I know I haven’t sent a newsletter in a while, but I swear it’s not my fault.
See, back to school season is always frantic and crazy for my clients (which, by default, means it’s frantic and crazy for me too… emergency phone calls, last minute sessions, etc.) Plus, I’ve had house guests for the past several weekends, so hosting and entertaining has occupied all of my extra free time. On top of that, I’ve been doing research for 3 upcoming presentations and launching a new business venture, so naturally I’ve needed to practice extra “self-care” (i.e. binge-watching Modern Family.) AND, if that damn construction next door wasn’t so loud then maybe I could actually think straight and get some writing done!!
And so it goes. Welcome to the blame game. We all play it, and no one ever wins.
The truth is, no matter how many fingers we point, no matter how many times we try to shift blame to someone or something else, no matter how hard we try to avoid taking responsibility for our feelings and actions, we always end up losing. Because in the end, feelings are still hurt, deadlines are still missed, problems are still unresolved and needs are still unmet.
So why do we keep blaming? What’s in it for us?
Well, it turns out to be something pretty profound.
In this quick but insightful video, researcher and storyteller Brené Brown explains why we blame. Check it out:
I don’t know about you, but when I saw this video for the first time I thought to myself, “OHMYGODTHATSEXACTLYRIGHT! HOW DID I NOT SEE THAT UNTIL NOW?!”
Blame = The discharge of pain and discomfort. YES.
Owning up to our mistakes, accepting responsibility for our missteps and being held accountable for our faults can be incredibly painful, embarrassing and downright torturous. Who wouldn’t want to avoid those feelings?
But the reality is that discomfort is a necessary precursor for growth, change and progress. Owning up doesn’t make you a failure—in fact, quite the opposite. Holding yourself accountable is a courageous act of maturity and wisdom. Helping our kids (and ourselves) to recognize blame as the discharging of pain and discomfort is a crucial first step in quitting the blame game. Once we become aware of the feelings that compel us to blame in the first place, then we can begin to process them in healthy, productive ways.
So what can you do the next time you feel tempted to blame?
1. Slow down. Blaming is often an impulsive behavior so taking a minute to pause and breathe is a crucial first step.
2. Ask yourself: “What are the feelings that are coming up for me right now?” Sometimes it can be hard to pinpoint our feelings- especially if you’re not used to putting them into words. Take your time. Chances are you’re likely to bump up against feelings like pain, guilt, embarrassment, discomfort or shame.
3. Speak your feelings. For most people, this is the absolute hardest part. Owning our stuff means we have to actually DO something about it. Start simply. For example, instead of:
“I would have gotten my homework in on time if my teacher had been more clear about the due date”
try something like:
“I feel upset with myself for missing the deadline and now my grade will suffer.”
From this place of honesty and accountability, it becomes easier to learn from our mistakes and affect positive change on our future. If we can learn to consistently own up and manage our feelings with integrity, the blame game will be a thing of the past.