By Karla Downing – MFT, Twyla Gingrich – LCSW, LAC, Eloise Erasmus – Ph.D., L.P.
“Your complaints, your drama, your victim mentality, your whining, your blaming, and all of your excuses have NEVER gotten you even a single step closer to your goals or dreams. Let go of your nonsense. Let go of the delusion that you DESERVE better and go EARN it! Today is a new day!”
~ Steve Maraboli
The first question you must answer is: Are you a real victim?
A real victim is a person who has been mistreated and harmed and has absolutely zero responsibility. This person is the recipient of some type of destructive act or event such as abuse, theft, fraud, mistreatment, accident, natural disaster or crime.
A person can also have a victim mentality without being a real victim because he/she bears some responsibility for what has happened or can change the circumstances but refuses to do so.
If you are a real victim, you have a reason to place blame on the perpetrator.
You didn’t deserve it.
- It isn’t your fault that someone who was very skilled at tricking you into offering trust took advantage of you.
- It isn’t your fault that someone who was willing to abuse you mistreated you and beat you down into submitting to the abuse.
- It isn’t your fault that a perpetrator took your innocence as a child.
- It isn’t your fault that someone who chose to break the law took something precious from you.
After you move out of the denial that it happened, allow yourself to feel the anger.
Anger has power. It helps you to feel powerful instead of powerless. Let your righteous anger reinforce the truth: you didn’t deserve it and it was wrong!
Someone took something valuable from you; something that didn’t belong to that person.
But you cannot stay there, or you will be stuck in that place and it isn’t healthy to stay there forever.
You will then go through a stage where you bargain. You will try to figure out how it could have been prevented. This is the “if only” stage. This is your mind trying to figure things out.
When you finally realize that in spite of all those “if onlys,” it did happen, you move into sadness and grief.
This is where you count your losses as a result of the tragic circumstances. After the sadness, you move into acceptance where you come to term with the reality that it did happen, and you cannot change it.
People with victim mentalities take on the identity of a victim.
They may have grown up in a dysfunctional family and felt powerless to change their families and brought that mentality into their adult lives.
They may have been ignored and neglected but learned that when they told people a sad story that they got things they wanted: gifts, attention, money, pity and more.
They somehow learned that they didn’t get what they wanted by asking directly, only indirectly through some type of manipulation.
It is from here that true victims and those with victim mentalities can use the same process.
It is the process of letting go of a victim state of mind and here are the steps:
- Know the roots.
How did you become a victim? What happened and when? What changed in you that made you feel like a victim?
This could be a single incident like an accident, an attack or it could be your whole childhood or a difficult marriage. Whatever it is, it is the beginning of you feeling like a victim which is someone who doesn’t have power or control over their life.
- Count the cost.
What has this cost you? You may have lost opportunities, relationships, possessions, money and more by feeling powerless and not taking control of your life.
If someone took something from you before, that’s the reality.
But you don’t have to give that person the rest of your life too. You don’t have to voluntarily give up the power you have to make whatever you want of your past and your future.
- Drop your excuses.
It’s scary to take responsibility for your life if you haven’t done it.
It means you risk failing without blaming someone else. It means you allow yourself to feel hope which could result in feeling disappointed.
It could mean you realize you are responsible for things that you haven’t been accountable for and may need to admit it to people.
Yes, you open yourself up to see the whole truth which means you search your heart to know yourself.
- Grab your power.
- Don’t wait for someone else to give you permission to move forward and take control of your life. You can do what you need to do for yourself.
- Don’t sit back and wait for someone else to help you.
- Don’t hint at what you need from people.
- Don’t tell your story hoping someone will offer to help.
- Don’t try to make people feel guilt, pity, fear or obligation so they will do something for you that you can do for yourself.
Take responsibility for your life by asking directly for what you want and need.
Take the steps to move forward. Make plans and take the responsibility for putting them into action.
Your new motto can be: Victim no more.
I am taking back the control of my life. I am powerful, not powerless. It’s up to me and I’m doing it.
Karla Downing, MFT – www.changemyrelationship.com
Do you or someone you know tend towards some of these thinking patterns:
Blaming others or situations for feeling miserable, tending to feel “life is against me,” or feeling powerless to change your situation?
Chances are if you tend more towards these thinking patterns you are falling under a victim mentality.
Even though it can feel hopeless, it’s not! Our thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs can change because they are not the truth, even though it may feel like it.
There were parts of my life where I used to fall under these tendencies and sometimes I still catch that negative thinking.
