Fifty Shades of Taking Personal Responsibility

About a week ago, I picked up the first book in the Fifty Shades of Grey series.  I had read an article that about how it had sold over 40 million copies worldwide, as a self-published book, and I honestly, I wanted to know what the fuss was about.

And then I fell in. Head first. Consuming all three books in less than a week. I haven’t poured over books like that since, ahem, the Twilight series, which interestingly enough had a similar sort of effect culturally. Now, you may think both of these series are trashy. In many ways they are, but they have gripped the nation in such a way that it is important to think about what needs they are filling.

It is interesting to me, on a sociological level, why this book would be so ravenously popular. It is a book with graphic sex scenes that is being sold in my local grocery store – at grabbing level of anyone over the age of three.  And people are talking about it, and sex, out loud to one another. They are reading those scenes in the airport and next to you on the bus – and it’s like, business as usual.

It is interesting to me, on a personal level, what kinds of fantasies books like this enable.

I’m talking about the fantasies that have very little to do with sex.

Superficially it’s this: being rescued from your life by an attractive, enticing + extremely wealthy person who whips you into a frenzy of love, new-found experience, and an introduction to an echelon of society reserved for the rich and famous.

It’s the excitement of something new + the promise of forever-long stability, all wrapped up in one hot package.

However, underneath the superficial niceties, I believe that it’s this: being taken care of, on a very structured + safe level, and relaxing into the knowledge that you will always have everything that you want + nothing is required from you in the way of stress or thought about making it happen, financially speaking.

We, the collective we, are very comfortable with keeping our brains turned off.

It feels safe, on many levels, believing that our government has our best interest at heart, that we if we are good good things will happen to us, that the “experts” know more about us than we do. It feels nice to have someone else pick up the tab, manage our finances, or cook all of our meals for us.

It also feels good to indulge our inaction on behalf of our own happiness by holding out the hope that someday we will be rescued from whatever situation it is that is causing us angst.

It feels comfortable to prefer the status quo, even when it makes us utterly miserable, than to step out into the abyss of the unknown.

Last January I wrote Grieving the Loss of Your Body Image Fantasy about a very similar topic: what to do with all of those images and dreams that you have for yourself when you realize that they are not riding up to save you from your dieting hell.

For me, my body image fantasy (and many of my other fantasies as well), largely have to do with not having to do any work and achieving a life beyond my wildest dreams. It was a way of dissociating or checking out, when my every day reality was too painful or overwhelming for me.

It was a fantasy that I indulged to keep myself from freaking out completely about the prospect of truly stepping up to the plate, showing up for myself, and deciding that I am important enough to make a priority.

In other words: the fantasy kept me busy, so that I didn’t have to begin on the terrifying process of getting to know myself or figuring out what I wanted out of my life.

I started out today to write a post about creating your own luck – which I will publish later this week – but I just couldn’t get 50 Shades of Grey out of my head, knowing this post had to come first.

My life fantasy is this: living happily + comfortably in my own home with my partner + babies, with the entire production bankrolled by a business that utilizes + emphasizes my best gifts in serving others.

Now, I could spend the next five years idly dreaming and wishing and manifesting this reality, believing whole-heartedly that it is enough.

Or, I could realize that this life requires me showing up for myself and taking action based in loving myself, wanting provide myself a beautiful life, and believing, on a gut level, that I deserve to be that happy.  There is no one on the planet who can do this work for me.

There is no one who can ride up to save me if I’m not aligned fully, inside + out, to be saved.

I want my life to be full to the brim with the excitement of something new + the promise of forever-long stability, but I am no longer waiting for someone else to swoop in and hand it to me on a silver platter or for the stars to magically align over night.

I believe this: the stars align for us when we make the solemn and breathtaking vow to be an active participant in our own lives.

I am talking about standing behind yourself completely + with your eyes wide open, all the time, no matter what, even when it’s really difficult.

It is about believing to your toes that you deserve a life that is lit up like a Christmas tree with joy, adventure, passion, and excitement.

It is about being the hero that you’ve always dreamed would rescue you, and acting accordingly.

It is about being you,unconditionally, and learning to love all of your parts.

It’s about switching your brain on + promising to stay with yourself, as you learn, uncover + explore.

It is about being on your own team, rooting for your own success.

It is between you + yourself.

Good luck.

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13 thoughts on “Fifty Shades of Taking Personal Responsibility”

  1. So, it has been scientifically noted that willpower is a limited resource. Personal responsibility is great until life becomes overwhelming and you do just need to check out and have someone help you for a while…

    • Hmmm.. I’m curious – do you think that having willpower or forgoing support + help from others is required for taking responsibility for your own happiness?

      • I think personal responsibility does include being able to take a minimum amount of care of yourself, by yourself. Murphy is a wonderful associate of all of us, who tends to cause our friends to become too busy at all the wrong times, and our family to have issues when we also do, and so on. Sometimes life just craps on you, *and* you have to go it alone, and personal responsibility means not dropping everything in your life on the floor when that situation comes up.

        That’s where willpower comes in; when you want to, say, skip work for a week because your life has gone to hell, and no one is around to help, you have to have the willpower to get up and be responsible and keep at it. Your Future Self will thank you for actually keeping your life together, even if it sucks now.

  2. I loved your take on this. I also thought, from a body-image perspective, that it also was the fantasy of turning off your brain when it came to being thin. The main character would forget to eat, everyone told her how thin she was. She just couldn’t help it. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still fantasize about that.

  3. I believe this: the stars align for us when we make the solemn and breathtaking vow to be an active participant in our own lives.

    This is so vital. Not much happens if we just wait for life to fix itself we can only do so much through force of will which often comes from a place of “if I don’t do it no one will” type conflict. Being in alignment with yourself and your values and your core spirit so that you can do the work in the way that is most beneficial, THAT is what makes things beautiful.

  4. Great post Mara! Understanding and awareness are so vital if we are get to get to door #2 personal responsibility. Door #2 could go one of two ways- beating yourself up or allowing yourself the gift of grace.

    There is a difference between dissociating and gicing yourself a break.

    As always, what you write about is *timely*.

  5. Wow, this is it, isn’t it? I love that you do not discard these “unrealistic” hopes and images of superheroes and dream lives as invalid. They ARE our very real, meaningful dreams, but WE have to take ownership of them. We are the heroes we’ve been waiting for. Incredible, and also a bit scary…

  6. Thank you! I hated 50 Shades personally, but it’s good to see someone who liked it as a book series say that there are some problems in their co-dependent relationship. Fantasy is okay, but it is fantasy – you can incorporate elements of it into your life but you can’t depend on them to fulfill you. It’s okay to have a partner in that, I think, but they can’t just be an escape or a security blanket, or some kind of “I’ll help you heal to make me feel needed and worthy” scenario like 50 Shades seems to be.

    Anyway, you said it better than I did. 🙂

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