How Do I Not Blame Myself for Everything?
This is a post I wrote back in 2016. It’s still true today, and I believe that it will help others who are struggling with weight issues. So while this post doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of my content, I am confident that it will help others. I hope you enjoy.
I used to blame myself for everything.
Being fat. A low grade. Lack of friends. Anything that went wrong in my life, I blamed myself for it.
It’s good to accept responsibility for your actions—you should. But I took it to the extreme. Blaming myself turned into a vicious cycle, and once I started, it was a struggle to stop.
I’m not quite there yet, but I’m improving every day. While I’m at it, I wanted to help you stop blaming yourself so you can live a happy and fulfilling life.
Who, what, when, why and how
To help you stop blaming yourself, I’ll show you how I used to blame myself. I’ll tell you what I believed, did and said when I blamed myself.
What is blaming myself?
First, I’ll explain what exactly blaming is. I didn’t realize how I used to blame myself.
For example, I’d blame myself I didn’t land a role in theatre. I’d heap the blame on thick. I’d beat myself up for not practicing more, for auditioning at the wrong time, for choosing the wrong song or monologue.
And, I always beat myself up for being fat. Any time I didn’t get my way, it was because I was fat.
I’d attribute more and more unrelated behaviors to not achieving my goal. I didn’t get the role I wanted because I was fat. And why was I fat? I was fat because I was lazy, stupid and ate too much.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I’d take rejection way too personally and blow it out of proportion.
Every bad thing that ever happened to me was my fault. I was born with a defect. That’s what I believed, anyways.
Notice the words I used:
I thought I was taking responsibility for my actions. That meant accepting blame for my actions and the consequences.
However, blaming yourself and taking responsibility are different. The difference came from my mentality.
I used to punish myself for mistakes and negative consequences. I didn’t work harder to improve myself. I worked harder to punish myself for not doing good enough earlier.
I always longed to be better. I was never satisfied with less than perfect results.
Taking responsibility for my actions means being reasonable. It means moving on and not beating yourself up for it.
Blaming is often a result of blowing consequences out of proportion.
Who is blaming?
This might seem obvious. ‘Duh, you’re blaming yourself’. It wasn’t that simple, though.
Yes, I was blaming myself and not taking responsibility, which I’ll address later. However, in my mind, it wasn’t just me blaming myself. I assumed other people blamed me as well. I expected other people to blame my mistakes on my ‘defects’.
I magnified my self-hate by assuming that others thought the same things I did. So, I blamed them back. I blamed others for blaming me and having control over my life.
When and why do I blame myself?
I blamed myself all the time. My life turned into a blame storm. I blamed myself when I didn’t get a role in theatre. I blamed myself when a shirt didn’t fit. I blamed myself when I looked in the mirror.
Every complaint or piece of criticism I received turned into a blame game.
Here’s the big question: Why did I blame myself?
I blamed myself because I was too afraid to act. I didn’t think actions made a difference and thought I couldn’t change my life.
Instead of changing, I blamed.
How do I blame myself?
Blaming myself came in different forms. I usually blamed and punished myself with hateful words.
I filled my mind with hateful words every day.
You’re fat. You’re ugly. You’re stupid. You’re fat. Nobody likes you. Your hair is gross. You’re worthless. Your thighs are huge. You’re not good enough. You can’t do anything right. You can’t. You’re fat. You’re not perfect. You’ll never lose weight. Your butt is too big. You’ll never have real friends. YOU’RE FAT.
You can tell by the words I used that I blamed myself and didn’t love myself. I called myself fat. I called myself stupid. I told myself I wasn’t good enough.
My problems were:
- Pervasive- they affected everything in my life
- Permanent- they couldn’t be solved
- Personal- they were caused by a fault of mine
Because I blamed myself for my problems, I punished myself for my problems. I punished myself for being fat by making myself hungry. I punished myself for a poor exam grade by staying up late to study.
