I have done some really stupid things in my life.
This is not about death-defying acts of any sort. No, these are choices I made that were less-than-smart. Various and sundry relationships that were foolish (ranging from casual dating to serious dating to friends-with-benefits — and everything in between), avoiding conflicts that might have led to better resolutions, bad investments, poor car-buying decisions, and so on and so forth.
I do not hold regrets about these things, per se. But I am acknowledging them because it’s important to own your ugly.
Our society avoids accountability better than we avoid a plague. Blame gets placed everywhere by everyone because it seems — in the moment — easier than accepting responsibility.
What’s more, lots of people prefer to place blame because they think it makes them look better. It wasn’t my fault and it was that guy’s fault can seem like they make you look better. You didn’t get something wrong or do something ugly. Nope, blame someone or something else and you remain clean.
But the truth is that you make it far, far worse. The longer you refuse to own your ugly and place blame and fault outside of yourself, the deeper you dig the hole and stagnate your growth and development.
Cheaters DO prosper — but at a cost
There is no denying that the old adage — cheaters never win — is untrue. I give you exhibit A — Donald Trump. His entire business “empire” has been built on cheating, deceiving, stealing, and lying — but he still got to be President.
This is a cheater who won. Lots of other billionaires and leader-types also got where they are via cheating in some way or other.
Clearly, they get some winning under their belts.
However, let’s look closer at Trump. There is a man who is pretty obviously miserable. He is only happy when he is a “winner” — the rest of the time he’s a petulant, narcissistic, man-child bully. There is never enough in his world — and his fragile ego is all that matters to him.
Yes, he has golf courses and buildings around the world — but he is so deeply in debt that I am pretty sure only the office of the President is keeping him from ruination.
Prosperity and winning are not meant to come with misery. The holistic “win” includes not just the prize, but a sense of accomplishment and joy.
Cheaters may score a “win” in some way — but the cost is super high. What good is the prize when you are miserable? Is it worth it to win when the people sharing it with you only do so looking for something from you? Is it worth having whatever thing you sought — tangible or intangible — if there is nobody you can share it with or trust?
Hey, if you don’t mind the intangible impact that will come from the cheating win — go ahead. But without joy and connection in this life — it’s meaning is pretty damned shallow.
Own your ugly for control
Another reason for blame and deflection is the false belief that it gives you control. But the exact opposite is true.
When you blame someone and take no responsibility for what you have done (or not) you’ve given away control. Odds are, rather than be accountable and suffer immediately you are prolonging the suffering. It’s the difference between ripping off the bandage quickly or slowly — with each individual hair sticking to it.
Why blame and deflect? Fear of suffering. More often than not the suffering you will experience in the moment via accountability is far less than how bad you think it will be.
With the holidays and COVID, my mom had hoped we’d find a way to still get together somehow. We live in different states — and crossing state lines is currently inadvisable. I had a choice here. Deflect, blame the pandemic, avoid having to say “sorry, we can’t get together this year” — or — be accountable, admit my discomfort, and apologize while saying no.
I love my mom, don’t get me wrong here — but she can be touchy. Not so long ago she moved a lot closer than she used to be — and yet we still do not get together as frequently as she’d like. Now, in the middle of a pandemic, this has gotten even harder.
Would she get upset? Cry? Yell at me over this? That was the suffering I didn’t want to endure. But avoiding it was suffering in and of itself.
So, I told her no. And even if she felt hurt, she said, “I understand” and we moved on. The suffering was almost non-existent compared to what I feared it might be.
As Paulo Coelho states in The Alchemist,
“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself.”
Accountability could change the world
It is and has been for a long time now, my belief that more accountability would make the world a much better place.
Accountability empowers rather than disempowers. When you own your ugly you take control.
And of course, this is all a part of mindfulness.
Being aware, now, of your conscious self — your mindset/headspace/psyche and general being — gives you control. The only real control you have.
When you take control by practicing mindfulness, you work with consciousness for change. Because when you are conscious of your thoughts, feelings, actions, and intentions in the here-and-now they become yours to control. That, ultimately, empowers you.
It sucks to own your ugly. However, EVERYONE is perfectly imperfect. Owning your ugly opens you to taking control and changing. Hence, you can keep from making the same mistakes — and choose better next time.
You are perfectly imperfect. Own up to that and see how much better life gets. Because owning your ugly makes you whole and complete. That, in turn, empowers you. When you are empowered you can change your reality — and live a better, fuller, more connected, and exciting life.
I don’t know about you — but that sounds pretty damned awesome to me!