Woe Is Me! “People Always Make Me Feel Like Everything Is My Fault?”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
“Every single time I bring up a problem or grievance with anyone, the situation pivots to turn it into my fault. Am I truly a bundle of mess-ups, or do I not know how to stand up for myself?”
— Scatterbrain Needs A Break
SM: It’s not your fault all the time, and it can’t be. As women, we’ve been conditioned to feel guilty, and to shift the blame inward if something goes wrong. It is so important to be cognizant of this, and especially not to let conversations about our grievances turn into blame games — but with a single target. That being said, if this is something that is happening across the board, then I think it’s also important to rethink your approach to bringing up a grievance. Remember that you bring up a grievance because it’s something that is causing you pain/frustration/anger. Come to the conversation keeping your pain at the center, understanding what you and the person who you have an issue with can do to fix the source of that pain, but also listen to the other person and what their point of view is. But always remember that the whole point of bringing up a grievance is for you to feel better — not to feel bad about who you are on the whole.
AM: Think about it, can it be your mistake every time? So how do you let someone blame you? This is clearly a case of not being able to stand up for yourself and glad that you’ve realized it. The next time someone blames you, try to go back to what really happened and whose fault it actually was. Talk to the other person about it and they’ll know better not to blame you for everything. It’ll be better with time, you’re not a bundle of mess-ups.
RD: So I’d suggest seeking a middle ground here. It’s not that people are always gaslighting you, and it’s not that you’re always at fault. I think strongly believing in the former will keep you from fairly assessing your part in situations, and adhering to the latter will bring insecurity and frustration. I think the key here is to surround yourself with people who either don’t gaslight you, or who at least will be open to the possibility that they might have unwittingly done exactly just that. Also, in any given situation, I don’t think there’s always one or the other person to blame. Sometimes, things just play out a certain way, and both parties are completely right in thinking, feeling or acting like they think is prudent. I disagree with AM — I don’t think trying to locate fault is a healthy way to resolve situations. The other person needs to make you feel comfortable, whether or not something is your fault. The point is not to place blame, it’s to ensure both parties are not sad. And hey, if something does end up being your fault, it’s not the end of the world. The other person needs to be mature enough not to use it as a weapon to keep making you feel small. That’s just toxic.
DR: First of all, I think you must stop hanging out with gaslighters — they’re useful for lighting up cigarettes and doobies, and occasionally, burning letters, photographs and other paraphernalia belonging to exes. Despite being pocket-sized and handy, I don’t think gaslighters make for great friends. Now, if you can’t absolutely get rid of them, try to foresee how they can turn your grievances against you, and pre-emptively, prepare arguments for those situations too. Note these down on a piece of paper or on your phone if you feel like you might go blank mid-argument, and keep referring to them from time to time. This is probably the lawyer in me talking, but by doing this, you will catch them off-guard, and while they scramble to outshine your well-prepared behind, you will have won! However, if this fails too, just resort to emotional blackmailing. Cry, bawl, faint, do whatever you must — just don’t let them blame you for your own grievances!