I wasn’t learning from my mistakes. I was punishing myself for them. I should’ve accepted responsibility and moved on.
Why blaming yourself is destructive
Destructive. That’s what blaming yourself is.
Blaming myself was destroying my self-esteem, confidence, relationships and future. Essentially, it was destroying my life.
Here’s how it held me back.
Blaming myself kept me stuck
Blaming myself prevented me from making physical changes in my life. It also held me back mentally.
From a young age it appeared I didn’t have control over my life. I didn’t have control over my friends, family, relationships or physical appearance. I thought so much was out of my hands.
Other people, God or the universe decided my destiny. My life was the result of what the universe threw at me.
Poor me, the universe doesn’t want me to have friends. Poor me, the universe made me to be fat. I can’t do a thing about it.
I always felt like a victim.
I was a walking contradiction. I thought I was taking responsibility for my actions by blaming myself. Yet I believed I had no control over my life and blamed others.
Blaming myself destroyed my self-esteem and confidence. Blaming others destroyed my relationships. Blaming the universe for outcomes was destroying my future.
Blaming myself prevented me from taking action
When I was blaming myself, I thought I was taking responsibility for my actions. I wasn’t. If I’d accepted responsibility for my actions, I would’ve learned from my mistakes.
Instead, I punished myself. I allowed no mistake to go unpunished. In this case, punishment didn’t help me learn. It paralyzed me.
I punished myself whenever I made a mistake. This paralyzed me from changing my behavior. My punishment made me afraid to act for fear of it not working out.
I used to say “I can’t.” When I said “I can’t,” I was actually saying “I’m afraid to fail so I don’t want to try.” It wasn’t that I physically couldn’t. I believed I couldn’t while I actually could.
This occurred recently when I wanted to lose weight but didn’t want to work out. I said, “I can’t, I don’t have time.” I complained instead of taking action. I punished myself for having excess skin and scars. Why did I have extra skin and scars? From losing 70 pounds. Why did I lose 70 pounds? Because I was fat.
My rationale was being fat resulted in losing 70 pounds, which resulted in skin and scars. In my mind, being fat was the cause of the problem.
I’ve had a healthy weight for years and I still blame myself for being fat. It’s irrational and silly, but self-destructive behavior usually is.
When I stopped punishing myself, I was finally able to act. First, I bought work-out videos and exercised 4 days a week for 2 months. Then I signed up for a gym membership. I now work out 5 times a week; I do moderate-intensity cardio and bodyweight exercises.
I finally took action when I stopped blaming, punishing and hating myself.
How I stopped blaming myself
“It’s depressing being around somebody who’s so negative all the time.”
That was my husband, Rob, a few months ago. I regularly called myself fat and stupid. I blamed him for blaming me. The blame game was ruining our relationship.
My greatest fear is failure. I realized that if I kept doing what I was doing, my marriage could fail.
I needed to change.
Stop living on autopilot
Until Rob told me that I was putting myself down all the time, I didn’t realize I was doing it.
The first change I needed was to stop living on autopilot.
I paid attention to what I said, did and thought. What did I think about myself when I looked in the mirror? What did I believe about myself in the face of a challenge? Was I taking care of myself? Was I acting for the right reason?
Sometimes I looked in the mirror and considered myself pretty. At other times I looked in the mirror and called myself fat. Whenever I did that, I corrected myself and told myself I was beautiful.
Motivation was harder to change. I’m still currently working on it. For example, I don’t work out because I dislike my body. I work out because I love myself.
Once I stopped living on autopilot, I could admit responsibility for my actions. No blaming this time.
I thought I was taking responsibility for my actions. In reality, I was hating and blaming myself, which encouraged me to disown my actions. Instead of accepting my mistakes, I blamed outcomes on the universe.
The only way to stop blaming myself was to finally accept that I have control. I needed to truly embrace my actions and my power. I needed to understand that my decisions, actions and thoughts create my life.
