The Fourth Rule: Thou Shalt Own It

by Rachel on August 18, 2010

This past year was one of the best in my life, and while I can give credit to so many people, ideas, events, and resources, there is one thing that was really a defining factor in me finally feeling so happy and satisfied.

I stopped feeling so damn guilty and I started owning everything I did.

I don’t know about you, but guilt was always a major force in my life. How many decisions did I make based on guilt? So many! I always wanted to have a reason to justify my actions. A million reasons, actually. I went into conversations like I was going into battle, armed with my thought processes and explanations like they were nun chucks. I was ready to swing as soon as I heard the first disapproving, “Really?” I was armed and dangerous, ready to justify what I was doing to them and to myself until I was just beating everyone in the face with it.

But finally, last fall, something clicked for me. I realized my only explanation was, “Because.”

And I owned it.

I finally realized how confident I actually was underneath all the guilt. I don’t need that much advice before I make big decisions (only small ones, like restaurant menus). I don’t generally need approval either. I’ve always believed that I know what’s best for myself (with a couple exceptions; one bad relationship comes to mind). But I think years of living in a sorority house got to me — women are so keen on seeking approval, so with that many in one place, suddenly you can’t do anything without second-guessing your choice.

But I broke the habit and stopped asking for so much advice. I started stating how I really felt, what I really wanted.

And I owned it.

And suddenly, I didn’t feel guilty anymore. I just felt happy! And I could say, “People stopped making me feel guilty” but is that really the case? I’m sure they kept trying to, I just didn’t let them. Or maybe they stopped trying when they realized I wasn’t having it.

“I’ve owned it” and “Sorry I’m not sorry” became my go-to phrases. And if people pushed it, I’d just say, “I’m over it.” What I meant was, “I’m over this conversation.” Or, “This isn’t up for discussion.” With more than a few people in my life, I had to say, “I’m not asking you; I’m telling you.”

Many times, people think when you’re telling them something, you’re telling them because you’re seeking approval and advice. They start telling you everything that’s wrong with your decision or listing all the ways you could handle the matter. And then you’re crushed because you’re being told that something you felt super confident about isn’t OK with them.

But they’ll tell you this “out of love” because it’s their “job as a friend.” Fact: It’s one’s job, as a friend who loves you, to trust you enough to make your own decisions and know what is best for yourself.

It shall be noted: If what you are owning qualifies as ridiculous, then the first rule takes precedence over the fourth rule. So don’t even try to get all, “He hits me because he loves me and I’ve owned it! You’re a bad friend for saying I should leave him!” Um, the fourth rule does apply here. As in, “Sorry I’m not sorry, but that guy’s batshit and I’m calling the cops. If that makes me a bad friend — I’ve owned it.”

Glad we’ve got that out of the way! Moving right along…

If you’re sick of feeling guilty and ready to own it, remember this: tell people what you want, what you’re doing, what you need. Don’t ask for permission or advice. Unless you’re a gay in the military: don’t ask, do tell.

I’m going to run a marathon even though I’m not a runner. Sorry I’m not sorry.

I’m going to live at home for a year while I work on a manuscript about how ridiculous I was in college. I’ve owned it.

I’m going to eat real butter. Sorry I’m not sorry.

My mom reads my blog. I’ve owned it.

I’m going to move across the country for a guy. Sorry I’m not sorry.

When you start owning your decisions, it’s crazy how fast people stop pulling you into a two-hour “Really?” and “Are you sure?” and “I’m just worried…” conversations.

Don’t waste your breath explaining yourself — that’s valuable time you could be spending on a million other things! Your explanation can always be that you’re just feeling and doing what you know is right for you in that moment. Plain and simple.

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Stephanie August 18, 2010 at 10:25 am

WOW way to own it! So well said.

This is something that hit home with me because it’s something that I really need to focus on doing more of. I think without even realizing it I’m always seeking approval and it gets exhausting!

Great post. Thank you!


2 Sophie @ yumventures August 18, 2010 at 10:43 am

Amen! Can I get that engraved on a plaque?


3 Summer August 18, 2010 at 10:43 am

You DO own it, Rachel. Thanks for putting it out there for everyone else. I feel like I’m just renting it right now…I think you’re slowly helping me make the transition.


4 Rachel August 18, 2010 at 10:48 am

Haha Summer, I love “renting it.” You’ll own eventually.


5 Suzanne August 18, 2010 at 10:45 am

This is hitting home so hard right now. Love it. I’m also a big fan of “Do you” a la Sammi from Jersey Shore. I’ve been telling myself both of these a lotttt lately :)


6 Libby August 18, 2010 at 10:46 am

Hey Rachel — This is Libby who spoke with you on Monday about something kind of like this. Seriously, you’ve said this in such a lovely and pithy way. Your advice about not living by other’s expectations/how destructive and powerful guilt can be has been very helpful this week. Thank you so much!


7 Rachel August 18, 2010 at 10:47 am

Well HELLO, Miss Libby! Thanks again for the inspiration from our talk! I want to post more about the specific things we talked about (feminism, body image) but when I sat down to write, this came out first. I think it’s a topic I’ll be visiting again and again. But I’m so glad you liked the post!!


