by Andrea M. Darcy
Find yourself saying ‘it’s all my fault’ whenever something goes wrong?Do you live with an endless sense of guilt and shame? And blame yourself for every relationship conflict?
The problem with deciding “it’s all my fault”
Taking responsibility when we have chosen an action that upsets others can be a sign of maturity, and shows respect for those around us.
But we all make mistakes, not just you. And conflict is a group effort.
So it’s simply not possible or realistic that everything is all your fault, all the time.
Which means often, self-blame isn’t about taking responsibility at all. It’s instead an unconscious way to avoid facing the reality of the situations you find yourself in.
By taking the blame, you neatly sidestep any further conversation or analysis of what has happened.
And always saying it’s your fault is also a form of self-abuse. You push yourself into so much guilt and shame you are paralysed, unable to grow and change.
The price of always taking the blame
It can help to see constant self-blame as a sort of reverse psychological projection.
Usually, with projection, we put a quality we don’t like onto another person to avoid seeing it in ourself. Suddenly they are the dishonest one, the rude one.
In this case, you project your good traits onto the other. They are kind and flawless, and you are the monster.
But this claiming of all the blame blocks the other person from sharing their own truth about the situation. They can’t face their own responsibility and grow and learn from what has happened. The result can often be that the other person becomes increasingly frustrated, feels trapped, and pulls away.
Your relationships remain stuck in an often dramatic pattern of claiming fault/begging for forgiveness, instead of working through challenges together and creating real connection.
The result? You feel lonely, unloved, and even more of a terrible, shameful person who must therefore always be at fault. And the cycle continues.
The hidden benefits of always using self-blame
If self-blame leaves us feeling lonely and stuck, then why would we continue to use it?
Personal coaching would suggest that if we want to stop a habit, we must first accept the benefits it gives us. What would be the benefits of always taking the blame?
1.You get to feel sorry for yourself.
When you blame yourself, you actually victimise yourself. It’s a backwards way to go into ‘poor me’ mode.
2. You gain attention.
And when we feel sorry for ourselves, it forces the other to feel sorry for us, too. It might not be the best way to get attention, but it does the trick.
3. You maintain control.
This might be hard to accept, but the truth about always claiming responsibility is that it is manipulative. You constantly block the other person from deciding how things will go, and you use sympathy to make sure they don’t pull away and leave you.
4. It gives you power.
So effectively, always claiming ‘it’s all my fault’ ends up a way to have power over another. It might be hard to believe when you have such low self-esteem that you’d want power over another. But low self-esteem can mean we want the power to stop other people hurting or abandoning us.
5. You can avoid changing.
If we always take the blame, then we don’t have to experience new emotions or new conversations.
6. You don’t have to be vulnerable.
Accepting someone else has perhaps wronged you (even if not meaning to) can mean you must allow yourself to feel hurt and vulnerable. Using self-blame means you can resort to shame instead of vulnerability.
Why am I the sort of person who always feels ‘its’ all my fault’?
Nobody is born thinking that everything is all their fault. It’s something we somehow learn from the experiences we have, or decide to believe because of the way those experiences make us feel.
Often a habit of self-blaming comes from a childhood trauma. If we are abused, neglected, abandoned, or lose someone we loved, our childlike brain can find no understanding of what has happened other than to think, ‘it is something I did somehow, it’s all my fault’. And our brain takes this assumption as fact (called having a ‘core belief’ in psychology). It then applies it to any other difficult thing that comes along, until it is a pattern we carry into adulthood.
Self-blame can also come from certain types of parenting that don’t allow us to be ourselves. If you were, for example, shown love when you were ‘good’ or ‘quiet’ but shunned, criticised, or punished if you dared to be angry or sad or show a different opinion, then you would take on the idea that you have a ‘bad’ side. If you show that side, well, then…anything that goes wrong is ‘all your fault’.
Why is it so hard to stop feeling it’s all my fault?
Blaming ourselves can be quite addictive. Addictions tend to grow when we are using something to avoid emotional pain.
And even though on the surface blaming yourself seems to be about making yourself feel many things (worthless, bad, no good, furious at yourself) what we often are doing is avoiding feeling the one emotion that our childhood trauma would have caused – sadness.
How can I break this pattern of always feeling it’s all my fault?
If you find you can’t stop feeling everything is all your fault, it might be time to seek support. Counsellors and psychotherapists are trained at helping you find the root of your shame and self-blame. They create a safe space to process old experiences and repressed emotions. And they help you learn and practise ways of relating that don’t involve the default setting of deciding it’s all your fault.
Therapies you might want to try to end cycles of self-blame include:
Contact our Harley Therapy clinics where we connect you with top therapists in central London including Harley Street. Or find an affordable therapist anywhere in the UK via our new sister site harleytherapy.com
Andrea M. Darcy is a health and wellbeing writer as well as mentor who often writes about trauma, relationships, and ADHD. Find her on Instgram @am_darcy