This episode follows Chapter 3, Section 4: “Activate Responsibility” of Anxiety… I’m So Done with You! The idea of responsibility may stress you out because it feels like an obligation or a trap. In this episode, I debunk that idea and explain how responsibility brings freedom. You’ll learn how
- Responsibility leads to a positive self-view
- It energizes and invigorates you
- To think of yourself in a power role when approaching tasks
- To negotiate for what you want
Stepping closer to adulthood could be daunting, but I’ll show you how accepting responsibility is good for you.
Adolescence is a time of transition. Many traditional cultures have rites of passage designed to help youth transition from childhood to adulthood, also known as liminal time. In Western society, many of us have been disconnected from our ancestors’ rites of passage ceremonies, which could make youth feel adrift. In this episode, I acknowledge that loss and make suggestions to smooth the process of stepping into responsibility.
You’ll learn the benefits of responsibility in so many areas of your life. Let me show you how responsibility is your ally. It’ll help you become empowered, invigorated, and purposeful. Most importantly, it has the potential to give you control over your anxiety.
“Responsibility makes you feel good about yourself. You’ll feel accomplished, relieved when the task is off your plate, or happy if you helped someone. Plus, if you had a challenge when doing that task, you will feel proud for overcoming that challenge.” – Dr. Jodi Aman
Listen to the Episode: Activate Responsibility
Resources for Activate Responsibility:
- Teaching Teens Growth Mindset
- Arnold Van Gennep and Rites of Passage
- “Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains how the pandemic affected teen brains” on YouTube
- How to set SMART goals
- The Number 1 Reason Kids Complain
- How to Teach Empathy to Your Teen and Why They Will Thank You!
- Why Kids Need Chores
Transcription of the Activate Responsibility:
Hey, you’re here with Dr. Jodi, and this is Season 3 of “Anxiety… I’m so Done with You!” This podcast is a teen and young adult guide to ditching toxic stress and hardwiring your brain for happiness. If you’re new here, grab a copy of my book “Anxiety… I’m so Done with You!” because this series goes section by section through the book, going a little bit deeper, giving more examples, and telling more stories. Season 3, which goes along with Chapter 3, expands hope by looking at your skills and abilities.
You are amazing! You have many skills and abilities. However, anxiety does not want you to know that. It tries to block your view of them. But not anymore! This season, we’ll bring them out into the open, giving you more access to them when you need them the most. As this season progresses, you’re going to envision yourself in a new way––as a person who is able, caring, confident, and determined. Thank you for listening, subscribing, and leaving me five stars on Apple Podcasts. Mental health problems are skyrocketing, especially among young people, and this series will help them cease judging, stop questioning, and start healing!
Welcome to Chapter 3, Section 4: Activate Responsibility.
In this episode, I’m going to discuss how:
- responsibility leads to freedom and a positive self-view
- responsibility can be energizing and invigorating
- to position yourself in a power role when approaching any task, and lastly,
- to negotiate for what you want
Before we dive into all that, remember that I go live every Monday on YouTube and Facebook. You’ll find me on YouTube and TikTok at @DoctorJodi.
“Responsibility” may have a bad rap, especially for teenagers! And that’s because you’re trying to individuate and become your own person. Developmentally, you are supposed to rebel. As you move along this process of individuating––
(I find the word “individuate” interesting because it doesn’t mean be on your own or be a single, individual person; it comes from the word indivisible, meaning undivided. That means, as you grow into adulthood, you realize you are part of a whole. It’s so convoluted that the word that means indivisible has a connotation of a person being on their own. It’s supposed to be a person being a member of a whole community and connected to that community. Or even beyond the community––connected to the energy field and the land. Connected as in being one with all of that.)
As you travel your life path from kid to adult, you are transitioning to this new identity––the adult you. In many older societies, older than Western culture, cultures that still connect with the land and are more communal, there are Rights of Passage rituals that young people go through to mark this transition into adulthood and their community. In these ceremonies, they accept the responsibility of adulthood. They take their position in society. There’s a big hole missing in Western culture because most young people don’t have these rituals to help them get through this time psychologically.
Rite of Passage
An anthropologist named Arnold van Gennep studied rites of passage around the world. An anthropologist is someone who looks at human culture and humanity. He suggests that rites of passage and rituals follow the three-stage process described below.
1. In the first stage, you are changed from something you were to something new or different. That’s called separation. You leave childhood––your young identity––and transition into adulthood.
2. In the second stage, you remove yourself from society temporarily because you’re in a period of transition called liminality; sometimes, I refer to this as the caterpillar’s cocoon.
3. The third stage is when you re-enter society as a new person, which is called incorporation.
In adolescence, you are going through this process. If your family doesn’t have a cultural ritual for this, you will have to feel your way through the process on your own. In the second stage, the liminal space is a betwixt-and-between place where you pull back from your parents and are in your head a lot. You’re trying to figure out who you are and your position. In non-individualized cultures, you might be in the forest on a vision quest. If so, you would have a guide for this experience––the medicine person from the community or a spiritual elder would guide you through this process.
