One of the joys of being human is that you never have to worry about having life all figured out. At times, you may feel like you know what to do and what path you are on, but when that reptilian brain kicks in, everything you’ve been working on towards self-management and self-knowledge comes undone.
And so it goes when my sense of responsibility is affronted. According to Clifton StrengthsFinders, people with the responsibility theme take psychological ownership of their promises. I admit I have a love/hate relationship with this theme. This profound sense of responsibility means I’m utterly reliable, but the psychological ownership part can be a heavy burden and drive me and others crazy.
For example, I HATE to be late. Just HATE it. Chris and I had an appointment recently, and he was still getting dressed past the time when we should’ve left. As we get close to, then exceed the planned departure time, my anxiety level goes through the roof. As it turns out, the person we were meeting was even later. Regardless, being 10 minutes late just does not matter in the scheme of things (and I know this) but I said I would be there and letting go of that is hard for me. In this case, Chris is the victim of my promptness compulsion/obsession.
Even worse, I can torture myself for hours, even engaging in a sleepless night riddled with guilt and anxiety if I feel like I’ve contributed to or caused a costly mistake that affects others. If it’s my own mistake and I am the sole benefactor of the fallout: no problemo. But if I’m impacting others, I feel I’ve let them all down and am a terrible person.
In those moments (or hours as it may be) it just doesn’t help that much that I know that perfection is not possible, that I’m in the “basement” with my responsibility theme, that there are no bad events, just failure to turn them into opportunities. I know these things to be true with all my being. Yet, there I sit, wallowing in guilt and anxiety into the wee hours.
This is my journey. Sometimes I feel I’ve made great progress and sometimes I feel like I’m camping out at square one. Maybe being at square one will motivate my responsibility tendencies to work even harder at letting go. Does that sound like a contradiction? Yeah. Me too. Marshmallow anyone?