Emotional Responsibility: I Can’t, or I Won’t?

· January 28, 2016

“In these moments it is absolutely impossible for me to make a decision. I can’t.” It is possible that on more than one occasion, someone close to you has said those very same words. Or it may be that you yourself have also expressed the feeling of that familiar wall inside that impedes us from deciding, and advancingMake the change.

“I don’t know if I should end my relationship.” “Maybe I should change some things in my life, but right now I can’t.” “I know that I should talk with this person and tell them everything I feel, but I can’t. I don’t dare.” What is behind all of these typical moments of indecision? In our day to day lives moves an endless stream of insecurities that, in bigger or smaller quantities, makes our lives more or less easy.

Today we want to talk to you about this aspect of life: about the personal and emotional responsibility we should all develop more adequately. Sometimes it isn’t easy, but with a little effort and couragewe can reach it, and thus become more consistent with our own decisions. 

The difference between can’t and won’t

Surely you know more than one person who, almost every day, says: “I can’t.” Invited to go out, just when you are talking to him or her, and even when suggested that maybe it would be the moment to make a change in his or her life, the “I can’t” emerges over and over again.

What does it essentially mean to express the idea of “I can’t”? If I say those two words, I am exempt from responsibility. This is just a way for us to limit ourselves. With our own voices, we build immense walls in this battlefield that is life. And we surrender.


If I do not control the situation, I stop being responsible for everything around me. To say, “I can’t” is to giving up steering the ship of circumstances and problems, leaving no one at the helm. The idea of this is truly terrifying. Let’s give ourselves a simple example that might be familiar to you: “I can’t end my relationship, I know that I am not in love anymore, but we have spent too many years together and I just couldn’t do that to him/her.”

Where is our self-esteem, our coherence, and our integrity? If we are not consistent with our feelings and emotions we lose a great part of who we are. With time, it will become a frustration so great that it hurts us and makes us feel empty. In turn, it may also eventually hurt others, too.

Emotional responsibility

Let’s try something different. What would happen if instead of saying “I can’t,” I substitute it with “I won’t,” meaning “I don’t want to.” In this case there is a clear presence of choice. There is conviction and determination. There is courage and willpower. This is what is known as “emotional responsibility.” In this healthy exercise, a person is consistent with what he or she feels and does. It is when we take responsibility for our feelings and we act coherently without causing anyone pain, not even ourselves. 

Emotional responsibility is an essential pillar of self-esteem and happiness. We shouldn’t avoid our feelings, but rather we should accept them and dare ourselves to make decisions that support them. This is how we can act in a more brave and honest way.

It is not always easy to act in accordance with our emotions. Life is a complex maze in which we have to cope and struggle with different people and different situations. But it is worth keeping this in mind and always developing the idea that we can demonstrate authentic and sincere personal responsibility.

To achieve this, we will show you a little strategy. It’s very simple. It is based simply on explaining in a few lines the problems that you have right now, placing them on the side of “I can’t” or “I don’t want to.” Once you have done this, ask yourself how those words make you feel and if they define the truth of what you feel. Here’s an example:

“I don’t love my boy/girlfriend anymore, but I can’t leave him/her. I don’t dare.” ——“I don’t want to leave my boy/girlfriend.” (Is this true?)

I can’t fly in a plane, it scares me.”———-“I don’t want to fly in a plane.” (Is this true?)

“My coworker bothers me. But I can’t tell him that.”—–“I don’t want to tell him.” (Is this true?)

I can’t face my emotions.”———“I don’t want to face my emotions.” (Is this true?)

Isn’t it amazing how changing one little word can completely alter your perspective?