Welcome to Feelings of Fault: A 2 part blog series. Part one is out today. Part two will come out next Monday.
If the title has brought you here in search of some reassurance to calm your own anxious tendencies towards the fault you feel lies within you (or maybe you just want to read why I blame myself for everything, which is fair too I suppose), I’m sorry to disappoint you.
Not because you won’t get the reassurance you’re looking for but this is only part 1. This is where I tell you about all the reasons I tend to (or more accurately, I believe I tend to) manifest and convince myself of the horrible, awful, negative belief that everything that goes wrong in my life is my fault.
Part 2 may be more your style – it’s encouraging, it’s positive, it’s proactive. But in order to get the full bang for your buck out of the tips in Part 2, I think it’s important to preface it with the why’s of this belief. For me, if I can get the why’s out in the open, it helps me move forward. So while I could jump straight into being tip queen extraordinaire for you, dear reader, the method which I approach this 2 part series is a personal one, one which I use to go through the motions.
So have a seat, pour yourself a bevvy and let a gal walk you through how she is a work in progress in clearing her existing belief that all fault is hers to bear.
Of course, there will be times in life when we are legitimately at fault. We will have genuinely hurt someone’s feelings, we’ll have screwed up, we’ll have dropped the ball, sometimes people are accidentally at fault. Being legitimately at fault goes hand in hand with the fact that nobody is perfect – if we were all perfect, nobody would ever be at fault.
But there’s also irrational fault – instances in which you could not have controlled the outcome of a situation or an event, but something goes awry and you blame yourself for the outcome. It’s a legitimate fault, wherein you dropped the ball on a task but it’s easy to fix, or make amends and move beyond it – but you are still fixated on blaming yourself and how originally, it was your fault. Instances in which there’s no actual reason to feel at fault (i.e. expressing your opinions or making a decision that is in your best interest) but you feel guilty and remorseful nonetheless.
You know those people who apologize excessively, or apologize for things that don’t need an apology?
Hi hello – I am one of those people.
I experience irrational feelings of fault quite often, especially the one where I have no actual reason to feel at fault or feel guilty but I still do. It’s in these moments I want to step outside my body, look myself in the eyes and shake my shoulders with a good hard “What, Why?! Why are you apologizing?! You’re just being you?! You’re doing what’s best for you/what you want to do?!”
Existing with the belief that everything is my fault (as well as guilt – a by-product of this belief) has stretched to all corners near and far of my life – it appears in my work, my relationships, and my family matters.
It’s something going wrong during a work event which I couldn’t have controlled or prevented. It’s getting upset over something insignificant in the early stages of a relationship, leaving me feeling like i’ve burst the invisible bubble surrounding our blissful honeymoon phase. It’s feeling guilty of a decision i’ve made to do with family, when I have no reason to feel guilty. Even further, it’s not feeling confident enough to firmly stand my ground in my decision and what I have chosen.
It’s a quietly loud aspect of my existence, it’s an insecure piece of my personality, it’s a crack in my confidence and feeling valid in my decision-making and the actions I take as a result of those decisions.
Feeling like everything is your fault is an exhausting, unnecessary burden – a burden that nobody is placing on me, except for me.
Do you know what feeling like everything is your fault, truly is though?
AN UNHEALTHY MENTAL RUT THAT I REFUSE TO GET STUCK IN ANY LONGER.
And what do I do to work past unhealthy mental ruts as I do with all aspects of my overthinking cranium on this site?
DO THE HOKEY POK– ah okay well, no.
If the hokey pokey was the answer to all of my concerns, my negative thought patterns and behaviors, I probably would have hokey pokey’d all my limbs off by this point.
DIGGING UP AND FACING THE EMOTIONAL AND MENTAL ROOTS OF OUR PROBLEMS – yeaaah, that’s the right answer *finger guns*
I began to take a really good look at myself, to get to the bottom of why this chronic thought seemed to be pinning me down and preventing me from simply shaking off and moving past whatever had been the subject of the fault. These are the reasons I have come up with thus far.
Why #1. I take things toooo personally
I’ve begun to pick up on the fact my mom now begins conversations she thinks I will lash out at her on, with “Now don’t take offense to this but…“. Not to her discredit, but isn’t that horrible? My own mother has to use a disclaimer because she thinks i’ll blow my head off if she says something critical of me.
