There is a fine line between knowing what belongs to us and placing blame on others. Often I hear people say, “It’s your stuff, not mine,” and that is a really healthy concept to understand because we can’t always accept how others see us as the truth. If we did so, we may end up twisting and contorting to try and fit into their understanding of who we should be. Yet, at the same time, if we don’t seek the grain of truth about ourselves when we hear things we might not like about who we are, and then it may become almost pathological that we place the burden on others continuously. In my practice as a sex therapist, I had to learn quickly where the boundaries were between “my stuff” and “their stuff”. One great lesson I take away from being a sex therapist is that I have learned not to take feedback so personally. But there is the danger that I could constantly reject feedback based on the “my stuff/your stuff” argument, negating any wisdom which might be held in others’ perception of me.

Sometimes when people learn about the boundaries between what is mine and what is yours, they might begin to use this as a way to avoid personal responsibility and place blame on others. This could become quite a lonely place to live. Always rejecting feedback from others might hinder growth and limit what we can learn about who we are, while at the same time, taking on every bit of feedback we hear can be painful and limiting. It is a very delicate dance and one which requires deep internal awareness to master in a healthy way. If we already have a negative image of who we are and others criticise us, it could be very easy to internalise such judgments. Perhaps it is important to have a healthy grasp of who we are in the world before we can know what to accept or reject in relation to others’ opinions.

Taking time to be present to the self and noticing thoughts which come and go could be a first step towards understanding ourselves. Thoughts are very often mind clutter that repeatedly swirls around our mind. Sometimes those thoughts are important and valid, and other times those thoughts are a reflection of the scripts we believe about ourselves that have been on replay for many years. Take a moment to ask yourself where the thought came from, where you first heard the idea about yourself and how valid it is really. The first step towards personal responsibility is self-knowledge. Creating a solid understanding of ourselves is the source of a life-long journey towards a healthy self-image and a balanced perception of the world. Next time you hear feedback from someone which is painful, ask yourself: “Does this confirm my negative self talk, or is there a grain of truth in what has been said?” Perhaps there is yet more to learn about who we are, and in doing so, can open up further curiousity about our friends, family and partners.