“Own it.” You’ve probably heard this phrase out of the mouths of over-served reality TV stars, or perhaps you’ve hurled it via text at a BFF. You may even seek to “own it” in your own life, making it your personal mantra to be painfully honest about your behavior, even when it’s not so great. At its core, this turn of phrase means being accountable — and while the concept is pretty trendy these days, the actual practice isn’t so simple.

Relationship expert Hilary Silver is a big proponent of owning it and an even bigger believer in what we all have to gain from doing so. For one, “we’re more likable when we own our stuff, because we’re better people and we’re more at peace with ourselves,” she says. Self-awareness and accountability are also important when it comes to leadership. “I think that you can be the most effective leader when you don’t pretend to have it all together,” Silver says. “Clearly, you’re a leader because you have skills and you earned it in so many ways — but when you can be honest and say where you struggle and how you’re working on it, people will follow you anywhere.”

Whether you want to practice ownership and accountability to improve your leadership abilities or simply to feel better as a person, here are six expert tips from the coach and relationship pro that will help you do just that.

1. Find the patterns in your life. We all have them. They’re the things we do over and over again that still make us cringe every. Single. Time. Maybe your knee-jerk reaction to criticism is to get defensive, or maybe there’s a nasty little monster on your shoulder that nudges you to make a snarky comment at someone else’s expense any time you feel uncomfortable. These are behavioral patterns, and identifying them is the first step toward holding yourself accountable for less-than-model behavior and becoming a better version of yourself. You might also notice frustrating patterns that feel outside of your control. Patterns like that might be an indication that you need to switch up how you approach relationships or decisions. “Start looking carefully at places where you’re stuck, where you’re unable to break out of the situation, where you’re having trouble reaching a goal, or where you’re having an experience that keeps repeating itself that you don’t like,” Silver says. “If it happens once, it could be a fluke and it could be done. But if it happens many times, it’s likely there’s a good answer and something that you’re doing to contribute.”

2. Own it! (But be kind.) Once you’ve figured out which of your patterns needs breaking, it’s time to take responsibility. “We often point the finger of blame at the situation or at another person,” Silver says. “Waiting for somebody else to change so that you can be happier means you’re going to be waiting a really long time — or forever. Being more in control and empowered to make the change means you have to buck up and take responsibility for what you are contributing.” An important step in taking this responsibility (and one that we’re finding especially refreshing in Silver’s approach) is cutting yourself a little slack. According to Silver, when we judge ourselves for our admittedly bad behavior before we even start taking steps to do better, we tend to get in our own way — and that doesn’t help anyone. “You can’t get to the bottom of something that’s going on with you if you’re not letting yourself go there,” she says. “The best way to go there is to know that you’re not going to be treated poorly by yourself. You deserve to be given the benefit of the doubt and to give yourself a break.” Preach!

3. Understand what you would like to be doing instead. Figure out what behavior, habit, or reaction would be better than the one you tend to engage in already. “Have a goal for what you would like to be working toward doing so that it’s ready for you when you’re trying to make those changes,” Silver suggests. “Visualize yourself doing that so that when the time comes, you’re more likely to be able to carry it out.”

4. Find openings for improvement. You’ve figured out where you need to improve, and you’re starting to take accountability (without beating yourself up). Next? Tune in to opportunities to make changes. If you’ve been paying close attention to your shortcomings so far, you should have a pretty good idea by now of when and how you’re most likely to fall off the wagon of good behavior. Identify those moments and try flipping the script. If you tend to lash out at your S.O. every time you start talking about money, be more intentional and take an extra beat next time the subject comes up in conversation. If you find yourself procrastinating on the job every time a certain kind of project is assigned to you, consider setting up a time to talk with your boss and ask more questions the next time said project comes across your desk. You need to start making a point of doing things differently, because only then can you expect different results. “Set yourself up to break those patterns,” Silver says. “Look for openings to do that.”

5. Have a sense of humor. As you work your way toward an even more perfect you (hard to imagine, we know), don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself and to more actively and outwardly own the places where you fall short. “Having an awareness of your shortcomings and owning them makes them so much more tolerable for other people,” Silver says. Next time you find yourself being difficult among a group of friends or family members, see how it feels to admit what you’re doing — but without being self deprecating. Laugh it off a bit (unless the laughter feels insensitive in the moment, of course), put a name to how you’re acting — “I’m being so difficult/judgmental/[insert other adjective here]” — and give some context to what’s been happening in your life to make you act that way. “Do it in a way where you know your worth, your strengths, and your shortcomings, and where you can laugh about those things and do your best to work on them,” Silver says. “When you own it out loud, people see the humanity in you and they know that you’re self-aware.”

6. Be proactive. It will be easier for you to anticipate your own bad behaviors and tackle them when you’re taking time to touch base with yourself on a regular basis. Silver recommends a five-minute daily mindfulness check, during which you should be asking yourself what’s bothering you, what’s on your mind, and what you need most in that moment. Being more sensitive to your mental state at any given moment will allow you to take ownership of your behavior and more effectively make changes in an intentional way.

What bad habits or patterns are you trying to break? Tweet us @BritandCo!

(Photo via Getty)