Monday, June 6, 2011

The difference between "owning it" and "you're on your own."

The other day I posted this quote from Albert Ellis:  "The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own.  You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president.  You realize that you control your own destiny."  

Then I received this comment from a reader named Genevieve:  "I agree that it's up to us, but I also think sometimes we need help. I went to a funeral today for a woman who apparently didn't have help, and her "demons" got the best of her. So tragic."

It struck me that there is a disconnect here between what I read in that quote and what she got from it.  After  reading both the quote and her comment a few times, I could see her point and felt that I needed to address it.

To me, this thought is all about the blame game.  There are so many times that we want to shift the blame for our problems to other people or to circumstances beyond our control.  "I wouldn't be so fat if my parents had taught me better habits." "My kid would do better in school if the teacher would just pay more attention to him." That may seem easier, but in reality it takes away our power to change our lives.  Taking responsibility for our lives can be scary, but it also means that we can make changes and decisions that will be true happiness and peace.    Other people and circumstances do affect our lives, but we cannot allow them to control us.  We "own" who we are, imperfections and all, in order to become who we want to be.

I think the danger in this thought, and what Genevieve was observant enough to pick up on, is if you just focus on the phrase "your problems are your own."  Believing that our problems are entirely our own affair can wall us off from the people around us, as I wrote about in a previous post "I thought I was the only one..."  We must be willing to let our guard down and let people in so that we can get help when we need it.  And everyone needs help once in a while.  Admitting that we need help empowers other to ask for help as well.  Sometimes we need a strong shoulder to lean on (or cry on), and sometimes we can be that person for someone else.  But if we keep up a facade of perfection, we are cut off from both roles.  We can't ask for help, and others don't feel comfortable asking it of us.

Taking control of your life should not mean that you are on your own.  It means that you face yourself and your choices with honesty, changing what you can and allowing yourself to ask for help where you need it.

Now, I'm going to go quit blaming the over-flowing closets on a mutant outgrown-clothes breeding phenomenon and do some de-cluttering.  Feel free to come over and help if you want... :)