Psychology

Why Do We Blame Others for Our Failures, Mistakes, and Problems? According to 13 Experts

Have you ever wondered why some people start to blame everyone around them once they make mistakes and encounter difficulties in life?

To help us understand this behavior, we asked experts to discuss the reasons behind the habit of blaming others.

David Wynn, LCSW

David Wynn

Licensed Clinical Social Worker | Owner, SLS Counseling, PLLC

I once heard or read a quote from an unknown author which said something like “the world’s greatest battles are fought within the silent chambers of one’s soul.”

I believe it is within these metaphorical chambers that we hold on to the negative thoughts about our self. We tend to hold on to all of the regrets, failures, and what-ifs of our life which shapes a very different picture of ourselves than what we try to portray to those around us.

Many of us continuously emotionally beat ourselves up over past mistakes

Others try to avoid thinking about it and either mask it, numb it, or ignore it. But what if I make a new mistake? The last thing I want to do is to acknowledge it as it might open our own Pandora’s box.

Isn’t it easier just to blame someone else? If I can convince myself that someone else is the problem, then maybe I convince others as well. To accept our current mistakes would force us to come to terms with our past mistakes and who wants to do that?

Erika Flint, BA, BCH, A+CPHI, OB

Erika Flint

President and Owner, Cascade Hypnosis Center For Training & Services |
Award-Winning Board Certified Hypnotist | Accredited Certified Professional Hypnotherapy Instructor

Because the brain loves instantaneous gratification and wants to feel better now

Blaming others has a dual role of putting the ownership on fixing the problem onto another person, while simultaneously providing instantaneous gratification of “checking the box” that it’s resolved.

Have you ever tripped while walking down the sidewalk, only to turn around and point at the crack? Why do we do that? It’s to alleviate the stress in the brain of the mistake – blaming the sidewalk for the trip feels better momentarily to the brain.

After a moment or two of feeling better, then the brain can think more clearly, and you may realize perhaps you shouldn’t be texting while walking, or should wear more comfortable or safer shoes during certain times of the year. The momentary lapse in that negative feeling is enough to help us feel better, then find a solution.

Of course, there are folks who have a “victim” mentality and blame all their problems on someone else because then they don’t have to fix them.

Related: How to Recognize and Overcome Victim Mentality

For that person, the feeling of anger and unfairness is so comfortable and familiar that a good feeling of peace becomes foreign. They actually look for things to be upset about, so they can blame them on someone else and retain their familiar state of a victimhood mindset.

Kyndall Bennett

Kyndall Bennett

Personal Development Coach, Kyrabe Stories

Nobody enjoys acknowledging their own flaws and shortcomings

When it comes to accountability, that’s exactly what is required. We have to confront the multitude of ways that we either helped in causing the situation to occur or could have taken the initiative to avoid the situation altogether.

One example would be driving through traffic each day and constantly panicking about being late. I could complain about the cluster of other people causing this horrendous traffic or I could have left fifteen minutes earlier or found a different route to take so that one less car would also be contributing to the pile-up.

This, however, requires us to willingly accept being a part of the overall issue, but who wants that type of responsibility? Who wants the pressures of having to rise up and overcome the pending adversities and possible ridicule? Wouldn’t it just be easy to…or I don’t know…blame someone else and let them deal with it?

When we consistently blame others for everything that goes awry in our lives, we also hand over any possible solutions to our problems.

I mean, if we’re not going to confront the issue, who will? We cannot control the actions of others, but we do have control over how we allow it to affect us!

We’re human. Mistakes are going to happen. It’s what we learn from those mistakes that allow us to succeed during future attempts.

Natasha Nuñez

Natasha Nuñez

Former Teacher | Life Coach | Blogger, The Artisan Life

There are many reasons that people blame others for their own mistakes, failures, and problems. In general, it’s easier for people to attempt to shift blame to others instead of taking responsibility for themselves.

Many people blame others to either preserve their own self-image or self-esteem or in an attempt to save face

People like to think of themselves as a certain type of person and tend to shift blame when accepting it would go against their self-image.

For example, if someone sees themselves as a law-abiding citizen and safe driver, they’re likely to blame external factors if they get a traffic citation.

Maybe they “had” to speed “just that once” because they were late for picking up their child at school. Everyone else was speeding too, but the cop singled them out for an unfair speeding ticket.

