Reasons Personal Accountability is Challenging

Feb 07, 2023

Last week, I had an interesting experience that served as a reminder that no matter how trained we are in personal accountability, it is a lifelong skill we must cultivate. I asked one of my co-workers to review a document we were about to send to a customer. It was late on Friday; I’d worked on it all day trying to get it perfect. I was also exhausted from juggling work and three small kids while my husband was out of town all week. She responded over chat with a question about the length of the document. I perceived her question and unconsciously chose to interpret it as critical feedback.

What happened next?

My internal defense mechanisms were immediately triggered, and I went into a fight mode. I was hurt, angry, and had no interest in being criticized in that moment. I felt terrible. I had a great, productive day filled with wins and should have been ending the week proud of all I’d accomplished. Instead, I allowed all of that to be overshadowed by this one small incident. Multiple emotions and past experiences were triggered in that one small incident requiring me to engage in self-reflection and grow my self-awareness once again.

This week, as I was reviewing the list of reasons personal accountability is so hard, I noticed how many of them played out in this one small incident. I also recognized how the skills I’ve worked to cultivate around personal accountability came into play and ultimately led to a positive outcome.

Challenges with Personal Accountability:

Easier to Blame

  • What it means: Blaming others is easier and we can avoid more work for ourselves.
  • My Experience: I was tired and I had no interest on a Friday afternoon making major changes or taking the time to truly self-reflect on her question. Clearly, blaming her and judging that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about would be much easier.

Blaming Others Let’s Us Feel Better About Ourselves

  • What it means: When they are wrong, we are right. We can avoid self-reflection and ignore what we have done.
  • My Experience: I could feel better about myself. Which meant I could avoid really reflecting and integrating her question…again, too much work!


  • What it means: Being willing to admit when we’ve made a mistake takes courage. When we are criticized, it can call into question our self-worth and self-love.
  • My Experience: Both issues with self-worth and self-love are challenges I’ve been working on in recent years. As a result, they are easily triggered especially when I’m tired and worn out. I lacked the courage in the moment to be willing to admit maybe there was an issue and instead, felt I needed to defend my self-worth.


  • What it means: When we make excuses, we can choose to be lazy and not take action.
  • My Experience: Again, I was tired and didn’t want to do more work on it.


  • What it means: Who wants to admit their weaknesses? It’s hard! We can feel superior when we blame others.
  • My Experience: Although I wasn’t blaming anyone, my pride was definitely taking a hit.

Defensiveness is Instinctive

  • What is means: When we feel under attack, our flight/flight kicks in and leads to petty arguments when we refuse to drop blame and instead try to retaliate.
  • My Experience: My defenses were definitely instinctively triggered. I felt the need to retaliate and fight back. Thankfully, I was able to leverage my past skills to recognize I did not want to create more conflict and instead, wanted to seek resolution.

Avoiding Shame

  • What it means: Shame can come up when we feel rejected, flawed, or inadequate in some way.
  • My Experience: Certainly, my hard work being questioned triggered my feelings of inadequacy.

Taught to Blame

  • What it means: From an early age, we learn it’s safer to blame others (lie) than to admit we did something wrong and face the consequences. We teach children there are only two options: good or bad; right or wrong. (More on this later!)
  • My Experience: I’ve spent years working on trying not to blame others or my circumstances. After initially being triggered, I was able to stop myself from blaming the other person. Instead, I called to share why I was struggling and what had happened from my perspective.


  • What it means: Denial is a coping mechanism we can use to protect ourselves and give ourselves time to adjust.
  • My Experience: I quickly denied her question had merit so that I could move on.

What happened next....

After experiencing my initial reaction, I fairly quickly shifted my mindset to having a conversation about her question. After asking her reasoning, I understood she was asking because she truly didn’t know. We ended in a good place, but I still had more work to do.

Hours later, after I’d had some time to self-reflect, I was able to admit to myself what really happened in that moment. I experienced many of the challenges we all face when faced with having to take personal accountability for our actions and reactions. My reaction to her question was not her fault it was 100% my responsibility. I get to choose how I respond rather than allowing my initial reaction to rule my actions.

What I hope this example highlights is how developing the skill of personal accountability is both important and takes intentional effort. We have many reasons not to demonstrate personal accountability that allow us to walk away feeling better. Instead, taking personal accountability requires us to admit our own shortcomings and failures which is much harder.

Teaching Personal Accountability to Children

I also want to address how we teach children to blame, make excuses, or lie. I observed this in my own children (six year old boy and twin three year old girls) at a very early age when they started making up stories rather than telling the truth. As a result, I made a rule that Mommy only ever gets really mad at two things: (1) Hurting other people and (2) lying. I would rather them admit their mistake or bad choice than learn to lie about or hide what they’ve done. When they admit their bad choice to me, it allows us the opportunity to have a conversation about it.


In my children’s book, Good Choice Bad Choice, it addresses the distinction between good and bad choices versus good or bad children. I teach my children they can never be a bad child. Instead, they are children who sometimes make bad choices. Then, when they do inevitably make bad choices (as all children do), we must learn to admit them and learn from them. I have found this lesson to be incredibly powerful for my children in helping them to take accountability even when they have made a bad choice. They may (and in many cases will) still face consequences for their bad choice but they also learn those are far better than if they lie or hide their choice.


Personal Accountability makes a huge difference in terms of the growth, development, engagement and performance of people. When we help people overcome the challenges with personal accountability, increase their self-awareness, and implement self-reflection, they can achieve much greater results in their roles and life! Those with a mindset of high personal accountability are more successful, happier, and live better lives! I believe strongly every workplace must both incorporate training on personal accountability and implement practices that support a culture of personal accountability.

Get a free copy of the first chapter of The Exceptional Life R-Evolution!

Free Copy Here!

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team!
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.

Fiercely Cherished Beings Sign Up 

Sign up here to find out when the new book Fiercely Cherished Beings will be available!