After recognizing your failures and mistakes, the active and sincere course is to accept that it is your fault. A sincere individual does not point at other people, or circumstances, but looks in the mirror and says “It was my fault.” You mean it and understand it. The passive mind’s response to failure will be exaggerated rather than sincere and accurate.
Two typical extremes of the passive mind are 1. “I’m great and nothing was my fault,” or the other extreme, 2. “I’m a no-good failure” or the self-loathing syndrome. Both are cover-ups. It takes energy to change or improve. Passivity leads to do-nothing responses: “I’m great as I am, no change needed”; or, “I’m a total failure, no change possible.” In both extreme-passive cases, there is no hope for fixing what’s broken, because there’s no recognition of what’s broken. Even the “total-failure” case does not recognize what’s broken. It merely hides a fixable flaw behind a perversely exaggerated cloud of self-loathing.
The active mind’s response to failure will be a call to action. You admit and recognize your failing, see the error in your behavior, and decide the best actions to prevent it in the future.
When you admit fault, you do not complain about consequences. You earned the consequence, or at least your actions could have prevented it. You see the cause-and-effect from your behavior to your present pain or problems you caused for others. This recognition makes you healthier, because this is the hardest first step for many people. This recognition puts your world into a more accurate perspective in relation to the real world. You climb out of the bubble of denial. This recognition prompts you to take active steps that improve your character, reduce your mistakes in the future, and make your travel through life more rewarding.
The important difference in how people process consequences, and recognize cause-and-effect connections to their behaviors, is at the heart of accountability versus denial. Active, mature, honest, accurate acceptance of blame and fault leads to healthy development and rewarding growth. Passive, immature, dishonest, inaccurate self-loathing or denial of blame leads to stunted development and perpetuates infantile responses to consequences.
“That consequence wasn’t my fault! Because look at what I had to deal with, look at what happened that I couldn’t control, look at what they did that made it harder to avoid, look at all the reasons it wasn’t my fault!” This is a common passive-mind response to unpleasant consequences. “I’m such a mess, I can’t do anything right. Why should I even try, I can’t change who I am! I’m a failure and I might as well accept it.” This is another typical passive-mind response to unpleasant consequences.
The only way to fix the problem is to begin acknowledging sincere responsibility, to truly accept accountability, and to say “It was my fault and here is how I will work on my behaviors and actions, and grow from the experience.” The result is amazing, you will actually grow up. The more you admit, the less you are laden with guilt. The less you say “I’m a total failure,” or “I’m great and nothing is my fault,” the stronger your authentic self-esteem will grow.
Identifying actual problems with yourself and treating them is hard at first but rewarding in the long run. You don’t have to announce your failures to the world, but you do have to announce them to yourself, and take action.
This entry is from my book
Potential of an Active Mind: How to Recapture the Magic of Everyday Life
© copyright Robert Rose-Coutré 2009, 2011, and 2012