As a young adult, you may be going through this liminal time. You might feel like you’re in caterpillar soup, releasing that caterpillar body and growing a new body with beautiful wings. If you’re here in this liminal space, having one or some adults in your life that you can trust makes it more accessible. If you don’t yet have one, find a trusting adult to support you. Let them help you. Humans are not meant to do things alone, especially something as big as becoming your own person. You want an adult to show you that adulthood isn’t that bad, that the responsibility that comes with it is freeing and connecting, and that it gives you a sense of purpose and position in the community, which provides you with belonging and lifelong happiness.
Purpose and the Body
Studies from all over the world show a correlation between purpose and living longer and happier. We’ll discuss that more in Chapter 5, but as a preview here, I’m letting you know that a sense of purpose gives you a reason to live. It gives you a feeling of worthiness. You deserve/need that because people without a sense of purpose feel lost and untethered.
How does responsibility equal freedom?
Think about your life. In particular, think about a time when you’re around well-functioning adults. (Sadly, I have to specify “well-functioning adults” because many of you have adults who are not functioning that well.) If not your parents or grandparents, there should be some good adult somewhere in your sphere; aunts, uncles, someone at school, a neighbor, or one of your friend’s parents. Think about how you feel when you’re around them. Reflect on when you helped them with something like holding the door for them, acting politely, or doing something kind. When well-functioning adults witness you being responsible, they want to give you things like compliments, privileges, support, and opportunities. They recognize you and are so happy that you’re doing those things they want to give you whatever they can. That is how well-functioning adults act around young people who are responsible.
I don’t mean that they give you everything that you want. (That’s not well-functioning to give someone everything that they want.) However, they want to give you rewards and privileges when they see your responsibility. And those rewards and privileges equal freedom to do the things you can’t do if you hadn’t earned them.
People with rewards and privileges without having earned them usually don’t appreciate them the same way as people who have earned them. The people who earn privilege through their behavior––and by behavior, I mean kindness and actions, and by actions, I mean, they are responsible, conscientious, ethical, and do what they say they’re going to do––are usually nicer people to hang out with. They feel more grounded and comfortable with themselves. And because they’re comfortable with themselves, they treat other people around them better. The amount of responsibility you embody is relative to the freedom you get.
(There’s a relationship, but not a guarantee. Because our world is very unfair, many injustices marginalize people in our society, keeping them from the opportunities they deserve. Then, bullies, criminals, and accidents hamper people’s freedom, too. In general, though, responsibility is highly correlated with freedom.)
Responsibility has you feeling:
It’s helpful to consider responsibility low-risk and high-reward because it’s absolutely worth the effort. For example, if you showed commitment at a job, you’d get promoted faster and earn more money. Plus, responsibility won’t only earn you rewards and privileges; it also makes you feel good about yourself.
- relieved when the task is off your plate
- happy that you helped someone, and
- proud for overcoming any challenges you may have faced
On the other hand, being irresponsible makes you feel bad about yourself. You may not think you care about being “responsible,” but often, even if it is below your awareness, there is shame and guilt about being irresponsible. Then, you have to overcompensate to convince yourself that you don’t care, and the guilt and shame eat you up inside anyway, even if you deny them. Plus, being irresponsible hurts relationships. It gets you into fights and conflicts, makes you put walls up, keeps people away, and makes you distrust yourself and others. Unfortunately, this isolates you.
Responsibility, though, connects you to people.
It gives you a sense of belonging. People need you, and you need them. They help you, and you help them. For example, when you participate in your family chores, you are part of helping your house run. Even if you don’t consciously care about that, your brain feels settled in that belonging. It enjoys the safety that comes with belonging to a group. Another benefit is that managing and completing tasks robustifies your prefrontal cortex. (I just made up the word “robustify,” but I have not found another word that really portrays the same meaning––to make it fuller, richer, and more invigorated.)
Anytime you build up your prefrontal cortex, your anxiety, and depression go down. I recently listened to a news segment with Sanjay Gupta, which I’ll link to in the blog post that goes with this episode. He was referring to some studies of the teenage brain where they took MRIs before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. On those scans, they found an overall shrinkage of the participant’s prefrontal cortex, which they attributed to the lack of activity during the social isolation of the lockdowns. When the prefrontal cortex is under-stimulated, anxiety and depression increase.
Remember, the prefrontal cortex is the mammalian brain that can override any false beliefs that the anxiety (the reptilian brain) tells you. That means the more robust the prefrontal cortex is, the less power anxiety has. The prefrontal cortex is the brain’s executive functioning, where you make meaning and decisions and recognize your agency and authority. Now that we are post-pandemic, your prefrontal cortex desperately needs stimulation.
Stimulating the Prefrontal Cortex
The prefrontal cortex is stimulated through activities like problem-solving, challenging yourself, learning new things, and being creative. Responsibility makes you feel better! Anxiety and depression want you to pull away from any responsibility. Plus, they have you too exhausted to do anything. However, that not only keeps anxiety and depression in your life, but it makes them worse. Don’t listen to the anxiety and depression. They do not have your best interests at heart.
