This is a guest post from Village Hive Member Maricke Emanoidilis
“It’s not me; it’s you.”
I admit, I think this a lot. Hopefully less than I used to, but I still think it. For example, when the lady in the grocery store check-out line decides it’s a good time to chat with the cashier about all things mundane as I tap my foot impatiently, throwing death stares and desperately texting friends hoping to catch someone who can let my kids know I am on my way and haven’t forgotten about them.
At these moments, it seems like all the ding-dings out there in the world are set loose only to irritate and frustrate me to no end.
My rational brain knows that 3:15pm probably isn’t the best time to nip into Longo’s for bananas and almond milk, and that mostly what is irritating to me is that twenty years into adulthood I still plan my time poorly, get defensive when my intelligence is questioned (like most people, I pride myself on almost always being right), and—here’s the doozy—blame others. You’d think as a life coach I would have this all figured out by now…
Maybe knowing this about me will cause you to hire another life coach. Be my guest. But if they tell you they’ve perfected the art of expressing only appropriate human emotions, I’d suggest they may be the ones in need of coaching (as some famous and certainly wise person once said, “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt”). I could be wrong (even though I’m pretty sure I’m not—see point made above).
The Blame Game
Kids are the best and purest example of the blame game. My son Owen, at just seven, has gotten into this Parkour phenomenon. (Google Parkour. It’s pretty cool. Even better, google Parkour gone wrong.) The other day as he’s Parkouring through our forest, leaping from tree to tree, scrawny limbs flying, tumbling down muddy hills, he, of course, gets hurt. A big scratch across his stomach from a protruding tree branch (because they tend to protrude). Recently inducted into the Earth Rangers and a vigilant protector of all things earthly he denounces his association and declares “I Hate Nature!” So you see, I come full circle. My irritation at the woman jib jabbing to the cashier at Longo’s. Owen blaming nature for his own recklessness (but seriously if you watch those videos you’ll see he actually got off pretty easy: I shudder to think how he will react when he sustains a more serious injury).
The best part is that I bet you’re reading this and thinking of this one person you know who does this all the time and how it drives you crazy and that you might even forward them this blog post so they can finally see the error of their ways, ‘cause god knows you’ve been trying to tell them this for years.
That is what is so interesting about this topic: we think only other people behave this way. I’ve actually heard people say “You don’t get it! X is really an ass/doesn’t have a clue/makes my life difficult/wears pink and red at the same time!”
So maybe you’re ready to concede that maybe, just that once, you blamed someone. I know, it sucks to admit that you’re human. But like I suggested in the opening, we all do it. Even me, and I’m a life coach. So I wish it was as easy as Bob Newhart’s advice in the Saturday Night Live skit (spoiler alert) “Stop It.” But it’s not.
So you know that consciousness thing that everyone is on about? I mean embracing…? It is so hot I was even told to change my coaching practice to focus on Conscious Leadership because “that’s all the rage right now.” Anyways, the practice of becoming more conscious and aware is just that. It’s a practice. Meaning we practice it every day and sometimes several times a day, like brushing your teeth or meditating. You can practice consciousness as it relates to anything that is or isn’t working in your life. Like blame (which I would suggest isn’t working for you). Blame is laden with judgement. Judgement usually about what someone is or isn’t doing and as it relates to how you would or wouldn’t do something. Usually, as is the case of the tree’s vicious attack on my son, the tree did it on purpose when Owen was just trying to have fun and not bothering the tree in the least.
So why do we behave this way? We blame others in order to avoid suffering unintended consequences largely brought on by ourselves. We tell ourselves it’s not me; it’s you.
Stopping the Blame Game
So, how do we stop?
- Create Awareness. First step is admitting you have a problem (yes, it’s not just for AA). Where blame is concerned this is really hard to do because we’re so good at calling it anything other than blame. In the moment, we feel so justified and self-righteous in our finger pointing. We blame because it lets us off the hook and allows us to justify our actions. We get to avoid the pain and discomfort that comes when we own up to our less than stellar behaviour and choices. The best suggestion I have is just accept that you do it, probably a lot, and when you find yourself feeling triggered (i.e., frustrated, annoyed, angry and pointing fingers), notice it. Ask yourself “what is really going on here?” If your husband didn’t buy you flowers for your anniversary and never has, and your instinct is to blame him for a loveless marriage, ask yourself, how does blaming him let you off the hook? What are you avoiding by blaming someone else?
- Take Responsibility. Stop letting yourself off the hook. Before you write your husband off as clueless, consider what else could be getting in the way of him expressing his love. Maybe he’s stressed at work/doesn’t think you like him much/doesn’t know what you want/is really clueless but is happy to get some guidance. Don’t be so quick to interpret and judge others’ behaviour. Especially if a particular interpretation makes you feel shitty. Choose the one that makes you feel good! I.e., your husband shows his love by getting the oil changed and lifting his legs up so you can maneuver the vacuum underneath the table.
- Use Your Words. We hammer this into our kids from the moment they utter their first word but fail at following this simple mantra so profoundly as adults. Using your words doesn’t mean unleashing and spewing your brand of “honesty” every chance you get. It doesn’t mean pointing fingers (more blaming), manipulating, interrogating or intimidating. It means being open and vulnerable to really sharing how you feel and how you are being triggered, and being honest about where you are laying the blame (even though you know by now that blame is really a form of collusion employed by egos everywhere). When blame runs deep, as it often does within our family of origin and between spouses, this is vital to reconciliation.
- Be Willing to Be Wrong. This is hard. At least for me. When you feel like you are holding on to blame and just can’t let it go, ask yourself this: what am I holding onto and why? What would I lose if I allowed myself to see what I don’t want to see? And more importantly, what would I gain? Keep in mind that blame is a judgement and judgements are based on our own assumptions and interpretations, and not based in reality for anyone else but you.
Blame is about you and nobody else. Look at where you tend to lay blame and patterns will more than likely emerge. Personally, I tend to blame people who I feel expect too much from me: they’re the ones who think I’d even have the time to do one more thing, so when I don’t get it done, it’s their fault, not mine.
I’d like to throw down the gauntlet and issue a friendly challenge. Think about someone you are blaming. Work through each of the above steps and move towards reconciliation. I promise, you will like yourself and even the offender a little bit more by the end. Because it wasn’t really about them after all. Was it?
I get kids in chairs and food down gullets. I correct behaviour, redirect energy, and orchestrate life. I am a mother.
I’m more than just a mother though, and I know you are too. I work with mothers who are so busy juggling everyone else’s needs that they struggle with knowing who they are and what they want their own life to be like. I help them discover a path to a life that supports who they truly are and allows them to experience joy, peace and the personal, familial and career satisfaction they crave.
Somewhere in between having four beautiful children (two sets of twins), I became a coach after time spend working in HR. I studied and received a diploma, but found the hardest part was living the life I had been trained to help others have. It’s a journey I’m still on. The vow I took was simple: To step up and take responsibility for myself and the impact I have on this world.
This thinking and these words created a sizeable shift for me. In what I believe, how I feel, and the actions I take.
To find out more, visit www.mefirstlifecoach.com.
I am a Certified Professional Coach (CPC), Energy Leadership Index Master Practitioner (ELI-MP) and was professionally trained at the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). iPEC has been recognized by the International Coach Federation *ICF) as one of the foremost coach training programs. I am also an active member of the ICF.