the self-blame game

I am currently taking a 6-week intro to psychology class and am on my way to becoming an expert. Just kidding, so take my take on these psychological concepts with a grain of salt. This week’s lecture covered attribution and how people are likely to explain something by blaming the individual or the situation. It was interesting to me because my professors noted how typically when observing another person, you just blame them for any bad things they may have done. If someone cuts you off while driving, you just think that person is a jerk without thinking too deeply as to what might have been going on in their car. However, if you are thinking about yourself and your shortcomings, you are more likely to blame the situation you were in. If you fail a test, you might blame the teaching methods over your own studying habits.

I am not saying I am some psychological exception, and I know this is closely linked to anxiety, but I do have a tendency to blame myself for my own actions AND the actions of others. If someone cuts me off in traffic, I will probably think they are a jerk but will also spend the rest of the drive criticizing my own driving habits and thinking of ways that I could have been better prepared. If I fail a test, even if it was the result of a teaching shortcoming, I will blame myself for not overcoming it. I wouldn’t say I’m “hard” on myself, it more so feels like I just have an inner voice that I am constantly fighting. These self-blaming thoughts feel more intrusive and driven by anxiety than my actual personal voice. I don’t know if these thoughts are controllable, but I do think I need to work on building up my positive inner monologue.

This is very abstract and challenging for me to accomplish. People always preach that you should love yourself, but what does that even mean? I feel like I generally love myself, but I also tear down my confidence nearly daily with my thoughts. I don’t know how to go about thinking more positively about myself but being vulnerable with others has helped. This sounds horrible, and maybe I am just a true villain to myself and others, but knowing that other people can also be their own worst enemies has comforted me a bit. I used to think everyone just had it together more than I did, which probably fueled and reinforced my self-blaming nature. Thinking of myself as a friend to myself has also helped. I would never tell a friend that they were looking ugly or being really dumb when they failed a test, but I say these things to myself almost automatically. Try recognizing your own humanity to talk to yourself more kindly.

We are all growing into ourselves and experiencing life at our own pace. You may perceive others to be “better” than yourself, but you can never know how those people perceive themselves. We are all learning to love ourselves and even though we can’t build up another person’s confidence or reduce their self-blame, we can treat them kindly to make their own journey easier. You can also incorporate these techniques to how you interact with yourself! You may be having a rough time in school or work, but you can be kind to yourself to make everything slightly easier. I know this is not easy, breaking habits can be very hard, but recognizing when you continually blame yourself for things that are out of your control is a good place to start.

Overcoming Insecurity about Anxiety

Insecurity and anxiety are issues that everyone has probably dealt with at least once in their life. For me, these are daily battles. It is often manageable, but some days are way worse than others. My anxiety tells me that everyone dislikes me and finds me annoying. I want attention from these people in my life, but I consistently close myself off from them. I fear being burdensome, so I am often silent. However, it feels like I can never win. If I am too silent then I feel burdensome in a different way, like a heavy backpack full of rocks that someone is forced to carry through the hot desert. Something that is not useful or interesting to them, but actually makes their activity more difficult.

My anxiety is so cruel to me. So cruel that I often question if I am simply just self-sabotaging myself. Remember that you are not your anxieties or a static character. You are an ever-changing powerful being. Just because yesterday was a bad day for your mental health, does not mean you are a bad person. You are simply just a person, and people are very complex. Something important that I’ve learned in therapy is that my anxieties and insecurities do not define me. I have frequently visualized holding all of the negative thoughts and feelings in my hands. Being able to view them as something outside of myself gives me peace. This peace sometimes only lasts a few seconds, but other times can reassure me for days. Acknowledging progress, however small, is very important to me. I encourage all of you to reflect on your own life and how far you have come.

It has hurt many of my personal relationships and even ruined a few. It has also made me feel like I have lost myself at times. However, explaining my anxiety to people has helped me form closer relationships with them. I always thought it would appear insecure to ask what a person thinks about me or if their non-response to my text message was a passive aggressive act. My therapist has encouraged me to ask people what they are thinking of me or if their action meant anything deeper. It can be awkward at times, and often very hard for me to build up the nerve to even ask, but most of the time it is just a simple miscommunication and asking has saved me a lot of worrying and even strengthened my relationship with the person.

Talking about my anxieties with others is something that I never thought I would do. I thought I was a uniquely flawed human, with it being impossible for anyone else to relate to or understand me in the slightest. I thought this until I actually opened up to someone. Some of my best friends have the same anxieties and insecurities as me, they just present them (or hide them) in different ways. Everyone wants to appear like their life is perfect, but this can be extremely damaging to individuals when they feel like they are inadequate to others. Comparison kills. We can help change this stigma by practicing and encouraging vulnerability.

Starting the conversation can be difficult. It puts you in an extremely vulnerable position. Something I think about a lot is rejection. I was very scared to show a different side of myself only to have someone find me ridiculous or weak. If you are looking to talk to a friend about your anxiety, I recommend first talking to someone who you have a lot of trust in. This will make opening up more comfortable for you. Continuing to open up to people gets easier over time, and it can help empower them to share their own story. It’s not always sharing, it’s also very rewarding to listen to others’ experiences. It is definitely a process that takes time and a lot of effort. It is not easy, but opening up can help you overcome feeling insecure about your own mental health and even empower others to do the same.

I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by supportive people who fully accepted my vulnerability, but I know that many people do not feel comfortable opening up to people in their everyday life. I hope you can use this blog, and the comments to find your own accepting community.