People also shift blame in an attempt to save face.

This is especially common in workplace situations when the person fears repercussions for admitting fault. Toxic work environments and workplaces that are competitive can encourage people to shift blame instead of taking responsibility.

For example, employers who routinely give bonuses to the top 10% or threaten the bottom 10% with being fired can create a culture of placing blame instead of taking ownership.

These types of punishment and reward systems are meant to encourage productivity and high standards, but ultimately result in poor working experience and unhealthy culture.

Related: How to Deal With Someone Who Blames You for Everything

Norbert Soski

Norbert Soski

Author, ONLY HUMAN: Guide to our internal Human OperatingSystem (iHOS) and Achieving a Better Life

Bottomline – our failures, mistakes,and problems are never our fault. Someone either gave us the wrong information,or others misunderstood us, or the circumstances of the situation did not align correctly. This fault-deflection behavior is based on our human nature drive as explained by the workings of our internal Human Operating System (iHOS).

As I discuss and explain in much more detail in my book, human beings operate with what I call our internal Human Operating System (iHOS), generally referred to by others as our human nature.

Our iHOS describes in detail the functionality of the human condition. The model of our iHOS was developed based on the integration of engineering concepts and human spirituality – mind, body, and soul. Our iHOS is comprised of two subfunctions – the Primitive Soul and the Angelic Soul. Each soul has unique characteristics and motivations that drive our individual behavior. Motivated by pain avoidance and maintaining identity, the Primitive Soul always drives us to be right and comparatively, motivated by knowledge and creativity, the AngelicSoul wants us to be accurate.

Driven by our human nature, we, in our own thoughts, create a world to fit our own beliefs of how the world should be; this is our Illusionary World. Our Illusionary World is generally created based on our Primitive Soul motivations and built from our identity, beliefs, and the way we want the world to appear if we could do it our way.

In our illusionary self-created world, our Primitive Soul drives us to always be right and therefore, in our Illusionary World we can never be wrong; we will justify whatever we need to be right. In our illusionary world, facts and truth are irrelevant because we can fabricate any faux-reality we want. Our beliefs, opinions, our version of the truth, and our interpretations of our experiences become far more important than the actual facts, reality, or truth.

In order to maintain the integrity and structure of our Illusionary World, whenever we experience a failure, mistake, or problem it cannot be our fault.

So, we will justify the unexpected outcome by blaming others or the uncontrollable circumstances of the situation.

In our illusionary world, we do not take responsibility for anything we do wrong. We do not admit to being wrong to anyone or even ourselves because being wrong is not our fault. It is never our fault.

Someone else had to have contributed to the problem, and therefore they are to be blamed. Or the circumstances were out of our control. We deflect all blame. We blame what we cannot control; therefore, we are not obligated or required to change it, and neither are we capable of changing it.

This fault-deflection behavior also limits our ability to exercise free will and freedom choice; never learning from our failures, mistakes, or problems.

Adina Mahalli

Adina Mahalli

Certified Mental Health Consultant, Enlightened Reality | Relationship Expert, Maple Holistics

When you start playing the Blame Game there are no real winners, no matter how much you practice.

Some people simply can’t admit to perceived failures or mistakes, so they blame others so as to dodge responsibility

Someone who is healthy, stable, and confident will own failures as theirs and learn from them. With this in mind, blaming others is really a defense mechanism in order to maintain our own sense of self-esteem.

Blaming others even for what is seen as the little things, is often a scapegoat for dealing with vulnerability. Blaming others satisfies our need to maintain control.

Adam Cole

Adam Cole

Jazz Musician | Writer

Dale Carnegie advised people not to criticize, condemn or complain. That’s a really hard thing to do. Failures, mistakes, and problems are really painful and difficult, and our first instinct is usually to blame someone else. That’s because blaming someone else is a really easy thing to do.

Blaming gives us a vent for our frustration. It also gets us off the hook, so we think

If we blame someone else, not only are we misdirecting everyone else so that we appear innocent, we’re also misdirecting ourselves so that we don’t have to recognize our own contribution to the mistake. At one level, it’s a way of not having to feel pain. On another level, it’s a way of not having to do any work.

It is fair to provide someone with feedback when they make a mistake, especially if it involves you. However, this isn’t the same as blaming. In fact, when you explain to someone the mistake they made, you’re even more likely to get good results if you continue by explaining how you may have led them to make that mistake, through oversight, carelessness, or simply human error.

