Accepting personal responsibility for our faults is no fun, so, if we’ve been caught doing something regrettable when we should’ve known and done better, many of us tend instead to externalize blame — we point our fingers at everyone and everything but
the mirror. Examples of externalization abound in recent headlines, but for brevity’s sake, I’ll cite just a couple.
First, alarming numbers of American children and adolescents are spending so much time on social media that they’re being termed “addicted,” yet what are their parents doing about it? As if it weren’t entirely within their control, many parents are pointing fingers at the social media industry, blaming companies like Facebook for making “addictive” products.
I’ve got news for those parents: If “addictive” means that using a product is enjoyable enough to cause users to want to use it with increasing frequency, then the makers of just about everything from cookies to essays make them as “addictive” as possible, and unless they’re making them illegally (e.g., omitting ingredients from labels), there’s nothing nefarious about it.
If you’re overusing a product to such an extent that your overuse is causing you problems, then those problems are yours, not the manufacturer’s. Likewise, if your kids are overusing a product to such an extent that their overuse is causing them (and/or you) problems, then the responsible party isn’t in Silicon Valley — he or she is in your home. (Hint: Check your mirror.)
Example 2 comes fresh from the now-daily drip of #MeToo allegations, some of which undoubtedly are true, deeply disturbing, and deservedly damning of the accused. This one, however, alleged that a male voice coach “manipulated” an adult female student into removing her clothes to make her “sound sexier” while reading a script.
The alleged “manipulation” was that the coach suggested it, and the student did it. Now, if the coach really suggested it, then I certainly won’t recommend that coach, but I’ll also point out that nobody in my academic or professional careers could ever have “manipulated” me into removing my clothes (yes, I’m a man — who believes that women can assert themselves just as I can).
And all too often, our political “leaders” take advantage of our tendency to externalize. A case in point: For reasons which I still don’t grasp despite years of training and experience as a psychologist, alarming numbers of American adolescents apparently have been putting Tide laundry detergent pods…no, not in their washing machines…in their mouths.
And what have lawmakers in the State of New York suggested that we do in response? Shame the pod-popping punks for being the irresponsible idiots that they are? No. (Hint: It involves lawmakers playing indispensable “big brothers” to their constituents.) The “leaders” of New York want to make Proctor & Gamble redesign the pods to appear less “appetizing.”
The upshot of this is that externalizing blame may make us feel better briefly, but to the extent that we’re actually at fault, taking personal responsibility almost always serves us better long-term. Why? Because it’s empowering. When we play the victims of others’ choices, we can only hope that they make different choices, but when we acknowledge that the choices were ours…
When we acknowledge that we, not the social media industry, are responsible for how much time our kids spend on social media, we’re empowered to place healthier limits on their access; when we acknowledge that an act which we now regret was a voluntary act — no one forced or “manipulated” us into it — we’re empowered to assert ourselves and decline to repeat it…
And perhaps most importantly, when we acknowledge that we are responsible for refraining from risky, idiotic behavior (and for policing our adolescents’ risky, idiotic behavior), we’re empowered to make decisions that are personally and economically right for us and for our families rather than abdicating that power (i.e., freedom) to our “big brothers” in government.
Brian Russell wanted to learn how people could live together as peacefully and prosperously as possible, so he studied what makes us tick (and got a Ph.D. in clinical psychology), how public policy keeps us in line (and got a law degree), and what motivates us to do our best (and got an M.B.A.). Then, he put theory to the test, practicing both psychology and law, starting his own small businesses, consulting with business leaders and lawmakers, and traveling the world comparing what does and doesn’t work in 40 societies. Now, he shares his expertise in people, public policy, and productivity on national television and radio, in his book, "Stop Moaning, Start Owning: How Entitlement Is Ruining America and How Personal Responsibility Can Fix It," and here on Newsmax. Learn more at DrBrianRussell.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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