8 Hayley August 18, 2010 at 10:55 am

I was armed and dangerous, ready to justify what I was doing to them and to myself until I was just beating everyone in the face with it.

= exactly who I was a couple years ago. So counterproductive and not worth it in the least.


9 Kari Keenan August 18, 2010 at 11:21 am

This subject is so appropriate for me this week. Thank you for reminding me that I’m the only one in charge of my decisions, and to accept the decisions I make without feeling guilty or the need to justify.


10 Lia August 18, 2010 at 11:46 am

Rachel, this was a great post. Posts like these are why your blog is unique and why I love it :) I think I need to incorporate “sorry I’m not sorry” into my vocab ASAP!


11 ashleigh August 18, 2010 at 12:08 pm


Actually, I love all of your posts, really… but I am constantly feeling guilty and quite indecisive about everything. I need to start making decisions and owning them!


12 Janna August 18, 2010 at 12:09 pm

WOW. This is something I need to work on in a major way. Thank you thank you for writing this. I never “own” things and I ALWAYS second guess and need approval and feel guilty about my decisions. This is a really good reminder for me.


13 Caitlin August 18, 2010 at 1:38 pm

This is AMAZING! Once again you put into words something I not only feel ( oh do I feel it) but AGREE with and want so badly to shout in the faces of many many people out there. I can’t wait to read more of the rules! And, um, meet! We need to figure that out ASAP!!


14 Alison August 18, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Love this entire post. Droppin’ truth bombs like it’s hott! (with two t’s)


15 Katie August 18, 2010 at 2:38 pm

This is just the kind of post I needed to read on my hump day.

I have been thinking A LOT about guilt lately and just recently realized how much it directly corresponds to confidence for me. I do agree, as a woman one is more prone to getting too much advice and I often feel that perhaps I could have wasted much less time and energy if I would have just owned what my gut was telling me to do from the beginning.

I don’t think people can even “stop making you feel guilty” as that implies they were in control in the first place. I erased the phrase “s/he makes me feel ____” from my vocabulary a couple years ago; something I had to force myself to learn to do in order to start owning (and taking responsibility for) my emotions. No one can ‘MAKE’ me feel a certain way. I ‘CHOOSE’ to react that way. And as New York taught me assertiveness/confidence over the years, I’ve been learning to just stop giving other people so much gd control–even over my feelings. And that for me completely involved getting rid of a lot of the guilt.

That said, I love the mantra of ‘Sorry I’m not sorry” and I might just have to bookmark this post when I need a reminder to own it; that I am always in control and in charge!


16 Eunice August 18, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Amen, dude. The hard part (for me) is actually choosing what the right decision. If I’m confident in the decision I make, THEN I can own it.


17 Manon August 18, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Can I get an AMEN?!?!?! For Realz…I’m sending this to about 50 people right now, and telling them “See, I’m not the ONLY one who’s a genius”. :) I don’t know how many friends I have who are always trying to JUSTIFY, and I tell them, if you think you have to justify why you did something, or why your boyfriend isn’t a complete douchelord, then either I need to knock the pussy out of you so you start owning your schizz, or knock the dumbass out of you so you realize the douchelord is nothing more than, well, a worthless douchelord and if you are justify what you did, or he did, you ALREADY KNOW you’re an idiot if you’re making excuses. I could rant about this ALL DAY…….


18 sarah @ syrupandhoney August 18, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Another kick ass post! Definitely sharing this with my friends.


19 Jackie (Peaces of Earth) August 18, 2010 at 11:20 pm

Amen, sister!!

I used to be the queen of guilt. I recently ran a marathon. When I decided to start training I was honestly afraid of the doubt that I knew other people would throw my way. This was mostly due to the fact that I wasn’t sure if other people’s doubt would be justified. Could I actually do it? I remember my friend making a simple comment about how she knew someone who ran a marathon and it took A LOT of training. In my head she said, “it takes a lot of training and dedication so you obviously will not be able to do that.” What kind of lack of owning-ness do I have that that’s what I heard? Well, I ran that damn marathon even though I originally doubted myself, and other people probably did, too. It taught me a lot of things, but definitely to believe in myself and my own capabilities. And I definitely trust my own decisions now more than ever. I am learning to own it, and it feels GOOD.


20 Paige S August 19, 2010 at 1:03 am

This post came at the perfect time! Thanks Rachel, your blog is the perfect pick-me-up. :)


21 betsy August 20, 2010 at 8:41 am

I love this post! so many people, including myself from time to time, doubt their gut instinct – or, they regret their decision based on others reactions.


22 Kaytee August 21, 2010 at 1:37 pm

“Sorry I’m not sorry” was the official motto of my summer. Funny how these things work out.


23 Giulia Gentile August 30, 2010 at 4:12 pm

LOVE LOVE LOVE IT. I didn’t go back further enough to see where the ” sorry I’m not sorry originally came from, since I always jump from one blog to the next. I have made the choice to own EVERYTHING I do, good or bad. Thanks for the inspiration!!


