“Self-Made.” Or so the famous watchmaker advertises their product through a famous celebrity. The advertising was catchy, but there was a message that stuck with me: “YOU are the master of your destiny. Your success deserves and even requires such fine intricacies as we offer.”
There are no “self-made” men, only those arrogant enough to believe that they are wholly responsible for where they are in life.
Don’t get me wrong. I am all about promoting personal responsibility and hard work; it’s a foundation of my focus in counseling- and for a person to truly change, they need a good dose of both. But when we say that, “I accomplished this with my hands and my hands alone,” something is missing.
I don’t know why I was born into the family I was. We always had food on the table, fashionable clothes (except for Dad, but that was by choice), shelter, family and friends, and no major worries about the basic necessities of life. Why I wasn’t born in Tanzania, as an orphan left behind by a violent father and an addicted mother, I don’t know. Or to parents who weren’t patient with my shortcomings and abused me. Or…you get the picture.
In fact, if it weren’t for my socio-economic status, family, friends, geographic location, and so forth, I would very likely have not made the friends I did, found the jobs I worked and went to the schools I attended. I have 100% personal responsibility today and this very moment to make the choices that are mine. But that’s just it- make the choices that are mine.
A lot of culture and people and pressures around us give all sorts of confusing messages, and part of my job is to walk with folks while they determine what they will live by and for- regardless of the messages and demands and stresses surrounding them. Figuring out what is my responsibility and what is not is one of the most important tasks I know.
Remember that when you take on credit for what is not yours, besides being arrogant and haughty, you take on credit for what is not yours. Meaning: that when things that aren’t your fault fall apart, you are more likely to blame yourself. My point in all this is the importance of considering: “What is my responsibility and what is not?” It manages stress, decreases anxiety, and gives direction like few other tools. I will end with the best expression of this topic I have ever heard:
The Serenity Prayer as said in 12-step groups (only a partial expression of the full prayer of Niebuhr) says, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.”