Sunday, September 23, 2018
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My happiness is my responsibility

Responsibility. As a child, I was taught to “be responsible” with caring for my toys or cleaning my bedroom or doing chores. As a student, I was expected to “be responsible” with completing my assignments and showing up for class. The more I grew up, the more my sense of responsibility grew. In adulthood I carried an exaggerated expectation that I would be responsible with my home, at work and as a church or civic member. At the root of this drive to “be responsible” was a self-inflicted obsession with earning people’s approval.

I have the privilege each year of writing letters of recommendation for seniors in high school who are applying for college admission or scholarships. I often write about academic ability, extra curricular activities, personality, ethics, etc., but almost always I write about responsibility. It is a quality that our society praises and appreciates. When someone is responsible, they are noteworthy, employable, and valued.

Recently, I had a run in with my long-time companion, Responsibility. She had been barking orders and cracking the whip. I was running a little ragged and attempting to keep up with her wishes. I slept less, ate more, and certainly tried harder to accomplish all that was on Responsibility’s list. She became the face of all of the people I hoped to please and from which I hoped to receive approval. Her voice whispered late into the night, awoke me from my sleep, and started again with the opening of my eye lids. If I could only appease Responsibility and complete the list of tasks, then all the people she represented in my mind would nod with her in approval.

What I hadn’t noticed was that Responsibility’s following had left out one very important person. Her representation neglected to cover a person of great significance. Me. Responsibility as I had personified her was not looking out for my interests nor what I needed. No one was taking responsibility for me, including myself.

I watched a video on Facebook by Will Smith who said, “ happiness was my’s kind of unrealistic and can be destructive to place the responsibility for your happiness on anybody other than yourself.” After pondering his message in light of the circumstances I had been living under, I realized it was time to make a change.

For today, I choose to be a responsible individual with my family, in my job, and around my commitments. I will do this based on my own internal moral compass as well as because of my connection to a higher power. However, I will also choose to be responsible to take care of my own needs, to provide for my own happiness, and, most importantly, to approve of myself. I will no longer listen to Responsibility’s external voice to attempt to please, but instead I will listen to that still, small, internal voice which allows me to stay centered and present myself to the world and participate as a responsible, healthy, and happy individual.