There is a time and a place for everything, including “the victim mentality.” Think back to a really difficult period in your life, when you felt stuck, hurt, or couldn’t seem to see the light at the end of the tunnel. When it felt like every step forward you fought to take, something happened and you fell three steps back.
Why does this stuff always happen to me? A parking ticket!? Just my luck. A canceled date… guess he got a better option? A solid prospect you met and were really excited about… who then completely ghosted you. WTF?!! A solid rejection… ahh, yes, rejection. Rejections can hit hard, and if you let it, can push you three steps back. When you’re already doubting yourself, have low confidence and self-esteem, and are feeling beat down, it’s really hard to see things for what they are, learn from mistakes, understand the lesson, and continue on. You may feel like you’ve hit rock bottom, then to add insult to injury, you get another rejection or some bad news that you were really counting on and hoping or even needing to go the other way. In the blink of an eye, the last bit of hope you had mustered up vanishes. The hurt and sorrow engulfs you again and you sink lower into your own personal pit of despair…. rock bottom. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse… they do. Let’s be honest here, you are now one with the rock! Lo and behold: the victim mentality begins. Woe is me! Why me?
If you’re anything like me, a long-term sufferer of major depression, you may find comfort within your dark fortress of solitude. The darkness is soothing, the loneliness is familiar, the quiet is welcomed, and the pain and mental anguish, well it’s basically another Monday morning for you.
When you retreat into this place, you let go of hope, push away people that care about you (even though you tell yourself no one cares about you), and your thinking turns into a complete victim mentality. You’re basically brainwashing yourself. You latch onto negative thinking patterns and tend to believe the worst about yourself and others. Your self talk is seriously depressing, and everyone else? They can’t even imagine how hard it is for you. They wouldn’t understand. Adulting is hard, feelings are hard, relationships with family, friends, or romantic in nature are all really hard! All these other people have it way easier. Life would be way better and easier to deal with if I had ____, if (insert person) would ______, or if I wasn’t or didn’t have ______ to deal with.
“The victim mindset will have you dancing with the devil, then complaining that you’re in hell.” -Steve Maraboli
The victim mentality is a very tricky thing. So, let’s break it down a bit:
According to good ol’ Webster, it is defined as: the belief that one is always a victim : the idea that bad things will always happen to one
To be clear, there is a significant distinction between a) someone with a victim mentality and b) someone who has actually been through real trauma or experienced a traumatic life event. A person with a victim mindset goes through life with an attitude and outlook of: “it’s-not-my-fault, the-world-is-conspiring-against-me, and “nothing-and-noone-can-help-me” type. They act like they are helpless, powerless, and destined to live a life of misery and there’s nothing they or anyone else can do to change that. They constantly whine and complain about their circumstances, but do little if anything to change it. They avoid responsibility for their actions or lack thereof, as well as the results of them in their life. You will notice a pattern of excuse giving everytime you offer a potential solution or help to their predicament. My favorite is “Yes, but…” and then they come up with various reasons (excuses) why such and such won’t work or help, or at least not for them, because they don’t have _____ or ______ like those other people do. I’m sure you know the type, or maybe you are that person. The big kicker here is awareness and the desire to actually do something about it!
Change begins by becoming aware of yourself; how you present yourself, your words and actions and how others may interpret them, and taking responsibility for all of it. Journaling, meditation, yoga, spending time in nature and just actively being fully present in each moment and in everything that you do, are all good ways to practice becoming more self-aware.
Here are a few exercises to work on being present and aware:
-When you eat, get rid of distractions like tv and your phone or computer. Sit down and take time to fully enjoy your meal. Savor each bite rather than gobbling it down. Notice the flavors, spices, aromas, temperature, and texture of your food. Feel gratitude for even having such a hearty and delicious meal and for the abundance of food we are privileged with here.
-If you’re feeling disconnected or anxious, take a time out. Close your eyes and take several long deep breaths; in for 4 out for 6. Focus on your breath. Notice how the air feels as it goes in and as it fills up your lungs. Notice the temperature and how it changes as the air leaves your body. Notice how the breath is connected to your body and mind; how it relaxes your muscles and calms you down.
