A simple strategy to deal with self blame and sabotage

Up until this year I’ve never really understood the phrase when life throws you lemons make lemonade. How do you make something sweet when it is naturally sour? Is it about appreciating and accepting the sour moments?

This year has thrown me many challenges that have taken me way over the edges of my comfort zone into the panic zone. I’m talking challenges that I’ve never had to deal with before like health ones.

What I’ve learnt is that my lemonade comes in the form of a pause. Yes, you heard that right, a simple breath. I’ve been practicing breathwork since I did my Heartmath training back in 2016. It was then that I learnt that I was a breath holder under pressure. It explained why I had failed my exams as a teenager because I went blank and all those experiences of stress where I literally froze on the spot. It connected me to the anxiety I felt but didn’t acknowledge. This awareness liberated me. I knew the shape I made in my body under pressure and I could soften it and create ease simply by moving my breath.

But there’s another layer here. The realisation that I am making lemonade out of my lemons came to me in the awareness that I finally have choice over my internal thinking habits when I’m under pressure. One of them has been particularly nasty and self-sabotaging and the irony is I now realise it isn’t me.

I’ve talked to three people in my family who have the same default thinking pattern and I observe many clients with it too. When faced with extreme pressure they run a dialogue in their heads that starts with the “should have, could have” tape. Something difficult and painful happens and they immediately go to war with themselves. They look back over all the times where they could have, should have, ought to have done or said something different to what they did or said. They find those moments in their past and then beat themselves up with it. And then they keep doing it.

Why? Well I think Brene Brown said it best in this short video about blame. . Blaming yourself gives you a feeling of control. It helps relieve the anxiety and randomness of events and puts you firmly in charge, in the driver’s seat. And it doesn’t matter that it’s deeply wounding and unpleasant because to you, it all makes sense, it was your fault.

If you’re a self blamer – a should’a, could’a. would’a ought’a type of gal here’s my top tip. Find your way to pause, regularly and often. Practice the pause as if were as vital as drinking your 8 glasses of water or 5 fruits and vegetables a day. You will find that with practice a wonderful window of awareness opens up. A space that allows you to see the choice to go to war on yourself and self blame or to soothe and remind yourself that it’s normal you’re feeling anxious and afraid and that as you go through this moment you will find your feet, return to ease and this too shall pass.

Because life will throw you lemons. It’s what life does and is part of its beautiful, painful fragility. And you are the master of your own thinking. You decide what patterns to run and whether to blame and beat yourself or to simply accept that you can’t control the river.

If you need guidance and more simple strategies to help heal your inner saboteur, I’m always here to help.