How To Go From Victim Mentality To Peace of Mind

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?)

victim mentality Let it go like water off a ducks back

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.

LIVING FREE 21 Day Guided Meditation Series

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?


28 thoughts on “How To Go From Victim Mentality To Peace of Mind”

    1. Thanks Kimmy! So happy to read your name this morning and make this connection through cyber space. I dreamt about Amy Taylor last night so I am connected to you all! Love you! xoxo

  1. This blog entry is priceless, ESPECIALLY on a Monday morning. I think it was a great time to post it because not only did I feel like a victim of a difficult weekend but also to a cold, winter, back to work Monday morning . So thank you for sharing your knowledge and warmth! = ) Love ~Naila

  2. Jodi,
    your wisdom is vast & huge & appreciated.

    I no longer call Kay a victim…She is part of the solution. She has become Empowered. S

    What other word can we use? It belittles and demeans. What can we call it?

    Luv U. xx

    PS. you are passing your RUBY SLIPPERS around the universe!!
    My Inner Chick recently posted..Slices Of SoulMy Profile

    1. I can’t think of anything better than empowered. It is literally what we are talking about. You have power with your response. Even if you are physically overpowered, the empowerment of your spirit is what matter most to your healing. Kay decided to leave. She was free, healed, overjoyed living out her protest. And it had been building for a long time. She did not die a victim, she died free and released in her heart. She died wearing her ruby slippers! She did the job her soul was meant to do. Total life success. It’s bull cocka if that is noticed! xoxox

  3. Wonderful post, Jodi! I love the distinction you make between being a victim–sometimes bad things are done to us–and having a victim mentality. And this statement really hit me: “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.” I have found that to be true. It took me a long time to understand that life is unfair. Repeatedly telling myself that “it’s not fair” wasn’t helping me at all. That was part of my victim mentality. Slowly accepting, day by day, that bad things happen and it’s my response that’s important–it has changed me life.
    Tina Fariss Barbour recently posted..Let’s not leave out anyoneMy Profile

    1. I love how this resonnated with you and you gave testimony to how it changed your life! You are amazing! Thanks, Tina!

  4. Jodi, this is such an important subject. A cousin whom I’m very close to, was a victim of rape and attempted murder, but she didn’t let it make her a victim. She fought back and helped passed a law in her state protecting “victims” like her. She turned that horrible event in her life into a positive by giving her the courage and strength to stand up to the system. This was back in the 90s and back then if a woman was raped she couldn’t find out if the rapist was HIV positive. His rights were protected. Because of her, the law changed so that any victim of rape could demand the rapist be tested. I’m so proud of my cousin for it. She’s an inspiration to me.
    monicastangledweb recently posted..Me & My Big MouthMy Profile

    1. It has such a positive impact to use the horror that we experience to help other people. It changes the meaning from horror to contribution. Very powerful!

  5. Dear Jodi,
    thank you for sharing this article with us. I believe it is of great help to distinguish between feeling our pain and mixing it with self-destructive mental content. Your article brings clarity to this issue. Our language traps us all the time, calling our thoughts “feelings”. You wrote for example: “but only after I validated their feelings of being violated, betrayed, used or criticized. I am hoping to give them “permission” to feel,…”
    To me “betrayed”, “used” or “critizized” are not feelings, but our thoughts what someone else is doing to us. Instead of feeling sad we fokus on our thought: “You betrayed me” and then say: “I feel betrayed”. I think it is good to be totally clear about what are real feelings and what is a statement full of mental charge.

  6. “Everyone deserves good things.” This is so important, because I have found that when I start to dream big or try to envision something growing and growing and growing, I then think, “but why me? Why shouldn’t someone else have that? What makes me so special?” So, just like I always say “the universe has enough for everyone,” I am also going to say, “everyone deserves good things.”
    Laura Zera recently posted..Mental Health Takes Center Stage at Davos 2014My Profile

  7. Kathy @ SMART Living

    Hi Jodi…Great topic and something we can all benefit by with more discussion. I actually dislike the word victim because as you mention it is so easy to be misunderstood. Just the word itself implies helplessness and hopelessness and I can’t see how that ever helps in the long run. Plus I think being a victim suggests that someone (other than ourselves) is to blame for something–which is an outside/in perspective. I definitely prefer the inside/out approach. So while I can’t always control what is going on around me, I can ALWAYS control my response and actions from that moment forward.

    Yeah, bad stuff does happen once in a while. That’s why Viktor Frankl is one of my heros. Here was a guy stuck in the Nazi Concentration Camp for years, and yet he alone claimed freedom because he refused to be a victim and let anyone control his thoughts about himself or his condition. I’m not to his level by any means, but I strive to be so.

    Thanks for bringing up this provocative topic! ~Kathy

    1. Well, when you say that you hate smokers, I suppose that means you don´t want to be molested by them and you express your need for respect and your desire to breath clean air very clearly. And you have a choice, whether to speak to them in a clear but respectful way or to be mean to them and insult them. I guess when you happen to have a bad day and your self esteem is a bit low, chances are bigger that you lose the value of respectful speaking much easier than if you were well balanced that day.

  8. Thank you for this interesting and wise post Jodi. Your words always touch our souls and help us to understand things better, help us move from our place of hardship into something greater. I know a bit on victim mentality and feeling like this does not help us at all. We should try to see the bigger picture and use our experiences to reach out to others and make things change.
    Take care and keep sharing the inspiration dear!

  9. Thank you for this post that clarifies a lot the victim mentality.

    “If she feels that it shouldn’t matter that someone hurts her, she can conclude she is not worthy of treating well.”

    If/when someone hurts me, I feel bad not because of unworthiness, but because of guilt. I usually think I must have done or said something wrong. If I think of it and manage to believe I was innocent, then it really doesn’t matter because what they do/did belongs to them and has nothing to do with me.

    “No one ought to feel guilty about being an actual victim, but a lot of times people do.”

    I was discussing that yesterday. I am not guilty of being a victim of abuse if you take each incident separately, but i am guilty of putting myself in a situation where abuse happened.

  10. i really got a lot out of this post, so thank you very much. But, could you clarify and elaborate on the last item you mentioned about oppression and protest. It felt like the concept was only introduced but not explained. Thank you!

    1. In every oppression, there is some sort of protest. So everytime you are hurt, you respond in some way against it even if it is just in your thoughts. How you think, feel act is more important to your well-being than what happened to you. This is good news because this you can control!

  11. Thank you. This is a freakin’ great post. As simple as it sounds, yours is the first article I’ve read in the last 45 minutes that actually made the connection between the word “mentality” and our thoughts. The distinction between “victim” and “victim mentality” is one I hadn’t thought of previously.

  12. Just happened to stumble upon this article, well done. While reading I gleaned some valuable and powerful insights that I can apply in my life. It’s funny how things turn out, one moment i’m reading your article and the next I say to myself “wow some of that applies to me”. Thank you and i’ve added you to my list of sites to visit.

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