If you’re actually in the clear, you can still give someone feedback about a mistake without blaming them. Blame rhymes with shame and the two are related to one another. The best feedback is neutral, doesn’t back someone into a corner, and gives them an opportunity to repair their damage.

Dr. Jeep Naum

Jeep Naum

Primary Physician

This is an issue that causes tremendous dysfunction in relationships and it can occur for several different reasons.

When we blame others for our own mistakes, often we lack the ability to take responsibility ourselves when in reality it’s our fault

Arrogance is a character trait that comes to mind which says “I am right! There is no way that I could have made that mistake!”. Arrogance is ugly and has been the downfall of many a friendship or relationship.

Failure to take the blame for mistakes can occur as a result of deflection. Deflection occurs as a result of poor self-esteem. We just can’t handle that we made the mistake and the potential anxiety and depression that can go along with it.

Girish Dutt Shukla

Girish Dutt Shukla

Freelance Copywriter | Social Media Manager | Author, Maroon in a Sky of Blue

We are intrinsically wired to the outcome of an act than by the mere intentions of it. This is the reason we get swayed when things don’t go our way and start blaming others for our failures, mistakes, and problems. The major reasons why we play the blame game are:

It is an excellent defense mechanism

Experiments conducted by Nathanael Fast, of the Department of Management and Organisation at the University of Southern California, demonstrate that blame helps us preserve our self-esteem by avoiding awareness of our flaws.

It is a tool we turn to when we are in attack mode

Our system over the course of evolution has been programmed in a way that we resort to destructive conflict resolution methods when we are under attack and blame our partners for our fallings.

It’s just easier

Blaming someone else is just easier than to accept responsibility. There’s less effort involved in figuring out something you did that led to a bad situation than simply accepting that you’re at fault and making a change.

People just lie

It’s easier to lie and blame someone else. You may know that it was you who spilled the tea on the desk, however, if no know one saw, it is convenient to pin the blame on someone who wasn’t there.

Adam Hempenstall

Adam Hempenstall

CEO and Founder, Better Proposals

When we blame others for our own mistakes and failures, it’s usually out of fear

We are afraid of what we may discover as the real reason behind our failure. For example, we recently had a marketing campaign that flopped, pretty badly.

I wanted to blame others for the failure (my marketing manager, the writer, the designer), but in reality, I was afraid of admitting to myself that I was the one who flopped. My idea was the one that sucked, but I was afraid to admit it to myself. I realized that most times, it was myself who was wrong but the fear kept me looking at others.

CJ Xia

CJ Xia

VP of Marketing & Sales, Boster Biological Technology

Avoiding regret

Most of the people blame others because they want to get rid of regrets and to feed their ego. Regrets could be both a destructive or constructive emotion.

Usually, people get stuck at regrets instead of improving their life. So to get rid of this feeling, they start blaming others for their failures, mistakes, and problems. It could give them relief for some time, however, it is not the optimal solution. After all, we could fool others but not ourselves.

Eric Fischgrund

Eric Fischgrund

Founder, FischTank

It’s natural for people, myself included, to have difficulty acknowledging to themselves why or how their own actions caused something to fail or a mistake to be made. Everyone has an ego and when you feel you’ve failed, or worse when others feel you’ve failed, it can create a real blow to your confidence.

In order to alleviate that stress and despair, people blame not necessarily in an effort to make that person feel bad, but to absolve themself of some or all of the blame.

This is magnified in a workplace setting, because not only do you deal with the social ramifications I referenced above, but compensation, benefits, and livelihood can be at stake.

Tim Fox

Tim Fox

Entrepreneur | Co-Founder, Outdoor Media

Because we don’t want to listen to the truth

We don’t know, but shifting the blame on others is a defense mechanism we used when we find ourselves in a blind alley. Self-accountability is a cruel concept, and not mankind can’t bear the picture of ultimate reality. That’s why humans tend to blame others for our failures and mistakes.

By shifting blame to others, you bring a safe haven for your self-esteem.

Sometimes we are lying by convincing ourselves that this was someone else’s fault. When you accuse someone else of your mistake, you are then actually giving up your power to make a change.

Related: How to Improve Your Self-Esteem, The 30 Best Books on Confidence and Self-Esteem

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