It’s Not My Fault I Never Learned to Accept Responsibility


As Chief Influencer here, I feel entitled to administer the occasional lecture. Some would say my lectures are more like rants. So be it.

Have you ever known a person who seems to have bad things happen to them again and again and again? You know – their relationships constantly fall apart, every job they get comes with a horrible boss, it only rains in places where they stand, and killer bees are attracted to them like they’re made of sugar?

And when those things happen, what is the first thing that comes out of their mouths?

“It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t do anything. Why do these things keep happening to me?”

Be honest. Do you ever see shades of that behavior in yourself?

We all have hardships in our lives. I could run down a laundry list of horrible events in my immediate family ranging from unemployment to childhood death… but I won’t. Because if you think about it, we all have negative events to deal with in our lives.

I want to share with you one of the greatest “ah-ha” moments of my life – and one that can give you a fresh, positive outlook on your life as well.

A Part of My Life I Don’t Talk Much About

In a particularly dark time in my life, I had a job I hated, a boss I hated more than the job, and money problems that to this day put a huge knot in my stomach when I think about them.

I couldn’t see a way out, and I had lost all sense of hope that things would ever change for me.

At some point during my despair and self-victimization, I asked myself, “Why do all these terrible things keep happening to me? What the hell am I putting out there to deserve all this?”

The question answered itself. The primary cause of all my problems was, in a way, what I was doing to myself.

Why ‘Responsibility’ Is More Empowering Than ‘Fault’

Random bad things do happen. Unfortunately, sometimes murderers randomly kill, hurricanes decimate cities, and planes, cars, and trains crash. So yes – there are real-life innocent victims. It’s a real thing.

But that dark day long ago made me realize something…

Whether you succeed or fail – whether you’re happy or miserable – it’s very likely the result of a decision you yourself have made.

(Click to tweet this quote)

I had a horrible job with an evil boss. I chose to accept the job offer. I had money problems – which I also had no small part in creating. That day I realized I had no right to frame myself as a victim when I could just as easily have made better decisions.

The moment I realized I could just go to the nearest mirror to see the cause of 99% of my happiness or misery, things began to change for me.

How Taking Responsibility Leads to Power

A funny thing happens when you come to grips with the fact that your own bad decisions are to blame for your misery. You realize you’re in control. If your bad decisions led to bad things, then you have just as much power to make good things happen by making better decisions, right?

No one is really pulling your strings. You’re the boss.

Your job sucks? Maybe you took the wrong job. That being said – you have three options.

  • Whine, complain, and tell everyone who will listen how bad it is so they can feel depressed, too.
  • Suck it up, realize it’s maybe not so bad, and take it upon yourself to make it better.
  • Decide that it really is that bad and make a better decision: Put all your effort into finding a better situation for yourself.

That’s it. Those are the only options for you – and you are the one who gets to choose.

The same goes for your money, your relationships, your health, and so on. You really do have the power to control the direction your life takes by making better decisions.

It’s a matter of taking responsibility (and credit) for your own decisions.

You’ll Still Make Bad Decisions, But…

This isn’t magic – and it’s not some kind of touchy-feely self-help talk. You’re still going to make bad decisions from time to time. Bad bosses, dishonest people, and economic recessions will continue to exist.

But when you know deep down that you have the power to change – to make a better decisions – you’ll be nobody’s victim.

When you find yourself in a bad situation, try following these steps:

  1. Ask “What decisions have I made to put myself in the path of this negative situation?”
  2. Ask, “How might I have chosen differently?”
  3. Ask, “Now that I’m in this negative situation, how can I turn it around to be more positive?” (see the three choices above)
  4. Realize that given some time and effort, you and you alone can make a new decision and learn how to overcome adversity by turning a negative situation into a positive one.

The next time you find yourself feeling like a victim, be honest with yourself and analyze how your decisions might have put you in this situation. Once you’ve honestly accepted the blame and resolved to make better decisions – pat yourself on the back for doing something many people never do: taking responsibility.

I want to hear from you now!
Have you ever caught yourself embracing the ‘victim’ mentality? How do you avoid it? Tell me in the comments.


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About Gary Korisko

Gary is a battle-tested sales and marketing pro, copywriter, coach, and business strategist who teaches how to create worthwhile work on Reboot Authentic. Connect with Gary on Google+ and Twitter.

