We all blame sometimes. It’s a human thing. But when we externalize blame, we give responsibility to something outside ourselves — usually to another person, event, or circumstance. Have you ever heard someone say, or found yourself saying, one of the following?
- I had no choice because…
- I’ve just got bad genes…
- I have a slow metabolism…
- I have a thyroid condition…
- I was too busy to prepare anything…
- I had so much going on that I just had to grab…
- I have to keep this stuff around for the kids…
- He or she went to all this work, so I had to be polite…
That’s what externalizing blame sounds like. And I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but those statements are nothing more than avoidance tactics. They absolve you of the responsibility of changing your behavior in the ways you know you’ll need to if you want to achieve your goals.
Unfortunately, when statements like that become part of your narrative, they become your reality. Which really makes for quite a mess, as then you’ll be acting in accordance with a flawed belief system which doesn’t serve you, but that you’re invested in.
But where does that get you?
Nowhere is where that gets you. It keeps you on a crazy-making hamster wheel wherein you keep making the same mistakes, refusing to take ownership of them, and therefore not making progress toward the things that you really want, but maybe don’t believe that you can achieve.
When you’re ready to get off the hamster wheel is when everything will start to change. Being brutally honest with yourself and taking absolute responsibility for your situation, feelings, and actions is the first step toward getting what you want.
You can change the narrative.
Simply changing your language is a good start. Instead of blaming another person or circumstance, try being honest with yourself about what your role in the situation was. We always have a choice. What choice did you make, and why? The why is what we need to deal with.
But this isn’t about blame, shame or regret. If you’ve picked those up, set them down, as those won’t get you anywhere either. This is simply about changing your narrative. It’s about honesty, ownership, and breaking the pattern that’s keeping you stuck so that you can move forward.
Take ownership of your choices.
There isn’t anything wrong with making a choice to do something that doesn’t align with your goals, as long as that’s what you’re choosing to do. Choosing is the operative word here. The problem arises when you buy into the belief that you are being externally controlled, because that’s a cop out.
The trick is that when you acknowledge that you have a choice in what you do or don’t do, you’re forced to also look at why you might be choosing behavior that’s harmful, self-sabotaging, or just plain not in your best interest. Instead, it’s much easier to either lie to yourself or flat out ignore it.
Sometimes, you may decide that the reward for something doesn’t outweigh the effort required. Or maybe that a particular level of effort isn’t realistic for you right now. That’s fine. Make that choice, and then either create a strategy around it, or be at peace with it. But own that choice.
Be honest when you struggle.
There’s also nothing wrong with struggling. Struggling is also part of the human condition. For example, most of us have had to deal with one or more of the following at some point in our lives:
- Being afraid to set boundaries
- Having a hard time communicating needs
- Using food for comfort sometimes
- Feeling shame around, or fear of, failure
- Wanting to avoid discomfort
- Being tired and not wanting to do something
Notice that each of the above statements takes ownership of the problem instead of blaming someone or something else. This is how we change, move forward, evolve, and do better. Ownership give us something to work with. Blaming does not.