Self-blame vs. Self-responsibility

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.

Are You a Thermometer or a Thermostat?

The following is a guest post by Lisa Bobyak of Living Fully Balanced.

You’ve got them in your house, but have you ever thought about what truly differentiates the thermometer from the thermostat?

The thermometer in your home reads the room and adjusts to the external surroundings. It’s controlled by factors outside of itself. The thermostat is set and remains steady no matter what the external conditions are. The controls are internal and constant.

To understand why I’m talking about the HVAC system in your home when my typical subject matter isn’t focused on climate control, I’d like you to consider these common life events. How do you respond to them? Are you a thermometer or a thermostat?

  • You couldn’t get in to see your doctor for three months and the day of the appointment arrives. Your appointment is scheduled for 2:00pm and you get there early to check in. As you settle in to the seat in the waiting room, you notice others are being taken back their rooms. You wait. And you wait. And you wait. Finally, at 3:30pm, a nurse calls your name and takes you back to the exam room. You get changed into the paper gown. And you wait… again. Your doctor eventually rolls into your room around 4:00pm. ARGH! Is your reaction more like a thermometer or a thermostat?
  • It’s Wednesday evening and you’ve had a relatively good day at work. You’re feeling fine and you’re happy to be home. However, things quickly change when you open the door from the garage to the house. You can almost taste the tension in the air. Your six-year-old twins are arguing over who’s turn it is with the shared iPad. And your spouse is yelling at your oldest, “Turn off the TV and find your soccer equipment! If we don’t leave in five minutes, we’ll be late!”. Thermometer or thermostat?

In our busy, sometimes frenetic days, it’s so easy to get caught up in reacting to the “temperature of the room.” Without thinking about it, we often soak in other people’s emotions and before we know it, we’re the ones taking on the stress and negative emotions that weren’t ours to begin with.

It’s a natural response to react like a thermometer.

However, constantly reacting to, and being pushed and pulled by other people’s moods and agendas gets exhausting. And it’s not just tiring. Our physical health takes a huge hit when we absorb other people’s stuff.

So, what’s our protection against the constant barrage of emotional shrapnel in our everyday world?

Be a thermostat rather than a thermometer.

Thermostat people have an internal locus of control. They know they have the power to control how they respond, no matter what’s going on around them. Their reactions are controlled and they are not affected by external factors.

Thermostat people are resilient.

Resilient people are happy.

Resilient people find joy in life.

And joyful people are better at practicing self-care and being kind to themselves.

Divorce and the Stolen Wallet

I was downtown Minneapolis for meeting at a Starbucks on the Skyway level of a large office building. After the meeting I went to get my car out of the parking lot, and my wallet was not in my purse. I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, but I keep desperately digging for the familiar feel of my wallet. Maybe it’s there. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe all will be back to normal if I can just wrap my hand around it. It was gone.

I ran back up the escalator to the coffee shop, knowing it wouldn’t be there but checking anyway. I ran back down the escalator to the security desk in the building’s atrium, where a kind, tired security guard helped me find phone numbers for my bank and my visas and then went off duty and walked away. I sat with my cellphone, calling, and trying not to scream at the automated voices until I was transferred to a real person in the right department, one of which said, “Oh yes, someone already tried to charge over $1,000 on your card. Don’t worry, it was declined.”

I called the police and made a report over the phone. The parking lot attendant let me get my car, and I drove home on side roads since I wasn’t concentrating all that well. That night before I I fell asleep, I had flashes of the end of my marriage.

I had a sinking feeling then too, I desperately hoped things were not as I knew them to be, thinking if I could just get a handle on the situation, I could change what had happened. I became exhausted collecting papers for my attorneys, running to appointments, and fooling myself that I was calmly holding it all together.

It’s been three days since my wallet was stolen, and I’m still exhausted. I keep trying to move forward, determined nothing is going to slow me down. But things do slow us down, and we should let them slow us down. No matter what the world around us says: fast cars, fast food, fast internet connect, fast downloads…slowing down is vital for healing. Ah, yes, it’s time for self care, and I know how to do this!

I went for a walk, it gave me a burst of energy just before I collapsed into my living room chair.

I planned on eating well but was too exhausted to get up and go into the kitchen.

If a motivational book had been nearby andI had the energy, I would have thrown it across the room.

It turns out for me, and maybe for you, the best self care is patience.

Having your wallet stolen is nothing compared having your dreams stolen, and having the foundation of your life gone. So please be patient with yourself, with the process, and with any self care steps you choose to take.

If you can’t go for a long walk, go for a short one. If you can’t stroll in nature, go outside and lean against a tree in your yard. If you need get into bed at 8:30, turn off the TV, put down the extra paperwork you brought home from your job, and go to bed!

Listen to your body, listen your heart, be patient, and you will hear the whisper of new dream being born and new foundations being build.

Confessions of a Life Coach

Written by Lisa Bobyak, owner and founder of Living Fully Balanced, LLC.

I’m embarrassed to talk about it, because it’s harsh and judgmental, and it calls out a nasty little flaw of mine. What I thought about, almost daily, wasn’t very nice.

What I used to believe completely rubs up against one of my current values. And this value interestingly, is a topic that many of my clients want to talk about in our coaching sessions.

Sharing this with you is a clear reminder that we are all works in progress. And it’s an example of how our thought patterns can be changed, with conscious effort. I’m so very glad that I changed my perspective on this one, because I believe it helped me create the life I was meant to lead.

So I don’t want to keep you guessing any longer, here’s my confession: When I was home and raising my little ones, I used to think that the women who exercised, had their hair cut, and got manicures while their children were being taken care of by someone else…well, I thought they were being selfish.

Ouch. It still smacks, even though it’s been over a decade since I last had those thoughts. I was condemning fellow moms who had successfully found ways to find balance in their lives.

During divorce it’s tempting to feel the same way about women who are securely married and not struggling to pickup the pieces their own lives.

I didn’t share my thoughts with anyone. But that inner voice in my head was loud and those thoughts gnawed at me. Knowing what I know now, I wonder if by judging others, I was able to keep the spotlight of change (or shame?) off of me and onto them. Hmmmm. Some meaty food for thought.

I’m so very sorry for not being open to seeing a different perspective back then. And I apologize for disparaging anyone, for anything. I needed to do more supporting and less judging.

I live my life very differently than I lived it even ten years ago, and one of the most valuable things I’ve come to realize is….Practicing self-care is not the same as being selfish.

Let me say it again.
Self-care is not selfish.

Practicing self-care may be THE KEY to moving forward in other areas of your life.

Consider asking yourself:

  • How could taking care of myself through my divorced and beyond support my growth?
  • What does self-care look like for me? And what will I do to fit it into my week?
  • Who do I need to ask for help?

I believe all us were designed to share our gifts. And I also believe that we can’t possibly share our full potential unless we take care of ourselves first.

When you can institute healthy changes for yourself, you will have a huge impact on the important people in you life.


Lisa Bobyak, owner and founder of Living Fully Balanced, LLC, is dedicated to helping people feel balanced and fulfilled, especially during times of transition. Her training as a Co-Active Coach (CTI) and her education degree, give her the ability to gently guide her clients with a structured yet individual approach. Contact her for personal coaching, workshop facilitation or public speaking.