36 Replies

  1. Mark Brinker

    I think for a lot of people, accepting responsibility equates to admitting failure, which is painful. Therefore, whether we realize it or not, we go into denial or re-focus the blame onto someone or something external to alleviate the pain.

    But as you mention in your post, taking responsibility leads to power. For me personally, taking responsibility and “owning” an adverse situation rather than deflecting the matter, has resulted in the greatest break-throughs in my life.

    Thanks for having the courage, Gary, to address a topic that can be a bit uncomfortable to talk about.

    1. Great point, Mark. failure is painful… but the good news is that it’s also both temporary and an excellent teacher. Just like you said, I’ve found that owning a bad decision/situation has led to some of the most positive changes in my life as well. Well put.

      Thanks for sharing that & nice to see you here!

  2. You’re right, Gary.

    Not only have I experienced the person who has the constant dark cloud hanging above his head, I’ve also played the “ain’t my fault” card on more than one occasion.

    Perhaps it is age, maybe it is hanging with some pretty great people, but I’ve learned that stepping up to the plate and saying, “Yes, I behaved poorly,” is a much shorter path to the place I want to be.

    1. You may be on to something there, Yvonne. Maybe not “age” per se – but I think experience and maturity have a lot to do with being able to take responsibility – and then make something good come from a bad situation.

      Thanks, Yvonne!

  3. ruffgruff

    A sage said, “Heaven and hell (and all the worlds in between) are contained in this one’s body.” We choose which world we wish to dwell in. You’re right; the law of cause and effect is absolute. It’s up to each one of us to make the cause before we receive the effect. Thanks for this post.

    1. Great quote, ruffgruff. If I remember right, your name’s George (?) – but I like ruffgruff so much I’m going to stick with that 🙂

      I say it all the time: Whether you call it the Golden Rule, Karma, or an act of God – whatever it is – it is sometimes slow… but very, very reliable. Whatever you send out there returns in spades. Great comment. Thanks for joining in!

      1. ruffgruff

        Glad I could contribute, Gary. Yes, I’m George, but I gorgot I had an old Discus account I hadn’t used in years, and got stuck in ruffgruff. S’all right.

  4. Steve Freeman

    Gary, the title caught my eye, very catchy! I agree with you completely. The times in my life I was at my most miserable was when I kept myself there with a depressing mindset. It’s like some kinda drug or something. Don’t you agree?

    I shared this on my page, here’s the link;

    1. Hi, Steve.

      Yes – once you start going down that road, it really takes a real concerted effort to get off of it. It’s way too easy to stay in victim mode.

      Thanks for Scoopin’ it!

      1. Mmm-hmmm . . . nice title! 😉

        1. Okay. In all fairness…

          Bobbi helped me come up with the headline. I took the picture myself, but didn’t think it was a good headline. She convinced me differently. She was right.

          There. I said it.


          1. Thanks, Gary, but I wasn’t really looking for credit. It was supposed to be our inside joke! 😉

          2. Are you kidding? Credit where it’s due, Bobbi 🙂

  5. evanhadkins

    That headline could be true. Some people grow up in very chaotic situations – in which situation it is hard to develop a sense of responsibility. I tend to avoid using the word ‘responsibility’ because it is often heard as (and used as) blame. So I think it is better to talk about what you can do – or (in the quote I’ve seen attributed to Roosevelt): do what you can, where you are, with what you’ve go.

    1. Hi Evan!

      I always enjoy your comments because they make me think.

      On this one, I’m going to half agree with you, though. I agree that a lot of people mistakenly think of the word ‘responsibility’ in the same way they do words like ‘fault’ and ‘blame.’

      But I disagree that the word itself – or its meaning should be avoided or ignored. In fact, I might lean toward talking with people about responsibility even more.

      The word itself is a great word. From the dictionary…


      the quality or state of being responsible: as
      a : moral, legal, or mental accountability
      b : reliability, trustworthiness


      Those are qualities to aspire to, in my opinion.

      As for growing up in bad situations without positive influences – I agree that makes things harder. However, I know several people who have risen above it on their own.

