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.