About two months ago, Dutch philosopher René ten Bos wrote an opinion in the Dutch Financial Times: “the myth of self-responsibility”. In Dutch: De mythe van de eigen verantwoordelijkheid. It’s a well-written opinion. Still, its title bugged me. What’s wrong with self-responsibility, if anything? A lack of taking self-responsibility often comes close to assuming a victim role.
The article above is actually about too much self-responsibility. American novelist Edna Ferber (1885-1968) once observed: “Perhaps too much of everything is as bad as too little”. Given that context, it’s impossible to disagree with the FD opinion. I’m still curious though: is there something wrong with assuming responsibility for your own deeds, words and/or intentions?
Nowadays, I believe in taking self-responsibility. I must assume that I was (slightly) different before. A 1993 thunder speech by a British senior audit partner was crucial in changing my behaviour. I respected and agreed with his opinion: “You are your own worst enemy“.
If there’s nothing wrong with self-responsibility then why is taking it so difficult? Quite some people reject taking self-responsibility and prefer wallowing in self-pity.
Taking self-responsibility is almost the opposite of fooling around and not taking life too serious. This may suggest a connection with (lack of) maturity. I doubt this explanation is sound as there are probably too many exceptions.
I think, feel and believe that self-responsibility is about self-acceptance. If you don’t accept your own (character) flaws then blaming others is the next best alternative. Self-acceptance requires that you love yourself, including your deficiencies and your flaws. Philautia or self-love is, however, very different from narcissism.
In my view, self-responsibility, self-acceptance and self-love are all included in the top layer of Abraham Maslow‘s hierarchy of needs: self-actualization, “the highest level of psychological development”. This should explain why some will achieve it quickly, some others will never, and that many people will take many years to achieve it.
Fooled Around And Fell In Love (1975) by Elvin Bishop
Note: all markings (bold, italic, underlining) by LO unless stated otherwise.