Self-blame is a common response to failure. It’s also one of the worst things you can do for your success.
The feeling of self-blame can be paralyzing. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to overcome self-blame and break free from the cycle.
Although self-blame is a common reaction to trauma and loss, that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. It can be extremely hard to move past the guilt and shame of feeling responsible for something negative that happened.
But, there are ways you can learn how to overcome self-blame so that you don’t let it stop you from living your life again.
Keep reading to discover exactly how to stop carrying the additional, unnecessary burden of self-blame.
"Don't blame yourself for the declines, because one day you will credit yourself for the increases." - Craig Groeschel
What is self-blame?
Self-blame is a cognitive behavior that shows up as self criticism. This, in turn, results in feeling overly responsible for negative things that have or have not happened.
As a result, self-blame creates a sense of shame and guilt rather than optimism and motivation.
Why is self-blame so harmful?
Not only is it incorrect for you to think of yourself as being solely responsible for an event or even a person’s action, but blaming yourself could result in negative emotions and behavior.
These emotions can then be directed towards yourself, others or the world.
"The search for someone to blame is always successful." - Robert Hall
In fact, self-blame can result in feeling stressed out, tired and emotionally drained. These feelings might cause you to feel dissatisfied with your life, anxious about the future and even resentful about the past.
According to research, self-blame increased vulnerability to major depressive disorder (Zahn et al, 2015).
Self-blame is also linked to increased suicidal thoughts.
Undeniably, when you see yourself as responsible for bad things happening, it becomes harder to feel like you have options.
Causes of self-blame
There is no one cause for self-blame, but rather a combination of factors that leads to it. Some of them include:
- An inner critic that judges you whenever something goes wrong, while disregarding all your efforts and good intentions.
- A pattern of always trying to be who you think you should be instead of being yourself.
- Looking for perfection in everything that you do or even what other people do.
- Labeling of yourself as being inadequate or inferior, especially compared to other people.
How to overcome self-blame
If you find yourself consumed with guilt especially if there’s no indication that you’ve done something wrong, it’s high time to make a change!
In fact, to overcome self-blame, it’s important to adopt a growth mindset instead of one that is focused on finding faults.
It all starts with identifying the problem, before you can work on fixing it. This requires awareness and mindfulness.
Next, try working on these four areas: self-love, contribution, moving on and accepting your limitations.
|Steps To Overcome Self-Blame||Tips For Success|
|Build self-love||Change your way of thinking.|
Remember your positive qualities.
Silence the inner critic.
|Clarify your contribution||Determine if and how you contributed to the issue.|
Change your focus.
Have realistic expectations of yourself.
|Start moving on||Forgive yourself.|
Focus on growth instead of failure.
Take your own advice.
|Accept your limitations||Realize that you’re not in control of everything.|
Know that you are not perfect.
Accept that challenges are inevitable.
1. Overcome self-blame with self-love
Self-blame is often fueled by a lack of self-love.
Thus, instead of taking care of yourself in the way that you deserve, you find reasons to blame yourself for your current circumstances or state of being.
To increase your feelings of self-worth, it’s essential to change this way of thinking.
Do you really think that you are not worthy just because of something you’ve done? When trying to stop self-blame, it can help to remind yourself of your positive qualities.
Stop being overly critical of yourself and learn to love yourself unconditionally.
Tips to develop self-love and overcome self-blame
- Having a healthy balance between giving yourself time for self-care and taking care of your responsibilities.
- Being aware of your reactions to situations.
- Stepping outside of the situation to observe what is happening, then using that information to respond in an appropriate way.
- Challenge thoughts that are harmful or inaccurate by looking for evidence that they are untrue.
- Let go of the need to be perfect. Everyone makes mistakes every now and then.
- Give yourself permission to make mistakes, it’s okay not to always know what to do or say in every situation.
- Ask for help if you need assistance with something rather than trying it on your own and failing.
"Taking responsibility means not blaming yourself. Anything that takes away your power or your pleasure makes you a victim. Don't make yourself a victim of yourself." - Susan Jeffers
2. Overcome self-blame by clarifying your contribution
To overcome self-blame it’s important that you know if and how you may have contributed to the problem.