A similar situation took place with my ex. Towards the end of the relationship, he told me he felt like he couldn’t talk to me about things that concerned him, so he walked on eggshells for fear what he said would set me off. After telling me this, I started to feel like not only this concern, but everything that had gone wrong up till that point between us, was my fault (which kind of proves his point but also kind of is the main topic of this post, so it works both ways).
I continue to go back and review what were triggers in past situations and work on myself in identifying possible triggers. However, I can’t seem to reach high enough, to where I can step outside of myself in a moment when I am triggered and recognize it’s not always a personal attack if someone is critical about something i’ve said, something i’ve done or how i’ve acted.
To add to all this, I care deeply about producing quality work within my job, as well as meeting the needs of my colleagues around me, but this care also means that I take my work too damn personally. I am a hard-worker, make no mistake about that, but I also believe within this context, my care stemmed from a very negative experience early on within my workplace.
When I first started within my current position, my manager at the time basically left me to my own devices. Believe me when I say I had zero training, none, despite a complete section on our Human Resources site about on-boarding new employees – all of which I discovered on my own. It got so bad, that my manager’s manager, became my manager. He recognized what was going on, but was pulled in too many directions to be able to do anything about it – the timing was off. Of course I asked questions, but the majority of those first few months there I had little to no support and I was left to figure out processes on my own. As a result, I made a lot of mistakes and unintentionally upset people because I hadn’t received proper training.
I can look back now and tell myself it was a time in my life I persevered, I pulled myself out of it, I got a hang of my work and the processes, I was a kick-ass self-starter. I can tell myself now it would have been more beneficial to my well-being at the time, to recognize the outcomes were a result of the situation I found myself in, not because I was a poor employee.
But I couldn’t see the bigger picture, and I took my mistakes and the blame I received really hard… and really personally. I am someone who prides themselves on good, hard work, simply put, but no matter the effort I put in, the outcome consistently led to mistakes for a time. Also add in the fact I was a new employee, throw in first impressions are everything when you start somewhere new, and it led to me not feeling very good about myself.
Since then, despite 2 management change-overs (the original one being terminated, eventually), and glowing reviews of my attention to detail and working as a jill-of-all-trades to get people the information they need, I still take that which goes wrong within my position, very personally.
Too personally in my humble opinion.
Why #2. I’m naturally a fixer
Conflict makes me feel very uncomfortable, as I think it does a lot of people. For me however, if there’s conflict, if I argue with someone, if I feel there is tension – I want to fix it. I want to address it, I want to hash it out.
In addition to wanting to fix things, I want to talk through things that are bothering me. If someone does not want to talk, or if they ignore me, I internalize it and tend to assume their actions equal they are upset with me, which leads me to feel like…. you guessed it …everything is my fault!
In reality, it could be because the person wants to take a step back till the emotions have subsided, and wait until their head is clear again.
After all that, there will be times when even if the other person and I have talked through things, I will fixate on it and overthink it. Which leads me to my 3rd reason I tend to believe everything is my fault….
Why # 3. I mentally beat myself up
It’s one thing to be disciplined, but it crosses a line when that discipline turns into you being extremely hard on yourself. As it happens, my inner voice is a complete and total ASSHOLE. I let it speak to me using cruel, belittling language. It’s made me feel small, worthless, insecure, fearful, like I can’t do anything right. It’s even held me back from reaching my dreams, or even allowing me a moment to really consider what are my dreams. If someone asks me what my dream job is, or what my dream destination is, or dream anything is, sadly I have a really hard time coming up with an answer.
I can have someone tell me that the negative outcome of a situation is not my fault, and even if to their face I say yeah, yeah, okay you’re right, chances are i’ll still be dwelling on it in some far corner of my mind.
It can be hard to stare down the barrel of a metaphorical gun, representing a negative thought pattern. As I said earlier though, the way to dealing with these mental ruts is to work through them, not around them, not over them.
I also think by helping myself in uncovering these patterns, actions, reactions, and behaviors, it may perhaps help someone else too out there, who finds themselves equally feeling like everything is their fault (believe me, it’s not, just letting you know that!). That’s not to say we have the same reasons you and I, for the considerable amount of fault we place upon ourselves, but my clarity may be able to assist you in achieving your own clarity.
Stay tuned right back here next week for Part 2 of this blog series.
Do you experience an irrational level of fault? Feel free to share your experience below!