24 Clair Norman October 9, 2010 at 6:35 am

My friend Beth Risdon sent this to me. As a Catholic School girl who was not only in a sorority but the ‘little sister’ to a fraternity (what the hell is that?) I relate to conformity and guilt issues. I’m out though. Just recently. This post speaks to me in every way.
How’s this? – I ran my first marathon in 5+ hours. Sorry, but not sorry. Or this? I have 3 children who need to go to college but I am spending $4,000 to get my Yoga Teacher Certification just because. Love it. Dying to Live it.


25 Katie October 11, 2010 at 11:17 pm

Dude thanks for this. I was on top of mount GUILLLLTY all covered with meh. Trying to be the runner I used to be and such when it’s just not in me right now. I’m going to try and own that. I even blogged about it to really drive the nail into my frontal lobe. Your writing rules by the way. The Breast Awareness stuff was absolutely right on. Thanks again.


26 Kia October 12, 2010 at 8:34 am

I stumbled acrossthis post this morning. Thank you for this. I was just thinking this morning about how I need to take more responsibility for my life, and stop seeking permission to do the things I want to do. Thanks.


27 Kayla @ Let's Live Wholesome December 22, 2010 at 8:50 pm

Alright…I’m totally feeling this right now.

If this past year has taught me one thing, it is this:

Life is entirely too short to try to live up to others expectations and wishes. You have to do what’s best for you, regardless of what other people think. While it’s wise to take other’s opinions into mind, ultimately you have to do what you need to do.

Well put, sistah.


28 Jayme January 9, 2011 at 12:48 am

I randomly found your blog and I love it! I just started reading your blog but I feel very encouraged from your posts! Thank you Rachel!


29 Amber February 9, 2011 at 3:49 pm

I was 26 overweight and unhappy for years. Now I’m 27 overweight and becoming happy. I’m doing things for me, owning it being proud of it – and telling myself I deserve it! Thanks for this post, and you’re wonderful blog! I can’t wait to dig in! :)


30 Jenna February 15, 2011 at 5:19 pm

I love this–owning what you say and do is SO important. When I don’t own things, you’re right–my brain is full of disclaimers, overly complicated explanations, justifications–and that’s all clutter! Thanks for the reminder to take responsibility and (unless I’m truly in the wrong) stop apologizing.


31 Peggy Sue March 5, 2011 at 7:42 am

I just loved this article. I wish I had read this years back when I was in the,” I am what you decide I am mode,” or the, ” Help me make a decision because I have no confidence in myself to make it mode.” What a relief when I graduated to believing in myself and knowing, only I had the right answers within me for ME!! Well meaning people like to intervene/(control). I just love that, “Sorry, I’m not sorry.” I would like to use that if you don’t mind!
Thank You!! Peggy Sue


32 Stephanie Clement June 15, 2011 at 8:09 am

Soo I know this is, um, a tardy comment..but Tina (CarrotsNCake) linked it and I *just had* to check it out. Anyways….does this rule apply to mothers? “I” am planning my wedding (and by “I” I mean my mother) and, well, I’ve sacrificed some things and I’m wondering if I should have been stronger? I don’t want to hurt her feelings….any advice on how to juggle mothers?


33 Rachel July 14, 2011 at 5:01 pm

It totally applies to mothers! Honestly, mothers are the people you often have to own it to the most…they know how to get under our skin and make us feel guiltier than anyone else!


34 caitlin June 15, 2011 at 9:18 am

What a great message- I think this is especially hard for woman to come to realize. I believe in doing what makes you happy and not being sorry all the time! Sorry, im not sorry :) love that


35 lynn @ the actor's diet June 15, 2011 at 11:07 am

hey rachel! i know i’m late on this but i just read it via tina’s blog. bravo!


36 Melinda R. July 23, 2011 at 1:40 pm

I’m new to this blog, and love it – I absolutely love this post! I just had a phone conversation with a friend about something I wanted in my life (the way I wanted it), and it was taken as me being negative. It bothered me more than I wanted to admit at first because, I have been on this positive road in my life, which took me a while to get to this point. With alot of reading, friends and family support, and counseling, a year later I’ve come along way and proud of it! Now I am about to be a a mother for the first time and have been on cloud 9 since I found out! Most of all my conversations lately have been about the baby’s growth…all positive.
All of this to say, it doesn’t matter anymore about one friend’s opinion and feeling’s, especially when in my heart, I know I am doing the best I can possibly do right now to be positive in my everyday life. Thank you for this post – no wonder it is a favorite…alot of people can relate to it! Will write again soon!


37 Katie @ peacebeme August 5, 2011 at 11:39 am

I need to do this more than anything! One of the greatest posts ever, really clicked for me today.


38 Cassie Laemmli September 13, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Hi Rachel, this is my first time here and I love this post. I definitely needed it at this time in my life as I’m re-evaluating a lot of things in regards to my job and my blog (and social media). Thank you for your words and inspiration. I just subscribed and I’m looking forward to hearing more from you!


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