Self-blame is a complicated feeling that often accompanies past abuse or trauma. Self-blame can be felt for a variety of reasons. For example, sometimes survivors feel that their behavior encouraged or caused harm to occur to them. Other times survivors may blame themselves for the trauma symptoms they carry afterwards or “not healing fast enough.”
While it is important to be responsible for our healing and hold ourselves accountable for our actions, recognize that no matter what you said or did, no one deserves to be violated. You are not to blame for your experiences. It is not your fault. Full stop.
Self-blame is a reflection of societal norms and the messages we internalize about gender and violence throughout our lives. We receive many messages that promote victim-blaming beliefs which can be reinforced by those around us. Self-blame is also affected by the way our friends and loved ones respond to our personal disclosures of trauma and in questions they ask.
Unlearning self-blame is a long and challenging process, as it’s embedded in so many parts of our daily lives. From the society we live in, to our social circles, to our own experiences. Just because you feel guilty does not mean that those feelings are accurate.
When you feel self-blame, ask yourself whether your feeling is actually appropriate. How would you respond to a friend if they blamed themselves for the same thing? Show the same kindness and understanding to yourself.
Sometimes it also helps to learn more about the societal norms that reinforce self-blame. Naming them and recognizing how they manifest in your world can give these messages less power.
Separate yourself as much as you can from individuals that perpetuate or reinforce the blame you feel. Oftentimes people who blame others are carrying their own internalized self-blame for something they experienced in their past.
Over 60% of survivors report feeling responsible in some way for the abuse they experienced. Know that you are not alone, but also know that you are never responsible for the harmful or abusive actions of another person. Protect your energy and prioritize healing—you deserve to feel peace. Be gentle with yourself.