Do something little, even when you’re exhausted, or the anxiety wants you to pay attention to its lies. Do something little, even if it’s clean out one drawer. That might be all you can do if you’re exhausted. Try that one little task. Then, celebrate it! Look at it. See how good it looks all organized. This will help you feel good about it. That’s what we discussed in the last episode: celebrating anything you do. And it will feed you energy for the very next task. Then you get more energy to do the next task; you use the energy you get from that task to do the next task, the next task, and the next task.
When you are unmotivated, you are an “object at rest” (inertia = object at rest stays at rest; an object in motion stays in motion). To get out of “rest,” you must slowly transform yourself into an object-in-motion with your prefrontal cortex. Your mammalian brain has to make you engage in the first small task. You can’t go from 0 to 100 (rest to super speed). You have to accelerate slowly. Luckily, once you are in motion, the inertia carries you, and it takes less effort to stay active.
The other thing about responsibility to remember is that you see yourself reflected off the people around you. So, when they see you as responsible, it affirms and acknowledges you. You feel really good about yourself. That acknowledgment, acceptance, appreciation, and being noticed? It lifts you, energizes, and invigorates you. Without positive feedback like this, you start to feel shriveled up. You stop having your dopamine release, and then you stop caring about anything. You feel increasingly exhausted, saying, “I’m so tired all the time. I’m so tired all the time.”
In that state, you feel like a victim of everything anyone asks you to do. The requests feel like demands and obligations. You feel powerless and out of control, so what do you do? Protest those things! But, the protest itself can be more effort, while at the same time, you are losing your potential rewards or privileges from the conflict caused by protesting. (You don’t win anything here. You just stay suffering.)
You can be in a power role
Instead, I want you to think about responsibility as you being in a power-role. You are choosing to do anything that you do. It’s true! Everything you do is a choice. (Even if it doesn’t feel like a choice, like when you are doing it because you don’t want to get in trouble. You are choosing not to get in trouble.) When you feel empowered, that is your choice; it will feel totally different to do that thing. This is a mindset shift. It’s always your choice; you just have to see it that way. Besides, sometimes doing the task is much less energy than protesting it. Plus, you get the benefits from doing it!
Kind in mind: if responsibility gives you freedom, then responsibility gives you power. Tasks will seem more manageable when you think of it this way. They will take less energy to start because you’re not fighting yourself as much. As time passes and you get used to doing things, your calorie-conserving resistance will decrease. When your brain gets used to tasks, it stops protesting them. The task becomes easier and worth the effort (since there’s less effort.) Life is so much easier when you don’t oppose the little actions you must do to manage your life. When you’re used to doing them, they get easier, and you will get more opportunities. And you’ll be able to handle bigger challenges that come your way.
Negotiation and Responsibility
Before we close this episode, let’s talk about negotiation. Negotiation is an excellent skill for anyone to have. The world works through relation and cause and effect. People have needs and wants, and also things to offer others. Humans are social beings, and we can’t do everything that we have to do in our life alone. We can barely do a small portion of the things that we have to do in our life alone. We need other people, and other people need us. Therefore, you have to learn how to negotiate for those needs.
When you were a child, people met your needs without you having to ask, but now that you’re entering adulthood. You are in this liminal space. You have opinions about what you want and how you want it. So, you must start learning how to negotiate to get those things. What’s important to know about negotiating is that it’s a two-way street. You have to give something to get something in a negotiation.
You’re older now and can be responsible. You have to give what the other person needs to get what you need. “Giving” can sometimes merely be acting responsibly. For example, you have to clean your room before going out or do some extra chores to earn a few bucks. Here’s a hot tip about negotiating: If you know the other person well, you know what they want, which will help you understand what you can offer them. Offer something first, something that you would absolutely do, before making your request.
Keep in mind, though, if you offer something that you promised before but didn’t do, it won’t work. If you still need to build up trust, then you’ll have to do something that you said you do before you get what you want. Expect you need to build trust before that kind of negotiation works. If you’re saying, “I’ll do this if you do this for me,” they have to count on you that you will do that thing. If they can’t count on you, you must do your thing first to earn what you want. That’s where the responsibility comes in. When you’re responsible, it gives you tons of negotiation power. That means you can ask for more things with fewer things you have to offer! They trust you already!
You’ll use negotiation in every single relationship: friends, romantic partners, kids, and in every career. No matter what you do, having a good understanding of negotiation skills will benefit you. The link to the blog post is in the show notes.
That’s it for this episode. Thank you so much for sticking with me through this whole process.
Today, I talked about
- Responsibility correlation with freedom and a positive self-view
- Responsibility being energizing and invigorating
- Thinking of yourself in a power role when approaching tasks
- Negotiating for what you want.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for listening and commenting and leaving me a five-star review on Apple Podcasts. If I’ve helped you at all, share this book and podcast series because you never know who is struggling around you, and you might make a huge difference in their lives. The next episode is Chapter 3, Section 5, Activate Confidence. Read or listen to that section, and I’ll meet you there.