions, it is worth taking some time to consider them.
Whenever you do something that doesn’t feel right or seems to be causing pain, ask yourself why?
The key is to be honest with yourself about “the why.” Often, when we come up with excuses, we aren’t genuine. But other times, we aren’t even making excuses; we might instead not be honest with ourselves about our motivations. Sometimes we might be scared to admit our flaws, interests or even the basics of our personality.
While being honest can be difficult, it is also essential to be compassionate with ourselves. Sometimes we make mistakes, so it is crucial to understand that and be forgiving of ourselves. We can’t get too down on ourselves about our errors; we need to be willing to accept ourselves for ourselves.
All of this honest leads to a clearer understanding of why we do what we do. With this awareness, we can look at our responses to situations, try and slow down, and try to act differently when we can. Continued practise of this will enable us to take more control of our feelings.
Once you’ve learnt to take ownership of your feelings, it will be much easier to respond more rationally to problems.
If we can get past pointing blame, we are always putting the responsibility in our own hands, which is empowering. And while that might be scary at times, it is the key to moving forward, self-improving and become a better, more amazing person.
So rather than giving other people power over ourselves, remember that you are in control, and you can decide and respond differently if you choose to.