Self-blame vs. Self-responsibility

woman's legs crossed on sandy beach

The following is a guest post by Yvette Erasmus. 

Some days, I am simply not ready to be a grown up. At all.

Waking up with anxiety recently, I buried myself deeper into bed. Free floating thoughts about finances, major life decisions, relationships and a harsh, critical voice pointing out all my failings and failures wafted through my mind as I lingered between sleep and wakefulness.

Although I decided years ago to stop indulging in self-blame and fear, judgmental and critical thoughts still arise. Regularly.

So, you can imagine my pleasant surprise on this recent morning to discover a gentler part of me speaking up, taking stock and responding to the various complaints with tenderness. “No, we aren’t doing that anymore. What do you need?”

It’s like I had come upon an inner Florence Nightingale tending to my inner suffering. I know she didn’t just appear magically; I’ve been practicing this shift for a while.

I’ve learned to watch critical, judgmental and fearful thoughts arise and then embrace them with compassion, but I simply don’t allow myself to camp out with them anymore. Self-blame is not the same as self-responsibility. It is exhausting and draining.

Grounding myself in the wisdom of being open to outcome, but not attached to outcome, I remind myself to feel my feelings, to attend to my needs and to focus on what will help move me in a direction of my choosing.

Self-responsibility is an empowered way of both perceiving and responding to life. It grows out of disciplined attention to four transformative questions:

  1. What is happening right now? (I am lying in my bed, dreading my whole life this morning. The dog is wagging her tail at me. I am thinking she needs to pee and that, if I don’t get up, she will. Here in my room. This thought fills me with urgency to take her outside.
  2. What feelings are activated in me right now? (Anxiety, fear weariness, heaviness, urgency, activation.)
  3. What is deeply important to me? (Security, clarity, purpose, growth, contribution.)
  4. What will help? (taking my day one step at a time, focusing on gratitude for all that is present now, asking for help, getting the information I need to make high-stake decisions, practicing being comfortable with uncertainty.)

Building inner resources allows me to cope with the heaviness that life sometimes brings, with more fortitude, strength and resilience.

As a soul-friend of mine recently reminded me: I want to respond to life with grace. With love. With faith. With hope. With courage.

The more I practice compassion instead of judgement, self-care instead of self-recrimination, openness to outcome instead of attachment to predictability, the more I am able to truly live in alignment with my deeper values and my more soulful self.

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