I did business with someone to the tune of many, many thousands of dollars. Long story short? They didn’t deliver on what they sold me on, and after I spoke up about that, they took to social media to be passive-aggressive about it.

I was hurt. I was pissed.

Months later, I noticed that whenever I thought of the person or situation, I felt hurt and pissed all over, again. So I decided to take my own medicine, and do something (courageous) about it: I’d see where I could take radical responsibility and completely own my part, and release anything that I knew was not mine. I started by asking myself, “Where were the red flags that I ignored?”

And pretty quickly, I felt…stupid.

I felt stupid because prior to hiring, I’d known about multiple integrity issues: gossiping and divulging personal information about employees, close friends, and other clients.

I felt stupid because I knew of people who had worked with the person, but hadn’t elected to re-hire, and I’d never investigated why.

I felt stupid because mid-way through the project I knew that the pace wasn’t really working, and had brought this up, but had decided to believe them when they said, “No, no, this is all normal, don’t worry.” Even though everything in me said, “This doesn’t feel right,” I subverted my own intuition.

I knew all of that, yet continued on with the hiring and then the submitting of payments.

Who had made the choice to hire someone who had shown these issues? Me. Who had elected to continue submitting payments to someone even when I wasn’t happy with the work? Me.

That’s…kind of stupid.

Now, here’s the thing: what’s not mine is the lack of integrity. What’s not mine is the inability to deliver on the results they were selling.

When you choose to take radical responsibility, you acknowledge what’s not yours–but ultimately, you keep the focus on what is yours. Why? Because that’s where you’ll find peace (after feeling distinctly uncomfortable)

Radical Responsibility is Courageous

That’s why taking radical responsibility is courageous: you might see some things that are hard to see about yourself, and feel the discomfort of that. When I asked myself the simple question, “What are the red flags that I ignored?” the evidence that this hadn’t been a good idea was overwhelming. I had been making certifiably stupid choices, starting with the fact that things hadn’t felt right in my body, and I’d ignored that fact.

It’s hard to feel stupid.

So…I decided to write a declaration that would lead to my own freedom. At the top of the page, I wrote in all capital letters: “READ UNTIL IT NO LONGER BOTHERS ME.” Then I wrote down all of the things I had known prior to hiring that would have indicated it was a bad idea, and all of the choices that I had made that had co-created the situation, that were totally my responsibility.

To release the hurt and resentment that I felt about the situation, I was willing to read this declaration out loud for as long as it took, even if it was to the end of time.

Really, though? It only took a week.

Radical Responsibility Leads to Peace

We aren’t really ever hurt by others, or mad at what they did. We’re pissed off at ourselves. Again and again, it usually all boils down to subverting our own intuition.

In this case, I knew better–in my body–but didn’t treat that evidence as “enough.” I kept looking for logical justifications for why the situation wasn’t right. And, I guess, because I was looking for evidence, my evidence that this situation was royally screwed up showed up in a pissy social media post aimed right at my head.

“That’s the best gift they ever gave me,” I’d later tell a friend about the situation, “Because it was so over-the-top unkind, I became clear in an instant that I was walking away.”

Getting clear on why I’d walked into that mess in the first place was also important. When we don’t take time to evaluate why we did what we did, and when we don’t create space for releasing it, all of that muck just sits around as background noise, siphoning energy.

Taking radical responsibility is courageous because it pushes you to look at the things that are hard to look at. But once you’ve moved through that, it brings peace; the peace of knowing that it all happened how it did, you owned your part, and now you’re ready to move on.