Why You Can’t Stop Beating Yourself Up

The Seductive Power of Self-Blame

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image: pixabay.com
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All Errors Are Fatal

This belief uses the faulty logic of fear. Its syllogism goes:

  1. You made a mistake.
  2. You are bad.

Punishment Makes You Better

Somewhere along the line you’ve absorbed the stubborn idea that the universe requires you to balance your misdeeds — however accidental — with at least as much pain. This belief persists despite all evidence to the contrary, and is why we have a prison system that takes in the poor, inadequately educated, often mentally ill and turns them into hardened criminals. I assume and fervently hope this is not a principle you’d apply to your own kids.

Your Best Defense Is To Attack Yourself

Here we have the magical belief that if you can just berate yourself swiftly enough and harshly enough, you may be able to literally beat others to the punch. And you’ll make sure that, no matter how bad someone else might make you feel about what you’ve done, you’ve already made yourself feel worse. So you’re safe.

You’ll Make Damn Sure You Never Do This Again

Let me be clear: it is indeed a good thing to learn from your mistakes. And if you’ve truly done wrong, if you’ve behaved dishonestly or hatefully, if you’ve hurt someone or damaged a relationship, then some unshrinking self-examination is called for. You should make reparations if you can. You should not do it again.

Your Ego Is The Engine That Powers The Blame Train

Just in case you have some last, lurking attachment to haranguing yourself, let’s call it what it is: self-absorption. Somebody smart, whose name I forget, observed, “To speak ill of others is a dishonest way of praising ourselves.” The obverse is also true: to belittle ourselves with more ferocity than we would ever unleash on another person means we expect ourselves to be better than everybody else.

Written by

Writer & educator. The Startup, Writing Cooperative, P.S. I Love You, The Ascent, more. Award-winning short fiction. Visit me at www.JanMFlynn.net.

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