Hello friends and neighbors and baby duck enthusiasts,
Today we are here to talk about accountability and self-loathing!
I wanted to talk about this, because often when folks have an opportunity to be invited into accountability, they fall into their own personal pit of self-loathing. It’s really unfortunate, because they feel terrible. It’s also tough because some folks can confuse the emotional exhaustion of self loathing with the actual emotional labor of accountability. This doesn’t help much get done, unfortunately.
I wanted to clarify the difference between the two because while people use accountability as a scary word to mean that everyone on the internet hates you, when utilized correctly, it can be very generative. Accountability is the task that a person goes through when they cause someone else harm, and then acknowledge what they did, make an apology and potentially restitution.
Self-loathing is most people’s response to feeling called out, and is basically synonymous with shame. While some folks invoke accountability in order to shame others, many more are trying to right a wrong, or reconcile a relationship. Accountability is an invitation to stay in relationship rather than throw somebody away.
For many of us, the Rube-Goldberg Shame Machine gets going often into overdrive when we are offered some feedback. Sometimes we know we aren’t handling things very well, and so we walk around with all this primitive machinery whirring inside of us.
Our shoulders are perpetually up near our ears, because we have such perpetual, fruitless energy expended with not much to show for it. Self-loathing is exhausting, and doesn’t usually give us information about how to do anything differently.
Accountability Is Much Harder Than It Looks
Accountability is a high bar! Coming to a conversation undefended and willing to acknowledge wrong-doing, but also from a place that does not require your own debasement, is a hard thing to land skillfully.
A common mistake is to tip into feelings of shame, and then hound folks with apologies, or conversely drive everyone else up a wall by constantly talking about how stressed out you are that someone is mad at you.
Many people go to the place of feeling like they have done something wrong, and therefore are undeserving of time, space, comfort, and humanity.
Most people cannot do the hard work of acknowledging how they fucked up unless they are allowed some grace. A person may need to catch their breath, eat a snack, and then circle back to the work to engage with it from a centered place. If you need this grace, you get to be in charge of knowing and managing that.
How To Do Accountability From A Centered Place
People doing accountability work must do the work of engaging from a centered place, because whatever hard feelings you have about the harm you did to others are yours to deal with.
The whole point of this is that part of your humanity requires that you have some place to express your anger, disappointment, and grief that you have hurt somebody else that is not the person that you hurt.
Your feelings of guilt cannot be a reason for them to offer forgiveness, and your restitution must be offered without needing a specific response from them. Also, if you fucked up, it doesn’t mean that you never get to watch a TV show or eat a donut or have a friend. You get to be a person too.
Here’s the other thing: people hurt one another frequently, even just by accident, which does not mean that we are collectively all failures. It means that we cannot avoid bumping into one another. However, getting more practice at being accountable, you get better at messing up, and dealing with it in ways that are honest and humane.
You Are In Charge of You
You are responsible for managing both your own self-loathing and also for making sure that you are being accountable.
These are both things that require a lot of hard work, and support from your people. Clarify that your people are up to the task, and get the support you need to do the hard work.
A therapist is a solid person to utilize to work out both self-loathing and accountability. If you need some help with either or both of those things, give me a call.