I have found that there seem to be two camps of people on social media. Those who share how wonderful and perfect their lives are (almost to the point where it can’t be believed) and those who share how unfair and catastrophic their lives are (almost to the point where it can’t be believed). Social media has given people free passes to vent, accuse, blame, and complain out in the open for all the world to see. It’s always existed. We all have that friend that believes the world is out to get them no matter what they do or even have felt that way ourselves. I know I’ve had periods in my life where I feel that no matter what I do, the odds and people are against me.
My husband and I have dear friends that always seem to be stuck in this cycle. We love them more than anything but are never sure how to help them get out of their own way without offending them. I think the reason this has been on my mind lately is because of a recent conversation I had with a friend’s child. We were talking about summer break and the upcoming school year. All she could focus on were the injustices against her, how people are out to get her, and gossip about this person, that person, this place, and that place. This was coming from a teenager and it made my heart hurt that she may go through her entire life being a “victim.” You see, her parents have a victim mentality. I’m not judging. It’s just a fact. And this approach to life has completely rubbed off on their children. It’s so sad to see parents unintentionally disempower their children by teaching them this mentality.
How do you know if you have a victim mentality? Ask yourself a couple of questions. Do you feel that life happens to you and your circumstances are beyond your control? Do you feel that everyone/the Universe is against you? Do you feel stuck in self-pity, sadness, and anger? Do you blame others for what happens to you or has happened in the past to you? Then likely you have some degree of a victim mentality.
So how do you break this cycle? Because it is a cycle. It’s a horrible cycle that gives your power to others by relinquishing control. It keeps you from living a life worth living and forces you into a life of suffering. It results in a life of no action, self-pity, and sadness. Here are 4 suggestions to help break the cycle.
1. Know the benefits
It’s hard to admit, and even a little hard to understand, but people will stay in a victim mentality because there are benefits to doing so. You might say, “What you talking about, Willis?” But it’s true. There is typically something that a person gains by being a victim. It may be that it gives them the attention, validation, or significance that they seek. I mean, how much more significant can you be than to have the entire world out to get you? Maybe it gives you permission not to have to take risks. No action equals no rejection or failure. Or maybe it gives you permission not to take responsibility. Responsibility equals hard work and most times it’s easier to blame someone else than it is to put the work in. Another benefit is being right. When you are the victim that means that everyone else is wrong. It always feels good to be right.
Awareness of how being a victim benefits you allows you to choose alternative ways to achieve those same feelings. This will result in action which removes the feeling of being stuck and puts you back in control.
2. Fill the void
Not being a victim can create a void. Think about all the time you spend every day thinking and talking about all the wrongs and injustices against you. Having that empty space can be uncomfortable. The temptation will be to fill it back up with being a victim. But now that you know how you benefit from being a victim, you can fill that space with the alternative ways you’ve discovered that give you the same benefits.
3. Take responsibility
To take the power away from others you have to take responsibility for what happens. Responsibility in this case is not the same as self-blame. For instance, if you are sitting at a red light and someone rear-ends you, you are not to blame for the accident. But, you are responsible for how you react to the accident and how you move forward from the accident.
Here’s another example. My daughter is a visual learner. She has a teacher who is a verbal instructor. As one might imagine, she struggles in his class. She’s like, “It’s not my fault his teaching style and my learning style don’t match up.” So, she gets frustrated and blames him for poor grades in his class. NOT THE RIGHT ANSWER. So, I challenged her to look for her responsibility in the situation. It is impossible for her teacher to adapt his teaching style to every single student. And, even if it wasn’t impossible, she has as much responsibility for learning as he has for teaching. And, it is not impossible for her to adapt to his style. We set out to determine how to do that. I have a friend that specializes in using visual tools to facilitate corporate meetings. In other words, she takes boring meeting discussion and turns it into brilliant picture stories that bring the content to life in a way that everyone understands. She was more than happy to share resources with us that would teach my daughter how to convert what she heard in this teacher’s class into engaging doodles and pictures that would make it easier for her to digest the content. The result? She is no longer the victim in this situation.
Learning how to take responsibility builds stability, happiness, and positivity in your life.
4. Break the pattern by creating a new story
Once you recognize the benefits you receive by being a victim and you decide to take responsibility you can break the pattern. This can be done in several ways. Gratitude is a great way to break the pattern. Focusing on the good in your life and determining what you can learn or the hidden opportunities in a situation will begin to shift your story.
Forgiveness is an important way to break the pattern. Forgiveness breaks the bond between you and your “wrong doer” and sets you free from the cycle.
Having a victim mentality is self-centered because you are always focused on your own pain. Turning your focus outward is the fasted way to break this pattern. Being of service to others lets you shift your focus away from yourself and how you can be of service to others. Asking how you can be of value to others helps to provide the same benefits as being a victim – like attention, validation, and significance – in a healthy and positive way.
Dumping the victim mentality leads to increased happiness and positivity while allowing you to regain power and control in your life. You will be glad you did. And so will those around you.
What are some ways you have found help you get out of a victim mindset? Please share them below.