What and how to learn from mistakes

“When you blame others, you give up your power to change.” ROBERT ANTHONY

Wendy Rhyason


“When you blame others, you give up your power to change.” Robert Anthony

Why do some people blame others instead of accepting responsibility for their actions? If you have trouble accepting responsibility or are the object of someone’s unjustified blame, it may help you to understand the dynamics behind this behaviour. Some of the reasons people blame others:

They feel out of control. Unable to handle the fear of being out of control and helpless in a situation, people will restore their sense of control by blaming others. By blaming others the helpless person assumes the position of the accuser and feels more in control.

Did not learn to take responsibility for actions. Some parents fail to teach their children how to take responsibility for their actions. When they grow up, they blame others whenever something bad happens.

Unable to admit failure or mistakes. People that cannot accept they are imperfect will blame others to avoid responsibility. Being flawed or imperfect is interpreted as having no self-worth accompanied by feelings of shame.

Unable to accept what happened. To avoid accepting that something has changed, people will blame others.

When people fail to take personal responsibility for failures and mistakes, the road to constructive change is blocked. Dr. Elliot Cohen wrote, “While people are not perfect they can learn from their mistakes—but only if they admit them and change their behavior in the future” (2012).

Life is about learning. Instead of looking at mistakes or failures as negative and shifting blame, look at them as opportunities to learn new things or sharpen your skills. When a child starts school, do you expect the child to already know how to read and write?

No, you expect the child to learn and eventually grow in his or her abilities. It is the sam e with adults. You weren’t born with the knowledge to have a successful relationship, be a good employee, or raise healthy children (for example). These are things you learn and you will make mistakes along the way.

If you blame others to avoid responsibility, give yourself a break and let go of your need to be perfect. Making mistakes or failing says nothing negative about who you are. You are human and we all make mistakes. Learn from them. When you take responsibility for your life and accept that it is ok to be imperfect, you will find more peace and happiness and begin to grow mentally and spiritually.

If you are the object of blame, refuse to accept the blame for situations you were not personally responsible for. Carrying other people’s responsibilities is a heavy load that can lead to depression and anxiety. As well, by accepting the other person’s responsibility you are robbing them of the opportunity to solve their problems and learn from their mistakes. Instead, help the blamer accept their imperfections and provide support and encouragement to learn from mistakes.

If you need help learning how to turn mistakes and failures into opportunities to learn, contact the FCSS office to see our Life Coach or one of our counsellors.