It’s a big word, accountability.
At its base, from dictionary.com:
the fact or condition of being accountable; responsibility.
“their lack of accountability has corroded public respect”
There is so much to read on the subject, but there’s so much more room for nuance than most people understand.
Did you know that by acting accountably for your choices, you can, ultimately, dig yourself deeper into your own victim complex?
In my ballet class today, I found myself struggling with jumps, and my first impulse was to blame the fact that I hadn’t allocated time to feeding myself before class, so this was why I couldn’t jump as high as normal, or point my feet as fully, or why my heart was beating like it wanted to jump out of my chest, and why I didn’t feel really so good about myself, the way I EXPECT to feel at the end of ballet class. I wasn’t performing at my best.
And it’s true. I hadn’t eaten because I hadn’t managed my time well, and I was struggling to perform.
Is absolute best performance what I expect from my ballet classes, each and every time? Absolutely not. Do I still have that voice ticking in my head that I gotta BE and DO and PUSH and GROW every single class? Absolutely. Do I have that voice in life that I have to be the best mother (yes), best business partner (yes), best partner (no, because I am already ;)), and that if I am not the best in all those areas it’s BECAUSE of something in my life that I should have been able to control better? YES. Do you?
Even though I held myself accountable for the causes of my less than stellar performance in class today (“It’s because I skipped breakfast”), the fact remains that this mindset allows me to remain a victim of myself.
THERE WILL ALWAYS BE SOMETHING THAT LIFE THROWS AT US THAT DOES NOT ALLOW US TO PERFORM “AT OUR BEST” that no amount of careful planning, regulation of sleep, micromanaging of nutrient intake, or any amount of disaster planning will offset.
Reducing our performance down to the experiences of the body, or attributing lowered performance to circumstances that we cannot control to the last detail means we are choosing to continue to remain victimized…by ourselves.
And if we live in a bubble, never interacting with the world, then really, what does it matter? If you set yourself up for constant failure because of an exacting set of expectations that it’s impossible to always meet, then you will “fail”. And if you live alone, and have no friends or relationships or people relying on you, then go ahead and be as grumpy or as moody as you like, or as angry at yourself as you like. Take all the blame, walk around under a dark cloud, because yes, it IS all your fault.
At the end of the day, however, what you’re really doing is depriving yourself of the beauty of the moment. You are interfering with your relationships. You’re micromanaging your own joy, and, therefore, preventing access to it.
This approach to life, where you alone are holding up a benchmark that you may or may not meet, makes you a really not fun person to be around, because it means that you are choosing not to see the joy or the lesson in the moment. All you are doing, in those moments where you have failed to meet your own expectations for how you SHOULD be performing in any one regard, is setting yourself up for failure, as if failure is an absolute. And no one likes to feel like a loser.
It’s so, so easy to default to self blame. So easy. Ultimately, things just aren’t your fault, even though you THINK you’re saying they are.
I could have beaten myself up for depriving myself of an opportunity to perform at my best, and in that moment, where my thighs were burning and I was feeling dizzy from the blood pounding in my ears, I could have been annoyed with myself and labelled that class as not my best class ever. I could have “failed” to perform BECAUSE I didn’t eat.
At work I could beat myself up because I let information slip out instead that I should have held close because I was thinking about a conflict with my boyfriend that had prevented me from getting a good night’s and therefore compromised a deal, and I could have said, “It’s because I didn’t get enough sleep”.
At home, I could beat myself up because the kids had (gluten-free) toast and eggs for dinner rather than meat because, “I lost track of time and didn’t get to the grocery store because I was not feeling well because I didn’t have lunch.”
That’s the easy way out.
That’s the part where, while I APPEAR to be taking the blame for my experience, I really deprive myself of a beautiful opportunity to offer myself so much compassion, and to actually be impressed at how much I CAN do despite not having fed myself, and feeling tired.
I went to class and had an magnificent workout. The kids got fed. I had an opportunity to connect with another human in a way I couldn’t have had I been “perfect”, and I had the chance to know what I have to be vigilant about when my reserves are not at full. I had an opportunity to marvel at the beautiful resilience of my body, to take things a little more slowly, to work on the spaces between the jumps where I could rest and breathe rather than the height or strength of the jumps, and to understand the real impact of the way I managed my time this morning.
So, what can we do differently? The next time you find yourself defaulting to your standard rhetoric of, “I was hungry/thirsty/tired/PMSing/thinking about my tv show, etc”, stop, and ask if you’re truly being accountable, to yourself, for your experience of that particular moment. How can you approach that situation differently, without beating yourself up?
Comment below and let me hear from you!