Breakups are never easy, but the feeling is much worse when you hold yourself to blame. You obsess about all the mistakes you made, which only deepens your feelings of guilt and shame.
Before long, you convince yourself that you deserve to spend the rest of your life sad and alone.
Blaming yourself is a natural human reaction, but it’s also very harmful and counterproductive. Instead of making you feel better, it further damages your self-esteem and prevents you from moving on.
The good news is that you can take steps to stop the cycle of self-blame. With time and effort, you can learn to accept the breakup, forgive yourself, and find happiness again.
1. Be brutally honest with yourself
Honest self-reflection isn’t always easy, but looking back at your behavior and trying to understand your true motivations will make it much easier to forgive yourself and let go of blame.
If you cheated on your partner, it’s not surprising they broke up with you. But why did you do it? If you’re honest with yourself, you might realize it wasn’t simply a moment of weakness but a reaction to feeling unneeded or unappreciated in your relationship.
Similarly, suppose your partner wanted more commitment than you were willing to give. It’s easy to blame yourself for not being able to give them what they needed, but your behavior makes more sense if you admit that you felt suffocated and scared of losing your independence.
The point of these examples isn’t to excuse your bad behavior, but to help you understand it and treat yourself with more compassion. And just as importantly, to guide your personal growth and help you do the work to build healthier relationships in the future.
2. Accept that you’re not perfect
Accepting that you’re a flawed human is integral to overcoming self-blame. If you feel like you can never fail or make mistakes, you’re setting yourself up for a lifetime of pain and disappointment.
Yes, things may not have fallen apart if you’d acted differently throughout your relationship. Perhaps you could have been less critical, more supportive, or communicated more openly. But life is a journey of continual learning, and you can only act on the information and experience you have at the time. It’s a thankless project to spend your life looking back and wishing things had been different.
Instead of dwelling on your mistakes and blaming yourself, focus on what you’ve learned and take action to apply the lessons in your future relationships. Seek professional help from a therapist, read self-help books, reach out to friends and family, or simply spend more time self-reflecting.
3. Don’t tie your self-worth to your relationships
Attaching your self-worth to the success or failure of your relationships is unrealistic and unhealthy. The same goes for believing that you’ll only feel happy and complete when you find the “perfect” partner.
No one else can ever be responsible for your own happiness. A good relationship can enhance your life and make you feel great, but it’s only one small part of the puzzle. Many other things contribute to a happy and fulfilled life, such as satisfying work, meaningful hobbies and interests, friendships and family, and a focus on personal growth.
To be in a happy and healthy relationship, you must learn how to love yourself first. Self-love means taking care of your needs, setting healthy boundaries, and learning to forgive your mistakes. Only then will you be able to give yourself fully and authentically to another person.
4. It takes two people to make a relationship
One useful technique to help you practice self-compassion is to imagine a good friend in the same situation. Would you be so critical and unforgiving? I’m sure you would offer them plenty of reassurance, understanding, and encouragement. So practice what you preach and give yourself the same understanding and support..
5. Practice self-compassion
Treating yourself with kindness and understanding is crucial to overcoming self-blame, and you deserve as much compassion and forgiveness as anyone else.
One useful technique to help you practice self-compassion is to imagine a good friend in the same situation. Would you be so critical and unforgiving? I’m sure you would offer them plenty of reassurance, understanding, and encouragement. So practice what you preach and give yourself the same understanding and support.
6. Focus on the future
Once you’ve taken the time to process your feelings and forgive yourself, it’s time to focus on the future. Use your breakup as a catalyst for change in your life. Embrace the freedom and use it as an opportunity to grow and become the best version of yourself. Set new goals, embrace your passions, and invest your time and energy into the things that make you happy.
And when love finds you again, you’ll be in a much better place to enjoy a healthy and fulfilling relationship.
Photo credit: Shutterstock