Taking responsibility means taking control of your life. It doesn’t mean living in the past, over exaggerating mistakes and punishing yourself for them.
After I took responsibility for my life, it was time to start acting.
I followed the workout videos and saw my changes after just a month. My confidence was growing and I was looking better.
After 2 months of working out, I wasn’t satisfied. I told Rob I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted. “What’s your goal?” he asked me.
I didn’t know what to say. I started my workouts without a goal in mind. I just wanted to look better. I realized looking better wasn’t a specific goal. It also wasn’t measurable or time-bound. I realized I needed a SMART goal.
I considered what I wanted and decided that my greatest insecurity was weighing more than Rob. He typically weighs in at 115 pounds. I decided that I wanted to lose 20 pounds to match his weight.
Here’s the rest of my SMART goal:
- S(specific)- I will lose 20 pounds to weigh 115 pounds.
- M(measurable)- I will measure my weight with a scale.
- A(achieve)- Yes. I’ll achieve it by doing moderate intensity cardio and bodyweight exercises every week.
- R(realistic)- Yes. I can achieve it. It may be difficult, but if Rob can weigh 115 pounds, so can I.
- T(time-bound)- I want to lose 20 pounds in 4 months.
The next week I tried out nearby gyms. The week after I paid fora gym membership and began working towards my goal.
Change your attitude
Setbacks and negative experiences are bound to happen. That’s why I learned to change my attitude and how I thought about my problems.
I used to consider problems pervasive, permanent and personal. I needed to start considering them specific, non-personal and temporary.
‘You can’t do anything right’ is an example of a pervasive problem.
Rather than thinking that, I identify the task I can’t get right. For instance, I’m not good at grammar.
‘I didn’t get the job because the interviewer didn’t like me.’ That’s a personal problem.
Most setbacks don’t happen in life just because I’m me. There are reasons. Perhaps I failed to get the job because I was underqualified. Or, the position required a different set of skills than I offered.
‘I’ll never be good writer’ is an example of a permanent problem.
Instead, think ‘I’m not a good writer right yet. If I keep writing, I’ll become better.’ Circumstances are never permanent. There’s always room to grow.
You create a self-fulfilling prophesy by saying never. If you believe you can, you’ll take steps toward achieving your goal. And by taking action, you can achieve it.
I tend to make problems personal, permanent and pervasive when I’m having a rough day. When I start thinking like this, I breathe deeply and remind myself I have much to be grateful for.
Lastly, it’s essential to think about setbacks in a positive manner. Rather than focus on your failures, focus on what you learned. For example, instead of thinking ‘I failed,’ think ‘I learned a way that doesn’t work. Now I can test a different method.’
Don’t call a mistake a failure. Instead, allow your mistakes to become an opportunity to grow.
The last reason I blamed myself is because I didn’t give my full effort to my goals. I became stuck in a cycle of half-assing.
Blaming myself destroyed my self-confidence. My lack of self-confidence prevented me from trusting my abilities. When I didn’t trust my abilities, I didn’t want to put in full effort only to be disappointed. Unfortunately, putting in only half the effort yielded disappointing results. Disappointment would lead to blaming because I knew I could’ve done better.
The cycle would start over whenever I’d begin a new project.
The lesson here is clear: Get the results you want by giving your full effort.
This doesn’t mean I’ll never be disappointed. But the alternative—giving partial effort –results in always being disappointed.
How to stop blaming yourself
I live happier because I’ve stopped blaming myself and putting myself down. While I still revert to my blaming mentality sometimes, being aware of my beliefs, words and actions stops the cycle.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Stop living on autopilot. Become conscious of what you say, do and think.
- Change your attitude. Talk about yourself like you would talk about another person. Don’t be your own worst enemy.
- Take action. Take control of your life and change what you don’t like.
You’ve likely been blaming yourself for years like me. I won’t say changing is easy—it’s not. However, it is worth it. I did it and you can, too.