7 phrases highly insecure people use to shift the blame, according to psychologists

With its critique of the American Dream, opulent parties, and complex characters, The Great Gatsby is one of my all time favorite novels.

Maybe it’s even one of yours, too. For me, Gatsby’s long-term romantic fixation, the beautiful and enigmatic Daisy Buchanan, is of particular interest. Why?

Because she’s way more than what she initially lets on.

Daisy is, for starters, an extremely wounded and delicate woman. She’s got a number of insecurities concealed underneath her polished facade, constantly chewing away at her sense of self.

Instead of facing the consequences of her mistakes head-on, Daisy is quick to pass it on, pointing fingers at others—like Gatsby himself—in order to protect herself and her status in society.

Ultimately, her story is a cautionary one, a kind of mirror, if you will. It reflects back our own insecurities, natural tendencies to manipulate, and reluctance to properly own up to our mistakes.

Maybe, just maybe, you’ve got your own Daisy in your life. You know, that loveable yet super insecure person who tends to always be willing to shift the blame.

If you’re trying to figure them out a little more, here are a few phrases they might say—and what psychologists have to say about them.

1) “Do you really need to nitpick everything I do?”

Imagine you’re sitting down in the park, or at a bar, with a friend. It’s high time you had a good catch-up.

Things are going well… at first. 

You’re chatting about work, friends, love, and food. Then, all of a sudden, they mention something—perhaps a controversial opinion—that doesn’t quite sit well with you.

So, what do you do? Perhaps you pipe up, calling them out, and then they respond with a major deflective tactic, and then they fire back, saying: “Do you need to nitpick everything I do?”

But why oh why do they respond like this?

A pioneering study on the insecurity of young people in Nordic Journal of Youth Research found that often, the most insecure individuals will experience “feelings of being threatened” and thus resort to a whole range of blame-shifting tendencies.

These feelings of perceived threat mean these people are often afraid that any criticism will shatter their fragile self-image.

So, when you do call them out, even if it’s done delicately and gently, they feel somewhat attacked.

Then, they make it seem like you’re the unreasonable or overly critical one for daring to question them.

By framing you as the nitpicker, they’re steering the conversation, and suddenly, you’re on the defensive. 

It pays to ask yourself: Am I really nitpicking, or am I justifiably holding someone accountable? 

2) “I’m sorry I’m not good enough for you.”

In the previous Finnish study, researchers found that people who struggled with insecurity were not able to “accept or appreciate themselves.”

So, what might this look like? Well, it can look like the insecure person in your life saying: “I’m sorry I’m not good enough for you.”

Sure, it’s not the most mature thing to pop out in conversation, plus it puts the onus or blame onto the other person, but often it speaks to much deeper issues.

Perhaps this person, as the study implies, is bogged down with feelings of not practicing self acceptance or appreciation, so they throw out a line like this.

Maybe it’s a quick fix for feeling inadequate, but it doesn’t solve the real problem. 

Instead, they’re blaming you by saying they’re not good enough for you.

3) “You’re just jealous of my success, that’s why you’re blaming me.”

When we’re feeling super insecure, there’s a tendency to overthink things.

We’re fixated on the perception of others, eternally worried about how others might perceive us.

As such, criticism can feel extremely hurtful and admitting fault? Not on the agenda. 

It’s because of this that insecurity can often come with narcissistic tendencies, or in other words, an overwhelming and unhealthy need to prioritize oneself.

A recent study investigated the surprising link between narcissism and self-esteem.

Researchers said: “Narcissists are insecure, and they cope with these insecurities by flexing.”

So, what might this flexing entail?

In my personal experience, it can be anything from the individual asserting they have a job higher up than they actually have to even living in a bougie part of town that you know full well they’ve never set foot in.

Either way, it comes across as off-putting and cringe.

It might even involve this specific person saying to you: “You’re just jealous of my success, that’s why you’re blaming me.”

They’d rather redirect blame than own up to their mess-ups.

