Making peace with responsibility.


I’ve always associated “being responsible” with obeying rules and accomplishing tasks expected of me at home, at work, or at school. Living with a disability and growing up inundated with the value of independence (coupled with a fiercely tenacious spirit) lead me to believe that asking for help was bad and doing things by myself was admirable. I expected myself to be able to do all the things I saw my peers doing, just as well, if not better. I thought my accommodations at school meant that I should be able to “do everything the same as everyone else did.”

From third grade on, I told many a tall tale of how the cat ate my homework, and my math fell in the fish tank. In middle school, my inability to “keep up” resulted in headaches, stomach aches, and a constant undercurrent of anxiety.

Now, well into my 50th year, I finally am able to see responsibility as a gift. John O’Brian, and Beth Mount, pioneers of person-centered thinking, have identified 5 valued experiences as essential for a person to have a meaningful life. They include belonging, being respected as whole people, sharing ordinary places with others, contributing, and choosing.

 In my opinion, a sense of belonging is one of the most fundamental human needs we all share. In my own life, I have recently discovered how strongly belonging ties into responsibility.

I feared responsibility (especially work related) in the past, seeing it as something heavy that could come crashing down on me at any moment, revealing all the inadequacies, whether they are a result of my disability, or not. Fearing responsibility kept me stuck and held me back from seeking new opportunities, learning new things, and developing a sense of confidence in my strengths and abilities.

My experience with person-centered thinking skills and planning, and being part of a person-centered team has helped me reframe my perception of responsibility into a positive one. I am responsible for my contributions an my contributions to my team are based on who I am, and they are a result of my abilities as a writer and facilitator and my passion to do all I can to support those who work in the field of direct support. I am responsible to my team for the roles I fill and the work I do. I am a part of my team and they count on me. In this way my responsibilities show me that I belong and that I am capable of more than I know.

This empowering kind of shift nurtured by person-centered skills and planning and being part of a person-centered team is possible for all of us. For those of us wheeling through each day and those of us walking. Either way we are side by side. A shift for one creates change for another and empowerment goes both ways.