29 May Overcoming A Victim Mentality
Before I begin this piece, I want to clearly state that actual victims of horrific abuse from narcissists, criminals and injuries exist and those people should receive the support and services they need to overcome these traumatic events. This is not about those forms of victimhood.
The issue I want to explore is the sometimes hidden or unconscious identity issues and any following attitudes that arise, creating a sense of negative spiralling and atrophy from allowing ourselves to sit and accept the victim identity within our minds.
The occasions when this tendency is most likely to arise within us is when we are being asked to stretch outside our comfort zone and being challenged in some way by the world or by others. The identity we position ourselves within can lean heavily on past experience and give us a sense of stuckness and hence we can feel victimised and incapable of moving forward to overcome the challenge.
As my friend Kevin Flanagan says, words are like spells and each time we use a word we have to understand the deeper meaning of the word. Everyone will have their own connotations of various words but let’s look at the word victim.
Derived from Latin ‘victima’, in the late 15th century the word was used to describe a creature killed as part of a religious sacrifice. The word has now come to be defined as ‘a person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action’.
You can see from this that it’s easy to take liberties in applying this definition of victim to ourselves and any events or actions that might occur in our lives. I will attempt to show you why in many cases, considering ourselves through this lens doesn’t help us move forward to achieve what we want.
I recall the moment of my life when I was deep in addiction to drugs and gaming and I really felt like I was dealt a bad hand in life. I was unhappy with where I was working and I didn’t see a clear path towards anything meaningful on the horizon.
I was viewing myself and my circumstances through this victim lens and felt rejected by the world and totally powerless to do anything to improve my situation. That was the lie I had accepted at the time.
Setbacks and things we would rather not happen in our lives, unfortunately, do occur. Our power is located in how we respond to these setbacks! We can’t magically control the circumstances we find ourselves in with our lives but we absolutely are in control of the response that comes from us when something bad happens or we feel that we are not satisfied.
More specifically, how we think about our ability to do something about our situation is where our power and ability to change resides.
It can be alluring to sit in that feeling of ‘woe is me’ in an attempt to elicit sympathy from those around us and many of us use these strategies to get short term needs to be met.
I want to explore different areas where people might be falling into the trap of adopting a victim mentality and some tips about what to do to get out of it, become empowered and take the required actions needed to take back control of your life to achieve the results you want!
The opposite of a victim mentality is what I call a ‘can-do mentality’. Let’s look at how to move from victim disempowerment and how to move towards more of a can-do mentality.
How To Spot When You Might Be In The Victim Mindset?
- A victim has a scarcity mindset regarding options. They want to believe that they have no other choices than to accept their fate or might convince themselves that they have tried everything possible to overcome their circumstances. In many cases, this can be the result of being in fear and responding to that fear with a freeze response. Doing nothing in the hope that the problem magically goes away is a common thought of someone stuck in victimhood. There might be a certain set of excuses that you give yourself which you have been conditioned to believe and the people around you have allowed go unchallenged and you have convinced yourself they are true. A good question to ask yourself if you feel this might apply to you is, ‘Do I have to believe this excuse I am making to myself or is it time to look at my options?’
- Perhaps you even believe that you are not deserving of having the favourable outcome that you desire? A lot of people when they start the personal development journey encounter a belief within themselves that has been inherited through a legacy of family and cultural beliefs around what they are and are not deserving of. The common or ‘normal’ stories that you may be telling yourself about what you deserve in life might be playing on an automatic loop and you have never realised that you can switch that tape off at any time. A question to ask yourself is whether you hold beliefs around the type of life and relationships ‘someone like you should have’? If you find an answer to that question and you don’t like what you have found, you are at liberty to simply change your mind about what you deserve and decide what you actually think you deserve without getting permission from anyone else. I recommend you permit yourself infinite potential outcomes.
- You are perhaps focusing on all the reasons why you can’t overcome what is happening for you. This then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because you have told yourself over and over in your mind about why you are stuck where you are, you believe it so rigidly that any alternative that is offered to you is instantly discredited. This becomes like a protective mechanism where because the story you repeat to yourself internally is so believable to you, the familiarity of the story creates a hardened belief and unwillingness to drop the sense of powerlessness and ultimately, the victim narrative. This hardened narrative prevents other narratives from being explored and ultimately the cycle of feeling disempowered continues.
- You feel that others have a better hand in life and are at a distinct advantage over you and you might even feel that advantage cannot be overcome, so why bother trying, right? Some people having a better family background, more money as a kid or more friends growing up becomes your reason why you easily slip into victimhood because you can point to how others had it better than you. It is true that some people get a better start in life but the ultimate potential we are able to realise in our lives is dependent on the amount of motivation, grit and determination to take consistent actions to move towards the desired outcome we have identified for ourselves. The excuse of, ‘oh well, they have it better and I can’t overcome that’ is totally weighing you down and blocking you from moving towards that outcome by handing you an easy victim narrative which halts action. You create an advantage by showing up and consistently putting in the required work that it takes to become more skilful or knowledgeable at your craft. Don’t let what others do, have or achieve stop your pursuit of what you absolutely can have for yourself. Those who have what they have in most cases work damn hard for what they achieve in their lives. You can too!
- You probably don’t see yourself in the best light and are slow to give yourself a break. You probably have an incredibly active inner critic which is constantly shooting bullets at you internally and trying to drag you down. Negativity is all around and probably a big characteristic that you focus on! Perhaps you continually see the bad in everything and are always seeing how life is giving you a bad deal. You are probably quick to tell others about it too and probably push others away or give them every reason to want to avoid you. Who wants to be around someone who is never happy?
- You might not like to see other people succeed in their lives and you might even get angry when you see people doing well. Maybe hearing that a friend got together with the girl they were attracted to might make you annoyed and you might find it hard to feel pleased for them because you want to have some love in your life and because that doesn’t happen for you, you don’t want it to happen for others.
What To Do Next?
A ‘breakthrough-story’ is what you need to overcome the state of victimhood you have been holding onto. The breakthrough-story contains thoughts and strategic habits and beliefs to adopt, an attitude you choose to wear during your day and very specific decisions you need to make to get yourself moving in the right direction.
For me, It was when I had enough of feeling sorry for myself and telling myself the sob story about how I wasn’t going to be able to do anything other than work that boring old job. I made a decision to get professional help and learned how to bring doubt to the victimhood narrative.
After a while I became empowered with a new attitude which allowed me to see a greater version of myself and I started to think about the future self I wanted to be, someone admirable and something exciting to work towards. I made a very clear decision that I was going to study psychology because the human mind fascinated me and I always wanted to learn more about my own mind but didn’t know where to start. So at 23, I enrolled myself in a distance learning degree program while working full time.
Adopting new thoughts and beliefs and having made a decision to do something about my situation, my life began to radically change in a short space of time. The same can happen for you or a loved one you know who might have embraced any of the above victimhood tendencies in life.
To stop the pattern of doing this and to put a halt to creating these helpless feelings which come from listening to that victimhood voice, try a number of the following strategies.
- Get an easy win
- Challenge your comfort zone and get slightly outside of it and see it’s not so bad
- Set yourself a goal which you know you can achieve and go and embrace that win
- Scale up the next week to something bigger
- Achieve something, anything!
- Consider working with a coach to help you remain accountable.
I would love to hear from you and work on helping you drop the victim mentality to create a brighter future where you adopt a can-do attitude and get the outcomes you want to have in your future.
I have created a Free 5 Day Challenge to help you catapult your journey towards mapping a better vision for what mastery in your life might look like and encourage you to check it out and start changing your story today.
Also, feel free to join The Mapping Your Mastery Facebook Group!