Recently I drafted an itinerary for an event. I checked it several times before confirming it was finalised. On the day of the event there was a little confusion with which session would take place next as the timings were slightly out of sync. I felt a little embarrassed and took a long look at the itinerary to identify if I had indeed made an error. I had not but it brought something to light. I have a strong tendency to assume I am to blame if something does not go to plan. Without knowing why, where, how or who I quickly point the finger at myself and leave it there until I can gather substantial evidence to prove I was not in the wrong. It does not matter how many people are involved, I instantly volunteer to take some of the blame. I feel responsible and have the desire to find a solution.
Whilst it may be seen as commendable not to run away when you may have a part to play, there is also something quite damaging about self-blame. People who self-blame tend to live with guilt. They feel guilty even when everything is running smoothly. They tend to assume the worst whether there is any evidence of wrong doing or not.
I have in the past attended ad-hoc meetings with my managers and wondered what on earth they needed to speak to me about. I would wrack my brain trying to recall any incidences or exchange of words that may have taken place. Did I speak to someone out of tone, did I display an attitude without realising, am I underperforming? Nine times out of ten, they wanted to discuss a matter the complete opposite of the thoughts running around in my head.
Where did these thoughts come from?
Why was I so open to thinking the worst?
Why do I self-blame?
There is always a root and it is our responsibility to find it. Until we find this root, we will be unable to deal with the problem.
As a child I had a constant feeling of guilt. Guilty for being born to a young mother of 20, guilty for being raised in a single parent household, guilty for my mother’s struggles – both financially and emotionally. I also felt I was a burden and was to blame for everything that did not go according to plan.
So, how can we work on minimising self-blame?
1. Accept that you will make mistakes and it is okay to do so as long as we do not consistently repeat them.
2. Avoid taking responsibility when it is not yours to take
3. Setting boundaries for yourself – at work and with friends and family
4. Arrange to speak to a counsellor or therapist to talk through your feelings and explore where the self-blame started
Have you battled with self-blame or do you know someone who has?
What advice would you offer?