But I catch it so now I can come up with a thought that is more based in reality and facts.
The one thing that helped me start to recognize when I was blaming things outside of myself for how I was feeling, which has also helped so many people I work with, is a statement I learned from my first yoga teacher training with my teacher, Prasad Rangnekar.
“I Am 100% Responsible for My Life.”
I wrote this down so I could see it every day to remind me to keep coming back to it. Every time I started to blame my husband, situations at work, my family, situations with strangers, or had excuses to why I couldn’t do something, I reminded myself I’m 100% responsible for my life.
What this means to me is that the external world is going to happen and we have no control over it.
We only have control over how we respond to the external world. There is no guarantee of a Disney fairytale ending like we’ve all been conditioned to believe.
When something out of my control happens, like someone cuts me off driving, or it takes two days to figure out a mistake on a phone bill, or someone doesn’t do something I’ve asked them to do, I realize have no control over whether these situations happen or not.
What is my responsibility is how I respond to them.
a. It’s my choice to either yell, cuss and speed up, tailgating the person who cut me off,
To slow down, breathe, hope that person doesn’t hurt anyone, remember I don’t need to drive that way, and wish that everyone on the road gets to where they are going safely.
b. It’s my choice to yell, take personally the phone company employees who don’t know how to solve my problem, and say mean, hurtful things to them,
I can take breaks from the phone conversations as I need in order to calm down, ask to speak to someone who can help me, remind myself I’m not the only one who gets frustrated with the phone company, and thank the people who do help me.
c. It’s my choice to yell, blame, and say mean, hurtful things to the person who didn’t follow through
I can in a calm and firm tone, give the person an “I” statement about my reactions and work with them to find a solution or find someone else to help me.
By choosing to take responsibility for our reactions, we start to have more power and control in our lives.
We can move through challenging situations so we can enjoy life more fully. Some of the challenging situations start to disappear because so many times our reaction creates the problem.
If you are tired of feeling powerless and angry with others and the world, commit to trying this for at least a month and notice what happens.
This statement, “I’m 100% responsible for my life,” has been life changing for me.
No longer a victim of the world, I’m empowered to take responsibility and find a different perspective that I have control over.
Twyla Gingrich, LCSW, LAC – www.samyayogahealing.com
Do you ever think, “Everything bad is happening to me? What about me? Why me? I can’t do this.”
These are signs that you may be collapsing into a victim mentality.
When we were children we were often powerless, but as an adult we typically have more options, choices and power to make decisions to take better care of ourselves.
Every NO we state now inherently has a YES to it… if we can see it.
If I say NO to putting me down, I am saying YES to treating me with equality, mutuality and respect.
When I say NO to being silent, I am saying YES to having a voice and speaking my truth.
Too often we adopt a defense of freeze, collapse and flight – all VICTIM defenses.
If we identify with these defenses and they become automatic habits then we keep ourselves in a VICTIM state.
Now the TRUTH is, it is not OTHERS victimizing us, but we are ourselves perpetrating against ourselves when we play the victim. And we are perpetrating against others by blaming, attacking, criticizing others for our inner victim state and demanding that they change or rescue us.
Every time we play the victim we are perpetrating against ourselves and others.
Another common trap is to think about everything that went wrong in our past and often use these experiences to make excuses or justify our current inaction, staying in a victim state.
In this way we are actively keeping ourselves small – identifying with being little and incapable – can you see the perpetration in this? It is pity, sympathy, patronizing and infantilizing at its worst and does not honor our capacity or encourage growth.
So what is the practice to help ourselves get out of victim mentality?
Instead of saying, “it is okay you can hide and not work, see friends, do this task… you can’t do it it, is too hard, it isn’t safe”, you can instead understand you were afraid and learned to hide, acknowledge and have empathy for this past pain, and lovingly remind yourself that now you are older, have more resources, more choices, are safer and can be brave and face the world.
In this way you encourage yourself to get up, grow, and enjoy the fruits of growing up – a sense of self, self esteem, self efficacy and self empowerment.
Next time you notice wallowing in the past or collapsing into victim mentality, remind yourself this is a memory state, and you have choice now to CHANGE how you relate to yourself and live life.
Through this mindful practice you are claiming your ability in the moment to change, grow and evolve.
This is respectful and loving. LOVE is not allowing yourself to stay stuck in the past, small or victimized… this is codependency and victim mentality.
LOVE is supporting your ability to say YES/NO, to engage fully in your life, to take care of yourself and grow.
Eloise Erasmus, Ph.D., L.P. – www.aslaninst.com