One day, I wrote on Facebook as a reminder to myself; “I am only a victim when I think I am.” I was frustrated after a call from a vendor about my business cards that did not go well, causing me more work. I made a public statement to remind myself the pettiness of my anger in this situation, a ritual to solidify my commitment to no longer let it take energy from my day. It worked. I felt better.
Shortly thereafter, I received an email.
When you say “I am only a victim when I think I am”, doesn’t that involve guilt? If something bad happens and I’m not a victim, then I had what I deserved? That is how I read it, but I know it’s certainly not what you mean.
If I was walking in the street and a man comes and stabs me to death? How can I not be a victim unless I think I am? What would I be? Guilty for walking in the street?
According to my dictionary app: A victim is a “noun–unfortunate person who suffers from some adverse circumstance.” Or “noun–a person who is tricked or swindled.”
No one ever deserves to be a victim.
What is victim mentality?
The concept of victim mentality uses “victim” as a metaphor to suggest one is a victim of his or her thoughts.
Victim mentality can be when you are a victim of the way you make meaning out of situations that can cause greater suffering. This can look like many different things. For example, you can be sad, angry, or scared and then on top of that, you can worry and judge those feelings and make conclusions on what they say about you.
When you defend yourself, make sure you are defending YOU, not defending “feeling bad.” There is a HUGE difference!
Or, you might notice that people are dissing you, not listening, taking advantage, ignoring, disrespecting you, or leaving you. Even though you are frustrated and hurt, and sometimes want to defend yourself, you may also feel like since it is always you, maybe you are the reason.
You might make conclusions around your identity because of it. I am a loser. Nobody loves me. Or, I can’t do anything right.
When I am in victim mentality, I often feel self pity. And then I feel shame about it. Sometimes I feel lonely and as if the whole world is against me. When I am in this state of mind, I am EXTRA sensitive about whatever happens next.
Any of these sound familiar?
These thoughts and beliefs–especially while they hold a truth status in your mind–cannot help but make you feel worse.
When people say, “You are not a victim” and you feel like a victim, this can sound like a criticism. (When we hold true that everyone is against us and no one understands, most things can sound like criticism: Why would I cause my own suffering? Do you think I want to feel like this?)
You are not doing it on purpose, of course, but isn’t it good news if you could help yourself feel better?
Sometimes, I use gentle reminders with clients when they are falling victim to their thoughts, but only after I validated their feelings of being violated, betrayed, used or criticized. I am hoping to give them “permission” to feel, but not allow the victim story shape a negative identity conclusion about themselves.
If someone does not allow herself to feel the appropriate feelings to a situation, this can induce feelings of worthlessness. (If she feels that it shouldn’t matter that someone hurts her, she can conclude she is not worthy of treating well.)
Victim mentality can render you powerless. If it is true that you are a loser, then there is nothing you can do about it. However, it is an amazing relief to realize you have the power to think a different way. Like me when I posted that status: “I am only a victim when I think I am.” I was reminding myself that I had the power to change my downward spiral.
I did not let my anger ruin my day.
Victim vs Victim Mentality
You can’t change having been a victim, but you can change how you think about what is happening or what happened.
No one ought to feel guilty about being an actual victim, but a lot of times people do. For example, with sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is never the victim’s fault, yet, most survivors of sexual abuse feel guilt and shame as if it were their fault. They were a victim of the abuse-not deserved and not changeable. However, their shame causes a very big, huge deal of suffering, but thank goodness, it can change.
Victim mentality is something you do to yourself that compounds awful things that have happened to you, sometimes immobilizing you in sadness and pain. It is seeing the deficits. (Also called deficit mentality.)
When we are in victim mentality we are also pretty vulnerable emotionally and sometimes–not always–this attracts others to hurt us . It is not our fault, remember nobody deserves to be a victim! It is NOT OK that they hurt us! But it happens.
But no one has to stay here!
How to go from Victim Mentality to Peace of Mind
1. Don’t take things so personally
The world is unfair. Much of it is random: you hit a lot of red lights, get a bad cold, the package you ordered is late, or someone didn’t do what they promised. If it is someone else hurting you, their actions say more about them than they do you.
Remember: People are not mean to you because they do not like you, they are mean to you because they do not like themselves!
You may be concluding it is you, because in the past someone mean blamed you for their meanness. It was not your fault! IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT!
Life’s unfair. Bad things happen to good people. Stop blaming yourself for the world. Here’s how to let it go.
2. When in doubt, know it’s doubt
Doubt is pervasive in Western culture. We hold ourselves to impossibly high standards and doubt ourself if we cannot measure up. It is a huge precipitator of victim mentality. When we don’t feel good we doubt our abilities. We use evidence from the past mistakes to think that we cannot trust ourselves to handle things. When we cannot trust ourselves, fear arises. Boom! We feel worse than awful.
Give yourself a break. Address the doubt: “Doubt, I know it is you. You are trying to make me think all these things, and you tell me that these things mean something, but it is just you trying to trick me. Have a seat, I am busy right now.”
3. Allow yourself to feel
Feeling is bringing awareness into a situation without the chaos. Remember it is the story of blame and fear that causes our suffering, not the feelings. If we allowed our feelings without the horror story, we would carry them to the end and feel relief. It works, if you don’t believe me, try it with these meditations.
4. Know you deserve to feel good
Deserve is such a sticky word. Everyone, everyone, deserves good things. And no one deserves bad things. Bad and good things happen is not connected to what you deserve. Why do we get so stuck on figuring out what we deserve? It gets confusing when bad things happen to us, but let’s settle it right now. Life is unfair, it’s not you. There is nothing to figure out. Bad things happen, we don’t deserve them.
Because you did NOT cause these bad things, you must deserve good. Just stopping our own self judgment is a HUGE step forward in feeling better.
5. Know you control your response
Bad things happen. Sometimes horrible, awful things. But our response to them matters most in how good or bad our life is. Does everything happen for a reason? I think it is more complicated than that. Things happen and in our response we can gain a lot of positive things when we are open to it. You can take in others’ transgressions or not. You can forgive, forget, stop thinking, stop worrying, let something go, have compassion, be creative, survive, connect, listen, learn, grow, protect, and more. Within EVERY oppression, there is a protest. What is your protest?
The protest is always more important than the oppression.
What would happen if you keep on your ruby slippers?