-You can also practice this simple exercise when you’re feeling upset or anxious that will help you get centered, grounded and present. Wherever you are at, name one thing you notice around you for each of your 5 senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch). For example: I smell the crisp, fresh air, with a hint of a fireplace burning in the distance or the prickly touch, yet smooth texture of blades of grass beneath your feet. Go for 2 of each if you’re feeling extra anxious or just ambitious!
Let’s go back a bit and touch some on victim mentality when it comes to people who have actually suffered some type of trauma. Every situation is different, of course, but chances are they were a victim or were even victimized. Some examples include: being bullied, robbed, assaulted, or being in a toxic relationship with someone who is abusive. There is a time and place for a victim mentality, and any of these examples would indeed make you a victim. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Sometimes they happen to people who’ve done bad things; call it karma, if you’d like. It’s okay and perfectly warranted to acknowledge that you were indeed a victim. It can even be freeing to be able to admit that, especially if you tend to blame yourself for things that happened. It definitely helped me to stop blaming myself and going over the would’ve, could’ve and should haves over and over, just beating myself up. It got me nowhere. Many years ago, I was in a toxic relationship with a sociopathic narcissist. He was cruel, manipulative and abusive, and I was his victim. He had everyone around him fooled with this completely fake façade of someone that just didn’t exist. Maybe narcissists think of themselves as actually being the front they put on and somehow rationalize or ignore what they do behind closed doors when the rest of the world can’t see them. He would say untrue things to everyone behind my back so they couldn’t see what was really happening. Like if he told his family and friends I was an alcoholic (which I never was), then maybe people wouldn’t question the bruises or even ask if I was okay when I was crying. He was the victim here, and I was the bad one. That’s the game they play. Poor me! Pay attention to me, so you don’t uncover my lies and see through my bullshit. When in reality, you are the one being victimized, and you may not even know it or even believe it if someone told you!
People never talk about how real, devastating and destructive mental abuse can be. A narcissist’s or any abuser’s playground is your mind, your sanity, your confidence and self-esteem, your peace, and joy- and wreaking havoc on it. That’s how he or she feels alive, by feeding off your energy, until there’s nothing left, then they move on to their next victim. Then cycle repeats. It’s sick and pathetic, yes. Let’s not forget narcissism is considered a real personality disorder, just like any other one, but the difference is they are too proud to ever admit something may be wrong with them or to ask for help. It’s taken me many years to learn that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of great strength. It can be so hard to ask for help, especially when you are hurting. You risk rejection and there’s something very vulnerable about needing help or even just asking for it, and that in and of itself, is terrifying. The easier thing to do would be nothing; don’t ask for anything, don’t say anything and instead just suffer in silence. That always turns out well… am I right?
So, there are some circumstances that are appropriate for a victim mentality, but don’t believe for a second that just because you were a victim, that you still are and will continue to be. I’m sure you learned something from the experience and grew as a person (I sure hope you did or it’s quite likely to continue to happen to you again and again). You can choose to continue playing the victim as you go through life, having people feel sorry for you, but you always have a choice, and it’s not always black and white. It is a transition to make, and you have to start changing the way you think about things and approach situations, but you can decide right now that you are instead a survivor and you will no longer be anyone’s victim ever again! Same goes for those who live in the victim mentality; those we mentioned before that think the world owes them something. I’ll be the bearer of bad news : it doesn’t! No one does, and the world doesn’t revolve around you and your problems. and the sooner you swallow that big pill and stop making excuses for everything and get to work, take action, and start making changes, the better off you’ll be unless you are perfectly content where you are, and can be completely honest with yourself in that (doubtful). Yes, bad things happen, coffee gets spilt, things get broken, and accidents happen. These are called challenges and they come to test you, to see if you’re ready to level up, so to speak. Life’s challenges and hardships teach us valuable lessons necessary to continue on your path without getting eaten alive. So instead of letting that next rejection beat you down, think of it as a redirection (rejection=redirection)! Instead of making excuses, (like that fireball came out of nowhere!!) use your brain (DUCK)! Be proactive and be resourceful, that’s the only difference between those who succeed and those who do not, that, and their lack excuses. You got this! Now go forth and make some magic!