Self-Blame and Its Psychological Impact


There have been times in our lives when we have blamed ourselves for a negative event. These events could be as small as why didn’t we cook today to events like our partner is angry at me because “I can’t keep them happy”. Before we read further on it why don’t we take a moment and see when was the last time we blamed ourselves for an event where we had no control.

Self-blame is a process where in we hold ourselves responsible for something that didn’t go the way it should have. It is a form of emotional abuse that is self-inflicted. Self-blame is a process wherein the person in stuck in the loop of illusion of perfection and the need to be right. What do we understand by illusion of perfection? It simply means we assume that things or humans are perfect or the event in which we are involved needs to perfect. When we have this kind of thinking the onus of responsibility falls on us that is we take on more responsibility that is needed or could be taken. Secondly, we as humans have a tendency to be “right” or to know whether we are “right”. This thinking pattern also leads to taking of responsibilities that are not under our control. These two things lead to imbalance of responsibility dynamics.

For example, there were times when we are 4 years old and we saw our parents fighting. How many times we have thought “maybe they are fighting because of me”? If we really think of this scenario now, we would see parents fighting is not because of 4 years old there could be other reasons too, reasons that we don’t had control over then. Another common instance we have noticed is when we have a fight with our partners, we tend to think that “we aren’t enough or we don’t understand them well” rather than seeing that maybe it could be our partner who is at fault. We tend to take responsibility of our partner’s action without understanding the fact that we cannot take responsibility how the other person acts or reacts.

Self-blaming becomes a habit because when we had a thought like “they are fighting because of me” which soothes us in that moment. As a child we all are curious to know why something happened and when it’s a negative event we attach its meaning to ourselves, further a child being blamed for feeling hurt in an event. We start using self-blame as a soothing habit which over the period of time turns into being overly self-critical, anxiety or other psychological issues. It also leads to forming of maladaptive beliefs about self like “I am worthless”. This belief leads to depression and other psychological issues.

To break the cycle of self-blame we need to first understand how much responsibility we had in an event or how are we looking at an event. Once we understand where our responsibilities end and let go of the need to be right, we would see events in a neutral way without being very hard on ourselves. If the need of self-blame goes unaddressed it could lead to difficulties in interpersonal relationships, emotional or behavioural issues.

Therapy can help a person develop a neutral perspective about self and events around us. Apart from that therapy increases self-awareness which helps us to understand our responsibilities. So let’s work on ourselves and let go of the need to self-blame, it’s a step towards self-love.