      One is a guy I played college football with. He was born to a broken home and wound up being passed from bad foster home to bad foster home (abuse, drugs, gangs). Despite it all, he earned a college scholarship and is one of the nicest, most responsible people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. He’s now a police officer in Los Angeles.

      So I really don’t believe avoiding the word ‘responsibility’ or even ‘blame’ or ‘fault’ helps. Sometimes blame and fault are warranted.

      In the situation I described in this post – it really was largely my own fault. I was to blame. Avoiding that fact kept me in that negative, victim-oriented mental state. Facing it, taking the blame, and then correcting the behavior is what changed things.

      So you’re very right that people look at it wrong. But I think it’s our duty as influencers to help people face some of these hard realizations and overcome them.

      Great conversation starter, Evan. Thanks, friend!

      1. evanhadkins

        Hi Gary, I do believe trustworthiness is valuable.

        And blame and fault are often warranted.

        It may be we have different ways in assisting people to do what they can / take responsibility.

        1. Agreed, Evan. Getting there is the important thing!

  6. Gary – what you wrote about a hated job and stressful money problems? THAT RESONATED WITH Me a million times over. I went through something similar. When it finally hit me that I had created it, it was pitiful AND fantastic.

    There was no point in hating myself for creating it – but knowing I could change it? Magic.

    1. Razwana:

      I can tell you’re someone who has walked in those shoes by your comment. And I’d like to highlight how you said, “it was pitiful and fantastic’ when you realized that you created that situation.

      We try so hard to avoid discomfort and pain that unfortunately we also miss out on all the good things that come right after it… like how you said knowing you could change it made you feel.

      Thanks for sharing that – and good for you!

  7. Sophie Lizard

    Ka-BOOM! Right on target.

    I remember wondering “Why can’t I ever stick with a job for more than a year?” right up until I started working from home and setting my own hours. 😉 Now people ask me why I can’t leave my job alone for 5 minutes…

    1. Yeah – see? You found your element. And I’m sure it was at least in part due to you taking a hard look at yourself and your unsatisfactory situation at that time.

      I know what kind of hours you put in now… and I know how much you love it, too.

      Thanks for jumping in, Sophie!

  8. Wow Gary, this is right on point. Before I started my business, I blamed everybody for my situation that I was in … I was miserable and was constantly pointing the finger. But then my girlfriend, now fiance, told me that I’m always blaming other people for things that happen to me.

    Then when I finally pursued entrepreneurship and things happened in the beginning (not getting traffic, not converting visitors, etc) I was quick to try to blame someone when the main culprit was staring right back at me in the mirror. I made the choices of not thoroughly studying SEO and sales strategies, etc. I made those decisions and as soon as I realized who was at fault for my situation, things slowly started to change for the better.

    I think people are always looking to throw the blame to somewhere else because deep down, they’re afraid to face the reality. I know I was.

    Great post.

    1. Thanks very much, Andrew.

      Like the post says, there’s something powerful about owning up and taking responsibility. It turns things around. Your examples are a testament to that. I’m glad you found the post useful & thanks for sharing your thoughts! I hope we see more of you here in the comments.

  9. My unfortunate habit is to ask myself, “Why am I not getting important things done?” and then I don’t bother to answer the question! That’s because the answer is that I’m making bad time management and prioritization choices and I don’t want to face my own poor choices. Bleah 🙁

    1. Bobbi:

      Good for you. This is why I dig you. You are the least fluffy, the least shallow self-help blogger I know. Instead of “think positive thoughts and everything will FLOW” – you take responsibility, do the hard work, and get things done.

      I like group hugs as much as the next guy, but without honest accountability and hard work, they mean nothing. Way to own it!

  10. Dean Brightman

    Ouch. You and Jon Morrow have a way of slapping me in the face with uncomfortable truths. Stop it!

    Actually, my problem might be just the opposite. I know full well that my current, miserable job situation is entirely my fault. I blame no one else. BUT I STILL DON’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT! I know I should be hitting the job boards and flooding the marketplace with resumes, but I don’t. I know I should work harder on my writing and my blog, but I don’t. It’s just too hard, or maybe I’m too afraid, although of what I really have no idea.

    Until I step up to the plate and do the work that’s required to change my situation, I’m stuck. And for that, I’m sad to say, I take full responsibility.

    Yikes, where did that come from? See what you did? Stop it!

