Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and naming for you … it means that you do not treat your body as a commodity with which to purchase superficial intimacy or economic security, for our bodies to be treated as objects, our minds are in mortal danger. It means Insisting that those to whom you give your friendship and love are able to respect your mind.
It means being able to say, with Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre: “I have an inward treasure born with me, which can keep me alive if all the extraneous delights should be withheld or offered only at a price I can not afford to give. Responsibility to that means you yourself do not fall for shallow and easy solutions – predigested books and ideas … marrying early as an escape from real decisions, getting pregnant as an evasion of already existing problems.
It means that you refuse to sell your talents and aspirations short … and this, in turn, means resisting the forces in society that say women should be nice, play safe, have low professional expectations, drown in love and forget about work, live through others, and stay in the places assigned to us. That means we insist on a life of meaningful work, insist that work be as meaningful as love and friendship in our lives.
It means, therefore, the courage to be “different” … the difference between an actively lived life, and a life of passive drifting and dispersal of energies, is an immense difference. Once we begin to feel committed to our lives, responsible to ourselves, we can never again be satisfied with the old, passive way.
– Adrienne Rich