How to Stop Blaming Yourself and Others It’s time to own up and be responsible for yourself and your actions. Here's how. BY DR. NOELLE NELSON
Stop the finger pointing and recognize your own power in the situation.
Blaming can be such a satisfying game, at least for a while:
"It's not my fault we argue about money—he’s always spending it!" "It's not my fault I can't get a better job—the economy's rotten." "It's not my fault I zoned out on our weekend plans—I have too much to do at work." Sound familiar?
Certainly, in the moment, it feels good to put the burden of our failure on somebody else's shoulder, but it doesn't last. Griping never really makes anybody feel good, in the sense of making you feel joyous and happy. It just temporarily numbs out the pain of failure.
Then there's the other approach to blame, the "it's all my fault" approach:
"I'm a terrible person, that's why we argue all the time." "I'm stupid and inept, that's why I can’t get a better job." "I'm forgetful and selfish, that's why I made a mess of our weekend plans." This isn't much more satisfying than the "it's somebody else's fault" approach. Beating yourself up isn't any better than griping when trying to find happiness in your marriage.
Most importantly, neither blaming the other nor blaming yourself actually solves the problem! Yet so many of us, faced with disappointment or failure, resort to blaming rather than getting off the blame game into the real heart of the matter—solving the problem.
"How convenient for you," you say, "to take a high moral position! You're not the one who’s stuck in an argument/dead-end-job/weekend-doldrums, which absolutely was not your fault!" you declare. Okay, but where does it get you to focus all your energies on blaming? You see, blaming stops the solution process. Instead, focus on accountability and responsibility.
Accountability is your willingness to assess the part of the problem that belongs to you, and the part that belongs to the other. Responsibility is your willingness and ability to respond to that for which you are accountable.
"Which means?" you ask. It means you always have a share in the situations in your life. This may sound like bad news, but actually it's very good news! The more you are accountable for what's going on in your life, the more powerful you are. The more powerful you are, the more you can transform your life into the life you really want.
However, "be accountable" does not mean, "blame yourself." "Be accountable" means figuring out realistically what are the specific ways in which you've allowed or contributed to the situation. "I'm a terrible person," is a non-specific statement that is unrealistic and doesn't even start to say in any meaningful way how you've allowed or contributed to the matter.
In figuring out your accountability, you may indeed find that good communication in relationships is rarely automatic. Ask yourself, what have you done to develop good conflict resolution skills, for example, that would make arguments less likely in your household? This is your accountability, which then tells you what you can be responsible for.
Okay, so the economy is rotten (that's what the economy contributes to the accountability mix), but realistically, what have you done to make yourself as hirable as possible (upgrading skills, approaching jobs creatively, be willing to work a wider range of jobs)? That is your portion of accountability. Terrific! This is something you can take responsibility for.
You zoned out on the weekend plans and your spouse pouted for 48 hours straight (a new record?). Evaluate what you have or have not done to increase your couple skills (posting reminders to yourself, having a family calendar on the fridge, valuing a work-life balance). In other words, your accountability and owning up to your responsibility.
The more you are willing to quit blaming yourself or others for the disappointments and failures in your life, the faster you are on the road to genuine happiness. Be accountable, be responsible and watch your relationship-joy quotient soar!
Noelle C. Nelson, Ph.D. is a psychologist, consultant, speaker and author. Her most recent book is "The Power of Appreciation in Everyday Life" (Insomniac Press, 2006). Her new book, "Men Are Wonderful" (Free Press) will be released in January 2009. For more than a decade, she has helped people live happier, healthier lives through appreciation—at work, at home and in relationships. For more than a decade, she has helped people live happier, healthier lives through appreciation--at work, at home and in relationships. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: www.noellenelson.com.