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Why We Blame Ourselves


Explanations > Behaviors > Blame > Why We Blame Ourselves

Fair acceptance | Feeling responsible | Able to handle blame | Accept allocated blame | Believe we are bad | Discussion | See also


When things go wrong, many people avoid blame, quickly offloading it onto others.

Fair acceptance of responsibility

Sometimes we blame ourselves quite reasonably, when we know we are responsible and must own up to this and do our best to make amends.

In such situations fair acceptance means we have a clear formal or social responsibility and we have the power to prevent problems and other failure.

This is a position of integrity, where a person defines themselves as being honest and caring, and so would not consider trying to avoid taking responsibility.

There are two parts to responsibility that a person may take, one is of blame for what happened and second is to respond to problems caused. People who are not fighting to avoid blame for the past are more likely to take responsibility to fix issues caused. Those with highest integrity will do this, even if it involves significant personal cost.

Feeling responsible for others

There are a number of positions we take in life where we have general responsibility for others, in particular as parents and also as managers and leaders. A trap of such positions is that we can end up feeling totally responsible for all aspects of the other person's life, such that when they do something wrong, we feel we are in some way to blame.

Sometimes also people have a generally responsible attitude and when other people for whom we have no responsibility make mistakes, we still feel somehow that it is our fault in some way, for example that we could have warned them or been there to help them.

Believe we are better able to handle blame

Sometimes we look at people who have made a mistake and conclude that if they get blamed they will be seriously harmed, yet if we take the blame for them, then we will be better able to cope with the fallout.

This is a position taken by good leaders in business who protect their people by taking the blame for things that go wrong rather than blaming those beneath or around them.

When people take the blame for others, while they may suffer in the short-term, they often benefit longer-term in the admiration, trust and loyalty that they engender in those who know that they have put themselves in harm's way to protect others.

Accept allocated blame

Sometimes (and maybe quite often) we get blamed by others. When this happens, we may have fair responsibility, yet often we either have no responsibility or, at best, we share responsibility with others.

In such situations the person blaming us is taking the role of the authoritative parent, forcing responsibility on us whether we deserve it or not. Sometimes we fight back, but many people will give in and accept the blame. If this happens often enough, we can end up 'punch-drunk' and accept blame without even having others blame us. 

Believe we are bad

When we have been blamed by others, we have to rationalize it in some way, explaining why we are blamed to ourselves. While some may accept fair blame and others feel it is unfair, a third option is to assume that we are being blamed because we are bad.

When we accept we are bad, then we assume we are always bad and so any problem in the future is also because we are bad and hence are naturally to blame.

In effect, this takes the blame argument and progresses it through to the assumptions that whoever is responsible is bad and deserving of severe punishment.


Accepting blame when it is reasonably due or where it protects vulnerable others is what people with integrity do. And strangely, perhaps, many us accept blame or take it on ourselves when it is unreasonable to do so.

Unreasonable self-blame can be due to deep personal reasons that may go back to childhood or it may be Conditioned into us. We can counter this self-destructive tendency by noticing and stopping it by interventions from self-talk to deliberately avoiding such harmful situations.

See also

Coping Mechanisms


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