Let us discuss the victim mentality and how victimisation plays a huge, determinantal role in how most people relate to themselves. This is a critical discussion which I intend to handle delicately. Today, as we know, ‘victim’ has become a politically loaded word.
The victim mindset is detrimental to your personal growth; it holds you back in life and blinds you from your potential to become more and define your own life without external limitations.
The victim mindset chains you to the belief that your past defines you and will always define you. It makes you think that your mental health, skills, personality, habits, and expectations have more control over you than you do. The victim mindset wants you to believe you are powerless and that you cannot determine and redirect your future or redefine your worth.
Does that mean I believe victims are all weak and pathetic? No, they’re people deserving of sympathy, love, care, understanding and support to help them heal from their experiences and past. The only problem I have seen as a life coach is with clients who incorporate their victim status as part of their present identity. Everyone has been a victim of something in their life, and the likelihood is that they will be a victim of something again. Some people go through horrific traumas, while others go through less severe stresses more frequently.
Nobody goes through life untouched. All experiences, good and bad, are valid, regardless of whether they are majorly life-changing, extremely traumatising or mildly disturbing. I have known countless people with traumatic childhood stories, soldiers who have witnessed horrific deaths, and victims of assault. I’ve also met people who are still haunted by memories of school bullying, those who lost their parents, and others who spent years in emotionally abusive relationships.
Victim Mindset and Victims are Two Different Things
While I’m very against the victim mindset, I’d like to distinguish my argument from those of extreme critics who discard victims and victim mindsets as insignificant and an impediment on social evolution. Unlike them, I don’t deny the significance and reality of victims’ experiences, the severity of trauma and the complex psychological issues it breeds in peopl
I’m an advocate against adopting and maintaining victim mindsets, but what good does putting down people with a victim mindset do? If people berate them without offering them an alternative outlook on life besides ‘suck it up and get on with it’, people won’t take their argument seriously. Berating those with a victim mindset will only result in those people perpetuating this harmful mentality which ultimately stifles their potential.
Why the Victim Mindset is Detrimental
Your experiences in life constitute your worthiness to other people. Who you become and how your life lessons mould you into a wiser and more empowered person transforms your intrinsic value. My argument against the victim mindset focuses more on how harmful and detrimental it can be to your wellbeing and future potential when your victimhood becomes part of your identity. You may choose to disagree with me here, but I believe there’s a mighty difference between saying “I am a victim of x” versus saying “I was a victim of x”.
I don’t encourage people to deny what they’ve gone through or hide the difficulty they faced because of it. However, I encourage people to acknowledge their hardships as something which made them who they are today, not part of who they are today.
I accept that a lot of people will take issue with this argument. Still, I would urge them to consider what benefits carrying their victim status in the present tense offers them. Does it empower or disempower them? Does it allow them emotional distance from the past or force them to carry it with them?
Life Beyond Victimhood
Recovery is a long and challenging process, and nobody experiences it the same way. However, I believe acknowledging trauma as something you’ve gone through rather than living through is the healthier option. This approach doesn’t take the pain away, but it helps maintain your autonomy and inability for the world to define you. Only you should define you.
It may feel comforting to view your life through a filter of “It’s not my fault. They made me do it/It did it to me”, but submitting to a state of powerlessness is not only debilitating, but it also smacks of immaturity. Whether or not you’re conscious of your desires, there are only two core needs driving your victim mentality: sympathy and vindication.
Vindication allows for the ‘victim’ to renounce any responsibility for how their life unfolds, and the sympathy validates their feelings and emotions. When we talk about accepting responsibility in this context, we’re not promoting the idea of ‘victim-blaming’: that’s a whole different argument which isn’t deserving of legitimation.
Unfolding the psychology of how people find themselves in certain situations and circumstances in life is a delicate process which varies from case to case. It is an important idea to address because understanding the limiting beliefs systems someone holds onto can help uncover why they may find themselves in similar or cyclical circumstances. Still, relaying fault or blame on someone doesn’t expose the patterns of behaviour responsible for their victim mentality.
Victims don’t believe they are in control of their environments, actions or emotional maturity. Taking responsibility for one’s victim mindset means acknowledging that you aren’t governed by destructive patterns of thinking, behaviours and attitudes unless you allow yourself to be.
It’s Not Someone Else’s Fault
A person with a victim mentality, who continually finds themselves in difficult circumstances with money, health and relationships, feels as though the world is against them, that the universe is “doing it” to them and conspiring their downfall.
People with the victim mindset can’t see or face the idea of acknowledging themselves as the common denominator throughout their circumstances. Consumed by anger, they are quick to blame their boss, friends, parents, partner, children, pets, colleagues, classmates or even God for the way things turn out. They adopt a passive role and mentally and physically refuse the concept of quick bounce back after being knocked down.
People with a victim mentality aren’t always easy to identify. While you have likely come across people who pull the “woe is me” and “it’s not my fault” cards quite openly, there are millions of stiff-upper-lipped victims who aren’t so easily detected. These people don’t show any emotions and choose instead to internalise their self-pity and sense of victimisation.
Yes, things happen to us, and we can find ourselves in cycles of bad luck. People mistreat us, things take a turn for the worse, or we find ourselves betrayed again and again. However, we can’t excuse our lives away based on past experiences and circumstances.
People who take responsibility for their circumstances accept bad things happen, and that situations can be difficult, distressing and stressful at times. Still, they know they are responsible for finding a solution and implementing it.
This is an excerpt from Rise & Conquer (Chapter One) – Due to be published 2020.