Notes From ‘The Power of Responsibility’

I stumbled across Joelle Casteix’s ‘The Power of Responsibility’ and decided to give it a read, a book of ‘six decisions that will help you take back happiness and create unlimited success.’

Casteix starts the book with her own story, and it’s quite powerful:

I am a survivor of child sexual abuse. From age 15 to 17, I was sexually abused by one of my high school teachers. Like many victims of this kind of abuse, I was carefully groomed. Predatory grooming is how a child-sex predator manipulates an especially vulnerable child with flattery, time, gifts, and attention. It’s how a predator can blur sexual boundaries and create a victim who is compliant — that is, one who is too confused and scared to fight back. I was a typical vulnerable victim — I came from a home with an alcoholic mother and a father in a deep sense of denial.
 By the time the abuse was over, I was 17 and pregnant, had a sexually transmitted disease, and was utterly alone. The man who abused me was a master at manipulation, so I had no support system. In fact, my friends and parents blamed me for the abuse.
 It was not a time I ever want to revisit.
 If you are familiar with the after-effects of this kind of abuse, you know that survivors suffer from horrible shame and self-loathing. Many are so psychologically injured by the abuse that they take their own lives. Others, who might not be suicidal, start down a track of self-destruction. Whether by choice or fate, these survivors end up in situations where victimhood becomes the norm. For me, I took the road of bad relationships, depression, isolation, self-hatred, and always finding myself at the wrong place at the wrong time.
 I only knew how to be a victim.
 By the time I was 27, I was divorced, living at home with my father, jobless, clinically depressed, intermittently suicidal, and facing a future with little potential. Looking back on my past, I saw only shame and embarrassment. The future I mapped for myself — if I stayed on this course — was bleak.
 But then something happened. I looked around and realized that my life didn’t have to be this way.

What Casteix learned is that there is something about standing up and taking responsibility for your own life that changes everything. She was responsible for her own happiness, and there should have been someone responsible to stand up for her when she was in a vulnerable situation:

Responsible people stand up for what is morally and ethically right, even if they know that they will hit resistance. Had at least one responsible person stood up at Enron, the company might still be in business today. How many children could have been saved from abuse had an administrator in the Boy Scouts or the Catholic Church called the police when that person knew that a crime had been committed?

This lesson also made her recognize how to lead others:

Responsible people don’t use shame to force others to change. Truly responsible people know that, to motivate others to succeed, everyone must be treated with respect. Using shame, guilt, or unprofessional behavior (yelling, screaming) accomplishes nothing, except to engender fear, rage, or the desire for retribution. Responsible people also know that they cannot change other people or have power over them. They, however, can use positive influences to help others take better paths. If other people do not want to change, the responsible person knows when to walk away.

…as well as the problem with taking on a ‘victim mentality’:

If you spend your time thinking about your past, that’s where your brain will take you. If you are consumed with your mistakes, challenges, losses, and the places where you are lacking … guess what? That is where your brain will take you. That’s why we remain victims. It’s a matter of misplaced focus. If all you can see is what you lack, your failures and pain, the mistakes of your past, and your loss, depression, and fear, that is where your brain will take your body, and that is where your life will stay.

Being a ‘responsible’ person is more than just taking ownership, it’s believing in yourself:

To be a responsible person, you have to embrace your inner power. You have to exercise power over your actions and your reactions to events and other people. You have to have the fortitude to understand and deal with your emotions. You have to display stamina to change the way other people treat you. You have to decide to no longer be a victim.

The book ends with these powerful words, that we would all be better for remembering:

It doesn’t matter who you were yesterday. It doesn’t matter who you were five minutes ago. The only things that matter are who you are right now and the kind of person you decide to be from this moment onward. You will have a future that you create, and you will experience success without limits. All you have to do is decide to do so. You are unstoppable. And now, you are free to soar.
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