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The Blame Game: Knowing When It Is Not Your Fault

By Jennifer A. Mason, LCSW LMFT LISW-S

Taking the blame for things that happen in your life is a lot like being slapped across the face: it can really sting. But the question is whether or not you are to blame—and this is important—if you are to blame, how can you still hold your head high? Taking the blame for the things we can’t control or things that are not our fault, turns all the energy we might use for problem solving and wastes it in ways that do not allow us to learn and grow.


Why is it so easy for us to blame ourselves for everything that goes wrong in our lives whether we are responsible or not? We were not born thinking this way. But we are often socialized to feel responsible for the shortcomings of others.


In this world of ours we constantly remind ourselves of all of our own shortcomings: for not being good enough, for being fat, lazy, and scatterbrained or whatever else we can come up with. We have allowed ourselves to feel responsible for things that we can in no way control. We begin to feel responsible for the way other people feel about us; or the way we think they feel about us. We let those feelings keep us from doing things that would help us get some control in our lives, like going swimming or exercise classes. Since we have convinced ourselves that we know what others will be thinking when they see us there, we just don’t go.


One of the most common symptoms of self-blame is the need to continually apologize. Some of us apologize for everything from world hunger to global warming. Some apologize for things that are not our fault but apologize just because you happen to be in the vicinity and you are already blaming yourself anyway.


Self-blame is blinding. It does not let you see your own accomplishments. It does not let you see how far you have come. Self-blame is actually a bad habit; a way of thinking that is used over and over as a way in which to interpret reality in an unhealthy manner. It is a difficult but not impossible habit to break. You have to accept the power to determine your own thoughts and actions without wallowing in self-pity or doubt. Suddenly you will discover a whole new world of options that you could not see before. It can be a very positive, liberating experience for you.