Signs You Are Being Scapegoated

11 Signs You Are Being Scapegoated

Published On: May 7, 2024

All families have their unique set of challenges and shortcomings, and one common way they deal with these conflicts is by projecting blame on one particular member of the family, known as the scapegoat. The scapegoat of the family is often blamed for conflicts, unfairly targeted, and shut out from the family leaving them to feel frustrated, overwhelmed, and disconnected. 

Wondering if you are your family’s scapegoat? Here’s how you’ll know.

1. Lack of Celebration for Successes

Oftentimes, the scapegoat’s successes are not recognized or celebrated. This becomes clear to the scapegoat when they recognize that other people are receiving parties, gifts, or acknowledgment for accomplishments that they did not receive. 

2. Problems are Projected 

Family members often project their problems onto the scapegoat of the family, even when the scapegoat isn’t involved in the problem or responsible to fix it. Some individual concerns that are projected onto the scapegoat include an individual’s insecurity, shortcomings, or life circumstances.

3. Unfair Labels

Family scapegoats often have unfair labels placed upon them, such as the “problem child”, “troublemaker”, or “black sheep”. This often feels really confusing for the scapegoat, especially if they feel they haven’t done anything to receive these labels. 

4. Double Standards

Scapegoats often have higher standards placed upon them than other family members do. This could be the expectation to receive perfect grades, obtain a high paying job, or maintain a high degree of professionalism or a perfect appearance. Oftentimes, even when the scapegoat meets these expectations, they are not recognized for doing so; however, if they fail to meet these high expectations, they receive a lot of negative attention or blame. 

5. Receives Excessive Blame

Family members that find themselves in the position of being the family scapegoat often receive blame for problems or challenges, even when they are out of their control. For example, a family member may attribute a problem to the scapegoat’s attitude, lack of problem solving, or overall failure to attend to their needs.

6. Gaslighting 

Scapegoat’s experiences or emotions are often invalidated by other family members. This could look like family members telling you to “get over” your problems or belittling your emotions by sharing their own problems or experiences. This leads the scapegoat to feeling unheard, unimportant, and questioning their own experiences.

7. Experience Significant Criticism

Every minor mistake that the family scapegoat makes receives a lot of criticism and pushback. This may include things like your family member openly sharing your mistakes with others, retelling stories in which you made a mistake, or frequent reminders of your setbacks. 

8. Efforts are Unappreciated 

Scapegoats often recognize their disconnection from their families, and they attempt to overcome this by contributing more to their families. Some ways scapegoats may put in extra effort to connect with their family members is by reaching out often, doing favors, or providing more financial or concrete support to their family. Unfortunately, these extra efforts are rarely appreciated.

9. Lack of Support

Another sign that you may be the family scapegoat is if you are unable to depend on your family for support. This includes things like emotional support, such as being able to go to your family to discuss your emotions or concerns, or physical support, such as receiving help with a move or planning an event. 

10. Isolation

Family scapegoats are often isolated from other family members. Sometimes this looks like not being invited to events or celebrations, not being included in family discussions or group chats, or not being asked for your thoughts or opinions. This makes it difficult for the scapegoat to connect or share with their family.

11. Feeling Powerless

Unfortunately, due to power differentials within families, scapegoats often feel unable to overcome this dynamic or to break out of this cycle. They perceive themselves as the bottom of the hierarchy and efforts to reengage with the family are not fruitful. 

Impacts of Being the Family Scapegoat

Family Scapegoat

There are serious negative impacts associated with the blame, isolation, and emotional implications of being the family scapegoat. Some of these negative impacts include low self-esteem, emotional distress, difficulty trusting others, identity confusion, and repeating patterns in adult relationships.

Low Self-Esteem

Constantly being blamed, criticized, or invalidated by your family damages self-esteem and self-worth. The scapegoat may internalize the negative messages they receive, leading to feelings of insecurities and self-doubt.

Emotional Distress

The ongoing stress of being the family scapegoat can lead to a variety of mental health concerns, including anxiety, depression, and hopelessness. The constant pressure to fulfill unrealistic expectations and endure fights or arguments often takes a significant toll on mental health.

Difficulty Trusting Others

Scapegoats may struggle to trust others or form healthy relationships within and outside of their family. Years of experiencing betrayal, manipulation, or emotional neglect within the family dynamic can make it challenging to establish trust and vulnerability with others, leading to social isolation and difficulty forming meaningful connections.

Identity Confusion

Growing up as the family scapegoat can create confusion and uncertainty about one’s own identity and role within relationships. Scapegoats may struggle to separate their true selves from the negative labels and projections imposed on them by family members, leading to a sense of disconnection from their authentic identity.

Repeating Patterns in Adult Relationships

Without intervention or support, individuals who were scapegoated in their family may unknowingly repeat similar patterns in their adult relationships. They may gravitate towards partners or friends who reinforce familiar dynamics of blame, criticism, or emotional abuse, perpetuating a cycle of toxic relationships and further impacting their mental health and well-being.

How to Get Help

It’s important for the family scapegoat to seek out support to reclaim their lives and overcome challenges associated with growing up being blamed and criticized. Some ways that scapegoats are able to find peace is by setting boundaries with their family members to prevent future harm, seeking out professional support with a licensed family therapist, joining support groups or online communities with similar experiences, and routinely practicing self-care. 

All of these approaches reinforce your independence from your family and allow you to have a brighter future. Seeking help also prevents you from unknowingly repeating the negative cycle that you experienced growing up. 

Being the family scapegoat is a challenging experience, and there are ways to move past these experiences to a brighter, happier future. Never hesitate to reach out for support and begin working through your experiences.