Why do you feel like everything is always your fault?
That question touches on several sensitive areas that make it harder to feel good about yourself and enjoy relationships with others.
After all, how can you feel good about yourself when you’re constantly telling yourself that you are responsible for everything that goes wrong in your and other people’s lives?
You can’t. It’s a negative emotional loop that will have no end without some kind of intervention to break the cycle.
But how do you do that? Well, that will partly depend on why you feel that you never do anything right.
This article explores some of the possible causes for your feelings and the potential solutions for each.
1. Past experiences or trauma cause you to feel responsible for others.
Not everyone is fortunate enough to grow up with good, healthy, adult role models in their life.
Plenty of people grow up with abusive adults that may use guilt and blame as tools of coercion. They shove responsibility onto their kids to make them easier to manipulate, so they accept the abuse. E.g., “Why do you make me do this to you? If only you’d….”
Then you have adults that may not necessarily be abusive but rather are so emotionally immature that they can’t take responsibility for themselves. Someone might weasel their way out of their mistakes by blaming anyone or anything else because an apology is impossible for them. E.g., “I’m only late because you told me the event ended at 7 P.M. instead of 8 P.M.”
Abusive romantic relationships can have comparable effects. A romantic abuser often uses similar tactics to control and coerce their partner. E.g., “Why do you make me act this way? If only you did X, I wouldn’t have to do Z.”
A person who lives in these environments for years will likely internalize these thoughts and feelings, which causes them to feel responsible for things outside their control.
That, in turn, becomes guilt and self-loathing when they can’t live up to that impossibly unfair, unhealthy standard.
Trauma counseling can help you identify and heal some of the wounds left by these experiences, or similar.
That doesn’t mean that everything will be perfect. But by working on your personal healing and boundaries, you can learn to stop yourself from admitting fault when it is not warranted.
2. You may have a mental illness.
Mental illness plays a significant role in how we perceive ourselves and interpret the world.
For example, certain mental illnesses can make you feel like you’re a horrible person when you’ve done nothing wrong.
And even if you do something wrong, that doesn’t mean that you’re a horrible person. Everyone does the wrong thing from time to time. Humans are imperfect, messy creatures. Still, that doesn’t stop mental illnesses from intruding and telling you otherwise.
Anxiety may cause you to think that everything is your fault because it tells you it’s all your responsibility. Attributes like perfectionism and a need for control often go hand-in-hand with anxiety because the brain is trying to soothe itself by seeking some form of control. But there are plenty of times when we aren’t in control of anything more than our actions.
That person may blame themselves when they cannot exert control over the outcome they are looking for. They may look at it as their fault even when there is no possible chance of controlling the outcome; it’s just that their mental illness is telling them otherwise.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is another mental illness that may cause a person to accept responsibility for circumstances outside their control. There is a particular subset of OCD known as “responsibility OCD” that causes the person to experience increased anxiety and guilt.
The sufferer isn’t so concerned with their own welfare. Instead, they fixate on the repercussions of their actions or non-actions and how they affect others. They often take responsibility for things that aren’t their fault because they are endlessly worried about hurting others.
Depression fuels feelings of low self-worth and self-loathing. A depressed person may find that they take on blame that isn’t theirs because they tell themselves they are worthless, so all problems become their responsibility.
Depressed people may also not have the energy to enforce boundaries with abusive people who want to thrust responsibility on them. It’s far less emotional energy to just nod and go along with it instead of trying to fight it. Of course, that makes the whole problem worse.
It’s normal to be concerned about how your actions or non-actions affect other people. However, for a person with a mental illness, these fears and worries will disrupt their daily life. A person with anxiety or responsibility OCD may dwell on these issues for hours or even days. They may seek forgiveness over and over.
If you believe you are dealing with a mental illness, your best option is to seek professional help. Unfortunately, any self-help or coping skills to break the loops aren’t likely to work for long without first addressing the mental illness itself.
3. You may have low self-esteem or self-image.
A person with low self-esteem or poor self-image may find themselves at fault for everything because they do not believe they are a good person.
A problem happens, and because they feel they are a terrible person, they conclude they must be at fault for the bad outcome. This belief loop gives them the means to continue to beat themselves down in a negative thought spiral to reinforce these falsehoods about themselves.
You may find that you overthink and over-analyze circumstances until you conclude that the problem must be your fault for not meeting a particular standard. That standard will typically be unfair and unreasonable.
For example, “I should have known this action would make them angry.” How? Did they tell you? Did they say, “Hey, don’t do this”? And even if they did, was their request reasonable? Sometimes it’s not.
People with low self-esteem often find it difficult to accept compliments. They may brush them aside, refuse the compliment, or downplay it in their mind completely. Thoughts like “it wasn’t that big of a deal” or “anyone could have done that” further weaken one’s opinion about themselves.
But by denying positive feedback, you give more strength to negative feedback. The stronger the negative feedback, the more you’ll feel like you’re the problem when issues arise.
The best way to break free from this pattern is to improve your feelings about yourself. By doing that, you can break the negative loops and stop blaming yourself for problems that aren’t your responsibility.
You may also need to work on setting healthy boundaries to more easily determine what is and is not your responsibility.
4. You are a perfectionist.
Perfectionists often look at perfectionism as an admirable trait to have. After all, if you want the job done right, you must do it yourself. Right?
In reality, perfectionism is a hindrance to the perfectionist. They have a difficult time accepting when things don’t work out perfectly or if they are unable to meet their unrealistic standards. Perfectionism is an example of all-or-nothing thinking, which often doesn’t work in the real world.
The perfectionist may then blame themselves for not being good enough to live up to the impossible standard they set.
Furthermore, they may not even finish projects because they are so focused on making them perfect that they never reach a point where they can call it complete. You may have heard the saying, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” A good project released is always better than a perfect project sitting on a shelf.
Perfectionism may have different roots. Sometimes it can result from a mental illness, like OCD or anxiety, where the sufferer tries to self-soothe by being focused on the standard. Sometimes it’s the result of poor self-esteem and self-worth. The situation must be perfect, and it’s their fault that it’s not, even when it’s entirely unreasonable to think it could be perfect.
Whatever the cause, perfectionism is a problem that can be worked on with therapy and by addressing any mental health issues that may be causing it.
5. You may accept responsibility to avoid conflict.
There are some people out there who cannot handle conflict. They accept blame and fault that is not theirs in order to prevent conflict from erupting.
They want things to be peaceful. In their mind, accepting the blame and fault for a situation that wasn’t their responsibility is a way to keep the peace.
This kind of behavior often stems from trauma and past experiences. A person who grows up with an adult who screams at them for every small mistake they make may be conditioned to accept the blame and beg for forgiveness to avoid the hostility. That kind of behavior will follow the person into adulthood if left unaddressed.
Therapy is the best option to address the core issue so you can develop better interpersonal relationship habits.
Learning not to see everything as your fault.
The feeling of everything being your fault is an example of cognitive bias, black-and-white thinking, or all-or-nothing thinking.
The problem with this kind of thinking is that it does not accurately reflect reality. Few things in life are black and white. Almost everything sits within some shade of gray.
Sometimes you’ll be at fault for things and sometimes, you won’t. It’s best to talk to a mental health therapist if you feel that you are always—or often—at fault for negative circumstances.
This type of problem often stems from trauma or mental illness that needs to be addressed so that you can be a happier, healthier you.
You don’t have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. It’s not yours to own. Even when things go poorly, that doesn’t mean anyone is at fault. Sometimes bad stuff happens for no reason at all, and that’s just the way it goes.