    1. Hey Dean:

      Hey, it’s a good thing that you take responsibility… but makes sure you’re not beating yourself too much up or wallowing in it for too long. It’s easy to do. I’ve done it myself.

      I understand beating yourself up a little bit. In similar situations, it’s not uncommon for me to think to myself, “oh… nice work, dumbass!” But I don’t wallow in it and spend my whole day bummed because I’m such a dumbass. I let it happen *briefly*, give myself the scolding I think I deserve – then I get over myself and do something productive to correct the situation.

      Right now you feel stuck – like you can’t move forward.

      What’s the smallest action you can take right now that would make a difference? Pick one thing that will move you down the road even a little bit – and do it. Let me know how it goes.

      Good to see you here!

  11. Really? No one else is going to say it? Okay, here it is…

    Responsibility is the ability to respond. Right there in the word.

    Right on again, Gary. I like the fatherly style. I think it suits you.

    1. Fatherly? Thanks, Aaron… I think 🙂

      I guess that’s a good thing. It’s true my intent in writing this is to keep others from winding up in the situation I was in back then – so yeah, I’ll take fatherly.

      Good to see you here as always, Aaron. Thanks for speaking up.

  12. Jim Bessey

    You certainly do have a way of holding up the mirror, Gary. 🙂

    I wonder sometimes if we don’t tend to suffer from “safety in misery.” Just as it’s easier to protest something than to advocate change, it’s also easier to whine and play the victim. How many of us have used that tired phrase, “Life’s a bitch and then you die” to shrug away one bad situation or another?

    You’re right, though. Aside from the rare cement truck running a stop sign or the purchase of a winning lottery ticket, it all comes down to taking responsibility–and having the guts to make changes. Yeah, that’s the hard part, isn’t it? Guilty as charged. Well said, Gary.

    1. Hey, Jim.

      I think we all need to take regular, honest looks in the mirror. No doubt it’s tough to do… but the end result is always revealing!

      Thanks for jumping into the conversation!

      1. Your article does nothing to explain things to those who actually have been legitimately victimized. Many people are legitimately victimized in both their lives and the business world. Someone who was sexually abused. A star worker who did everything right but was removed to make way for the boss’s child or someone with a political viewpoint closer to that of those running it. People who are removed from businesses not for being wrong, but because they pointed out a flaw in a company (or government) that the top dogs wanted to continue. A flaw that ruined the company down the road. I’ve been the victim of all of these and there was nothing I could have done differently. Nor was I wrong or pushing responsibility off by feeling victimized, I had every right to feel that way.

        I came seeking a decent answer to a difficult question and found a man making money off of stupid people.

        1. Thanks for your comment. First of all…

          You’re right. If you were a victim of assault, that’s an awful thing that should never happen to anyone – and it’s absolutely not your fault. I’m sorry you had to experience that.

          As to your other points…

          Being removed for a boss’ kid sucks. It’s wrong. I’ve been pushed out for the boss’ best friend before myself. That’s an evil thing to do to someone. But you know what? I chose to work for those people. That doesn’t mean I was asking for trouble or causing trouble… it just means no one forced me to work for those people. There are no guarantees. But that’s life.

          My experience was awful and I’m sure yours was, too. But none of us are entitled to guarantees. Bad things happen and we do our best to accept responsibility for our part – and for making a better future.

          You also mentioned being “removed” for expressing your opinion.

          It’s your right to express your opinion… just as it’s your boss’ right to violently disagree with your opinion – or the way it was expressed… and choose not to have that opinion around his/her business or other employees.

          For instance… you rolled in here anonymous as “your writing sucks” calling my readers stupid. You’re entitled to your opinion – even if I couldn’t care less what you think – which is exactly the case. It’s also your right to be anonymous and rude – which you were.

          If you expressed your opinion to your employer as rudely as you did here… it probably had a *lot* to do with your removal.

          It’s your right to be rude. And it’s everyone else’s right to choose to not subject ourselves to your rudeness.

          Most people react pretty well to constructive criticism. But most of us have no use for angry, rude, anonymous people. It’s a shame. You had some interesting points.

          Best of luck to you.
          Gary Korisko recently posted…How to Make Your Call to Action 30% More EffectiveMy Profile

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