Why Avoiding Blame And Playing The Victim Kills Growth

Life can be a challenge sometimes. You feel like you are doing everything in your power to improve your life, but still, something falls through; pulling the rug from under you. Having this happen only once or twice, you can easily slough it off as a random event. But when those challenges outnumber your successes, it can be tough to keep a smile on your face.

Most of the time, when catastrophe strikes, I encourage people to focus on what can be done now. It can be a waste of time and destructive for morale if we start by pointing fingers and placing blame. Instead, we benefit most by recognizing nothing can be done about the past. What we can do is focus on the present; trying to work with what we have. Most of the time this is the best process to take.

Except when the string of bad luck starts to look like a pattern.

Errors are often caused by a slip of the mind or trying to cut corners for a deadline. But when the same kind of error keeps happening it is important to stop and figure out what is really going on. 

This simple act of review for many of us feels like a direct attack on our character. Rather than looking for our imperfections in order to improve, we deny any part we may have had in the problem. In actuality, this behavior is self-sabotaging of our attempts to be our best selves.

We say to ourselves, “if only they did….” or “I need to work in a place that understands me,” trying to explain any mistake without placing any of the blame on ourselves. This becomes a problem because by making these statements we have now separated ourselves from those on our team. While our assessment of our teammates may be accurate, as a statistician would say: there is only one constant variable in these equations. 

That’s us.

How we work against ourselves

I’m not saying that every failure is our fault individually. That’s rarely, if ever, the case. It simply has become evident to me that we, as a whole, really lack the insight to recognize when our own behaviors sabotage our attempts at happiness and success.

We only exacerbate the problem by denying that we had any part in our own failure. If we ignore any lessons to be learned from our mistakes, then we are simply perpetuating the cycle of failure that keeps us from any sense of fulfillment. The best outcome from this pattern of behavior is that we become stagnant; unable to experience any feeling of progression. The worst outcome is that we burn bridges with coworkers, friends, or even family as we fight to maintain our worldview that any negative outcome that we may experience is everyone else’s fault. 

How can we shift our behavior from playing the victim in our own story? What can we do to end the cyclical pattern of suffering and shift our perspective to achieving a positive outcome? Can this even be accomplished?

Changing our attitude

Getting ourselves out of the rut of self-victimization can be a simple process. That being said, even though the process may be simple, implementation of that process can be incredibly difficult without the proper support.

All we really need to do in order to get ourselves shifted toward a more fulfilling and successful pattern of behavior is to realize and accept all of the effects of our actions. When something doesn’t go as planned, rather than finding who is to blame, take some time to see how your action/inaction affected the outcome and what you can learn from the entire experience. 

One of the biggest reasons this simple practice can be so challenging is because many of us, whether we like to admit it or not, have connected our self-worth to the results of our actions. If we try to accomplish a task but make a mess of it, and our sense of self-worth is attached to our success, then we will automatically start to find a way to pass the blame. If we can find reasons that the failure was not our fault, then our image is still intact.

This is why it’s so difficult to break the habit of self-victimization and avoiding blame. We have connected who we are to the outcomes of our actions. This process takes a long time but is absolutely essential to getting out of our own way and getting everything we can out of every experience. 

When we take an objective approach to our experiences, we are able to avoid feeling threatened by failure. Instead, we can take each success and failure and learn from both equally. As Richard Branson once said, “Do not be embarrassed by your failures. Learn from them and start again.”

Own your mistakes, learn from them, and allow yourself to grow.


Posted in Coaching, Improvement, Leadership, Team Development and tagged , , , , , .

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