The reality of life “is that it is without excuse” (as Jean-Paul Sartre would state). What does this mean? Well, people are constantly faced with the reality that they have to choose the kind of people they want to become, and this choosing never ends as long as they are alive. As human beings, we are “doomed to be free” – we have no choice but to choose. Even in not choosing, we choose to let the world around us direct us – that is a choice, after all. You might ask what this has to do with the existential theme of personal responsibility.
Because we are constantly faced with the reality that we have to choose the kind of people we want to become, we are inherently responsible for the way our lives develop. For instance, in choosing to have things done to us, we can easily become victims. Sartre would strongly argue that we choose to become victimized. However, this choice might not be on a conscious level. The choice may be subconscious. For example, maybe something is more comfortable or familiar so an individual steers in that direction. The consequences of that steering bring him or her to a place that is unhealthy. Who is responsible for this unhealthy situation that the individual is now in? The driver is.
By helping people realize that they are the drivers in their lives, whether they like it or not, is incredibly powerful. When individuals realize that they are “doomed to be free,” the excuses they may present about their lives fundamentally change. Existential angst is an essential part of decision-making, yes, and all people grapple with giving up other possibilities as they make choices. However, choice-making is an unavoidable part of life, leaving only us in the drivers’ seats – and personally responsible.