Take it from me, all of this is a quick detour from taking responsibility. Plus, it hikes up their ego. 

But let’s be real here: envy isn’t always the root of criticism.

4) “Wouldn’t I feel better if you believed in me?”

In the previous study, researchers expanded on the narcissism-insecure link.

They found that not only are people with narcissistic tendencies “motivated by insecurities”, but they will often “seek reassurance” no matter the emotional toll.

This means that if an issue arises with them, or they encounter potential failure, they will be quick to deflect blame while also hoping to be validated, saying: “Wouldn’t I feel better if you believed in me?”

With this, they’re clutching at anything for support—and that includes you, my friend.

Of course, this person really ought to be building their own confidence instead of relying on yours, rather than outsourcing their self-esteem to you, which is neither fair nor healthy.

By focusing on your belief and confidence in them, they’re subtly shifting blame if things go south.

If you don’t believe in them and they fail, well, it’s kind of your fault for not having enough faith, huh?

5) “You’re just trying to control me.”

Believe it or not, social hierarchies permeate everything that we do in life. 

Sometimes, it might feel as if we are all on equal standing, but if you look deeper you’ll notice that while some folks are satisfied with their lot in life, there are others who are scramble to achieve a higher status.

Because of this, if a particular person feels threatened by even a little bit of change, they might interpret various things as being power plays.

A 2021 study explored negative attitudes towards women and the role insecurity played, finding that often, a lot of insecure people were fearful of any “changes in social hierarchies.”

Instead of embracing and welcoming change, they accuse those around them of trying to control them, saying: “You’re trying to control me.”

It’s all just a way to keep their ego intact and maintain their perceived status—a classic safeguarding maneuver of someone who struggles with insecurity.

6) “If you actually offered me more support, I wouldn’t even be in this situation.”

If you know someone who is insecure, you’ll know that if they’re feeling even a little bit abandoned, they will be quick to be manipulative and shift the blame.

They might even try to test your loyalty and use guilt to get what it is that they actually want.

A recent US study on insecure attachment found that in most cases, the most insecure people were those who never had a secure family base during their upbringing.

Researchers fleshed this out, noting that these folks would often have faced situations where their “caregiver as a secure base” was “compromised.”

What this means is that they were accustomed to instability in their lives—particularly at a formative age.

So, if you’re in a situation where you’re being fed the line “If you actually offered me more support, I wouldn’t even be in this situation” know to not to take it too personally. 

There’s a good chance they’re fighting their own demons and seeking validation in a messy, roundabout way.

7) “You would do anything but help me when I actually need you.”

Ever had that one friend or family member who always seems to manage to twist things around as if you’re the one at fault? 

In doing so, they might say something along the lines of: “You would do anything but help me when I actually need you.”

The tricky part with this one is that they’re making out like you’re capable of helping them, it’s just that you’re choosing not to.

Plus it goes deeper than that. 

They’re also—on top of the accusation of you withholding help—noting that you’re selecting a time when they’re most vulnerable to abandon them. Talk about heaping on the blame.

The previous study landed on another golden insight in the psychology of insecurity.

Researchers found that insecure individuals, due to their feelings of abandonment and childhood trauma, were often accustomed to having “interpersonal relationships devoid of effective soothing capacities.”

What this translates to is that these people were very much used to not being offered enough support to deal with their issues, which is why they throw out a line like this.

A person who is accustomed to consistently playing the victim likely has deep-rooted abandonment issues or never had a secure relationship—as we explored in the previous point.

Instead of facing up to their own issues with therapy or a bit of good old fashioned self-reflection, they pile it onto you, making you feel like you’re solely to blame.

Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash has years of experience writing relationship articles for single females looking for love. After being single for years with no hope of meeting Mr. Right, she finally managed to get married to the love of her life. Now that she’s settled down and happier than she’s ever been in her life, she's passionate about sharing all the wisdom she's learned over the journey. Pearl is also an accredited astrologer and publishes Hack Spirit's daily horoscope.

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