There's a reason for this.
For so many years I blamed myself for—your choice—being oversensitive, having trouble in relationships, not being able to figure out what I wanted to do in my life, running away from conflict, being too nice, not being "ambitious" enough. I'm sure I could come up with a much longer list if I tried.
I'd say to myself, "I didn't have nearly the problems growing up that Josephine over there had, but she's doing better than I am. Why can't I get myself together? What's wrong with me?"
OR "Oh geez, that guy really has it rough in some areas of his life, but at least he is doing well professionally. Why can't I devote myself to a vocation? What's wrong with me?"
OR "Why couldn't I defend myself better in that uncomfortable interchange with my co-worker. Why am I such a wimp? What's wrong with me?"
Those hypercritical self-assessments were never very helpful. In fact, I got to the point where I would rag on myself for ragging on myself. "Why am I so self-critical? Why can't I accept myself better? Why am I so sensitive? What's wrong with me?" Oh, what fools these mortals be...(she said, quoting Shakespeare to herself, kindly).
So I read self-help books ("why can't I put this into practice?"), saw counselors ("why can't I take their advice?"), went on retreats ("why do I feel so lonely and disconnected?") and joined a twelve step program ("I've been going to meetings for two years—why am I still so messed up?")
What's wrong with me?
And then one day—I remember it very clearly—I was sitting in one of those twelve step meetings, listening to someone talk about a very difficult situation in their life, and judging myself, as usual. "I've had a reasonably okay family and upbringing—certainly better than a lot of the people I know in those rooms," I thought. "What's wrong with me? What. Is. Wrong. With. Me!"
And into that morass of self-judgment, that depression and self-blame, came five little words, dropping in to my mind, as clear and refreshing as autumn days in New England: "There's a reason for this."
There's a reason for this.
This is such an important piece for those of us who fall so easily into self-blame. It's not all my fault. It's not because I am weak or oversensitive or afraid, though certainly some of those things are true some of the time. Of course I have a personality that tends in certain directions. Of course I have made unwise, and even completely crazy, choices at times. Of course I am responsible for myself and my decisions as an adult. BUT some of those very basic struggles and insecurities? Maybe they were there because something happened, or didn't happen, when I was tiny. I didn't need to know what those things were right then; it was such a huge relief to really begin to get it—I wasn't the way I was simply because of my failings.
What a relief.
If there's a small table in a hallway, nicely decorated and a convenient place for setting things down when one is coming in or going out the front door, and someone comes along and whacks it, BANG!—accidentally or on purpose—it will cause a defect in the table.
No one would ever dream of saying that dent or scratch was the table's fault. It might not even have been the fault of the person who hit it. They could have tripped, or someone could have pushed them. And if the table, 20 or 30 or 50 years later, still has that dent, and is still blaming herself for it, she would very much need to hear, "There's a reason for this" and the implied, "It's...not...your...fault." There could be many such dents and scratches, or even the loss of a leg or two. But there's a reason for it. And it's not your fault.
So please, try to be kind to yourself, especially if you tend towards harsh self-judgment. Try to remember that though, like the rest of us, you are a flawed human being, who as an adult holds responsibility for yourself, you are not entirely to blame for your internal or external state of affairs. You may have been that table in the hallway, banged and scratched up, through no fault of your own. You may need to hear that you are not alone in your struggles. You may need to know—there's a reason for this.
Next time I'll write about heartfulness.
Photo by Alona Kraft, unSplash