“Above all, be the heroine of your life. Not the victim.” ~ Nora Ephron
We all play the victim from time to time, however some people do this more often than others. We tend do this because when things aren’t going well in our life, it’s much easier to blame others rather than taking responsibility. By taking responsibility we might actually have to do something to change it, and that can be a giant pain! It’s way easier to rationalize all the reasons why it’s not our fault.
Having a victim mentality keeps you stuck in the problem and less capable of finding a solution. The more you can prove that you’re not at fault, the less responsibility you’ll have to fix it. Whenever I notice myself falling into that victim mentality, I try to shift my perspective and look at my situation from a different point of view. Or, I’ll seek the opinion of a trusted friend for an objective viewpoint. But sometimes this can take a lot of effort. Many people may not even be aware that they have a victim mentality. Seeing a situation from another perspective can be especially difficult if you’re living with a deeply embedded victim mindset.
Early on in our development we learn how power and control over others affects relationships, as well as how surrendering power and control affects relationships. Generally a victim mentality comes from a lack of confidence, low self-esteem, or not having the strength to make big life decisions. Some might be afraid of losing control so they allow others to take control. This way if something goes wrong, they can place blame on others and ensure a safe position for themselves. Blaming someone justifies feeling miserable but getting caught in a loop of re-living a negative experience over and over ultimately builds resentment.
Relinquishing power and control by placing our self in someone else’s hand usually results in feeling anger, resentment, and frustration. Most people aren’t even aware that they’re playing the victim, therefore unaware of where these negative emotions are coming from. Being in a state of victim hood can reside deep within our subconscious and is often difficult to see or recognize unless someone tells us. Sadly, some people stay in this victim mentality their whole life.
“When you complain, you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation, change the situation or accept it. All else is madness.” ~ Eckhart Tolle
How to recognize if you have a victim mindset & how to break out of it.
Set backs, disappointments and hurts are all part of life. It’s how you respond to them that will determine your happiness in life. While you can’t control some circumstances, you can control your responses to them (refer to my post Be mindful respond rather than react).
5 Ways to Recognize if you have a Victim Mindset
- Everything is negative. Most things have a negative tone to them. Nothing seems to work out for you, no ones on your side, or you’ve been dealt a bad hand (refer to my previous post on negativity bias.
- You ask yourself “why” a lot. Such as …why does everything in my life have to be hard. Why can’t people leave me alone? why don’t people understand me?
- You ruminate over things a lot. The same negative script can go over and over in your head for hours and nothing seems to work out for you. I never seem to get …. Why bother because …
- You’re your own worst critic. You don’t think very highly of yourself, feel like damaged goods and that you don’t deserve good things.
- You’re often angry and resentful of other peoples gains. For example, you resent the fact that your good friend got a great new job and a big pay increase. She already has nice things, why is she always the one who gets these things. These things never seem to happen to me.
Do any of these sound familiar to you? Sometimes you can slip into the victim mindset only in certain areas of your life. It can be subtle but persuasive enough to hold you back or even lower your self esteem.
5 Ways to Break out a Victim Mentality
“Take full responsibility for your actions, your choices, and your life. You made it this way. If you’re happy, keep going. If not, choose to do something about it.” ~Kyle Francis
- Build confidence by creating small but achievable goals. If you’re convinced that good things never happen to you, you need to retrain your mind to see that you can win at something even if it’s small. Then give yourself time to reflect think or ruminate on these small accomplishments before you move onto even bigger accomplishments.
- Give to others. Turn your attention to giving to others. Victimization breeds neediness, and the more needy you are the more you’ll be disappointed when your needs aren’t met. Meeting someone else needs allows you to rise above the victim mode and be someone else’s hero. The satisfaction you get from loving or showing love to others gives you a reason to love yourself which guards you from future hurts.
- Practice gratitude. When you’re in victim mode, you focus more on what you don’t have and lose sight on what you have. You can change your perspective by spending more on what you do have. If you write them down you can re-read them and remind yourself of them later when you slip back into feeling sorry for yourself.
- Get closure on past hurts. This might involve forgiving someone, or forgiving yourself. If you blame yourself for continuing to make the same mistakes over and over, or for trusting the same wrong person, you’ll need understand what draws you to these bad decisions in the first place. This will take some work and you may need the help of a counselor, therapist, or even a good friend who knows you well. Once you get a handle on your patterns you can move on to better decisions in the future.
- Take ownership of your decisions. Remember, no one can make you feel a certain way unless you allow it. If you are around people who make you feel bad, are critical of you, etc. then you need to limit your contact with them. Sometimes we don’t have the option of not seeing them, especially if they’re a family member or a parent, so if that’s the case then you’ll need to set up boundaries and create some emotional distance to protect yourself from always being hurt by that person. Don’t let past hurts define you.
It’s important to identify if you are wallowing in victim mode so you can put it behind you. It’s also important to reflect on your own behaviour (see previous post on emotional intelligence). You have the power to rid yourself of the victim persona but it’ll take ongoing, daily work. It’s been scientifically proven that thinking positive enhances your life and that feeling in control of your life improves your overall sense of well-being. I’d say these make it a worthwhile endeavour.
In the following Ted Talk, Lori Gottlieb shares how you can edit your life story and live more fully by letting go of that one version of your story that you’ve been telling yourself. She explains that in order to be a good editor, we need to offer compassionate truths so we don’t perpetuate the victim mentality, not just to our friends, but to ourselves. This helps us see what we’ve left out of our story so we can come up with an alternative version where we are the heroine or hero of our life story, and not the victim.
Now, it’s your turn.
Do you struggle with a victim mentality? How do you shift your mindset? Or perhaps you know someone who often plays the victim. How does this affect your relationship with them? Share in the comments below.
Photo source: Susan Wheeler (winter daytime moon, Ambleside Beach, West Vancouver, BC)