To do this, you can start by asking yourself what actions led up to the event. Try to discover your actions and feelings before, during and after the event.
Notably, it can be difficult to figure out what part you’ve played in a certain event especially if you’re focused on the negative.
In fact, if you keep focusing only on what you did wrong, you will fail to see your positive impact.
Being realistic with your expectations of yourself, as well as those of others, can be helpful with overcoming self-blame.
Tips for recognizing your contribution to overcome self-blame
- Have realistic expectations of yourself.
- Give yourself credit for all that you are doing well.
- Stop blaming other people, even if it is tempting to do so.
- Find out if your contribution was appropriate, and what you might be able to do in the future.
It is important that you understand your own role in a negative situation so that you can prevent it from happening again.
Are there things you could have done differently? Is this something you continue to contribute towards?
3. Overcome self-blame by moving on
The only way to move on is to let go. You need to forgive yourself for what you’ve done or not done, no matter how serious it might be.
Essentially, to overcome self-blame try to let go of the past by focusing on what you can control instead of your imperfections.
This can be difficult when you’re feeling down, but it’s an essential part of fighting self-blame. Consider the consequences and know that you deserve better.
Notably, you are responsible for how you behave and manage your own life. But, you aren’t obligated to bear responsibility for how others feel about things.
Tips for overcoming self-blame by moving on
- Stop seeing change as a failure and start focusing on growth instead.
- Think about how you would counsel your best friend if they were in the same situation. If you wouldn’t tell your best friend to blame themselves, don’t blame yourself either!
- Do something positive and productive to help yourself and others.
"The most liberating and empowering day of my life was the day I freed myself form my own self-destructive nonsense." - Dr. Steve Maraboli
4. Overcome self-blame by accepting your limitations
Life isn’t perfect and neither are you. You will make mistakes, hurt people and things may not end up as planned. You can’t control everything that happens to you, but what matters is how you respond.
When you take a self-blaming approach, you tend to see things through black and white lenses. Life is either perfect or it’s miserable. This isn’t accurate.
Life is usually somewhere in the middle ground between being spectacularly wonderful or absolutely terrible.
You’re allowed to make mistakes or do something wrong. Understand that there is no such thing as a “perfect” person.
Tips for overcoming self-blame by accepting your limitations
- Be kind to yourself
- Don’t constantly focus on all the ways you think you have failed.
- Don’t compare your life to others’ lives, every person is different.
Benefits of overcoming self-blame
The benefits of overcoming self-blame include:
- Gaining a healthier perspective on life and your place in it.
- Becoming more compassionate towards yourself and others.
- Learning to accept what you cannot change.
- Growing stronger by facing your fears.
- Increasing your self-esteem.
Benefits of self-blame
Surprisingly, self-blame can actually be beneficial sometimes. Blaming yourself for things that occur in your life is often a way of trying to understand why they happened and how you can prevent them in the future.
If you truly believe that you are the reason something has gone wrong, self-blame might motivate you to take action towards change on your own behalf.
For example, if someone believes they are responsible for why their marriage is failing, it might drive them to look at themselves and change and strengthen their relationship.
According to research, although self-blame negatively affects long-term adjustment, it can influence persons to make amends for their actions (Weinber, 1995).
As such, reflection and making a genuine effort to correct and learn from your mistakes are necessary for self-development. However, being consumed by self-blame will negatively affect you in the long run.
Final words on overcoming self-blame
When you start to feel the overwhelming urge to blame yourself, it’s time to take a step back. It may sound cliché but self-blame can be toxic and lead to feelings of inadequacy that are difficult to shake off.
So, if this is something you struggle with, try these tips to overcome self-blaming thoughts or actions.
Can you think of any other causes of self-blame? Let me know in the comments below.
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Nancy Weinberg, Does Apologizing Help? The Role of Self-Blame and Making Amends in Recovery from Bereavement, Health & Social Work, Volume 20, Issue 4, November 1995, Pages 294–299.
Zahn R, Lythe KE, Gethin JA, Green S, Deakin JF, Young AH, Moll J. The role of self-blame and worthlessness in the psychopathology of major depressive disorder. J Affect Disord. 2015 Nov 1;186:337-41.