“Self-pity is easily the most destructive of the nonpharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure and separates the victim from reality.”
John W. Gardner
How do you react if your day doesn’t go as you wish?
Well, at first you’ll probably feel pain.
But what then? What do you do after the initial pain?
Do you think of yourself as a victim, as someone with little or no control or power? Do you slip back into a familiar headspace where you feel sorry for yourself and where you feel like someone – or the whole world – is against you?
I used to get stuck in that mentality quite often. And I know that many people get stuck in it from time to time or more often than that.
So I’d like to share a few things that have helped me to move out of that mindset.
1. Recognize the benefits of the victim mentality.
The victim mentality can be pretty beneficial in the short term and for instant gratification. A few benefits are:
- Attention and validation. You can always get good feelings from other people as they are concerned about you and try to help you out. But it may not last for that long as people get tired of it.
- You don’t have to take risks. When you feel like a victim you tend to not take action. And so you don’t have to risk for instance rejection or failure.
- Don’t have to take the sometimes heavy responsibility. Taking responsibility for your own life can be hard work, you have to make difficult decisions and it is just tough from time to time. In the short term it can feel like the easier choice to not take personal responsibility.
- It makes you feel like you are right. When you feel like the victim and like someone else is wrong and you are right then that can lead to pleasurable feelings.
In my experience, by just being aware of the benefits I can derive from victim thinking it becomes easier to say no to that whenever such thoughts start to creep up and to choose to take a different path.
2. Ask yourself: what will the long-term consequences of this be?
The benefits above can be quite addictive. But what will the long-term consequences of getting stuck in victim thinking be?
- How will it hold you back from doing the things you deep down dream about in life?
- How will it affect your most important relationships?
- How does it affect your relationship with yourself?
Be honest with yourself and get motivation to change by seeing how destructively this will affect your life over the next 12 months and over the next 3 or 5 years.
3. Replace the victim thinking with something more helpful.
To not create a vacuum where all those thoughts about being a victim used to run around for hours upon hours you need to replace the negative thought habits with something more useful.
I think it is healthy to recognize and accept the initial pain when something goes wrong in life and to not just paint a fake smile on your face.
But after that initial pain is gone – or smaller – you don’t have to create more suffering for yourself. Instead, you can for example tap into gratitude.
I often ask myself this question to zoom out on my situation and to gain a more level-headed perspective:
“Does someone on the planet have it worse than me?”
I can then follow up the answer I get from that question with taking two minutes to just think about the small and bigger things I have in my life that I can be grateful for.
Learning and taking action.
After tapping into a more grateful frame of mind my mind also becomes more open to getting a good answer out of my next question. It is usually something like:
What is one good thing about this situation?
Or, what is one thing I can learn from this situation?
Then I follow that up with:
What is one small step I can take to move forward or out of this situation today?
By asking these question and taking small steps forward over and over in these situations you’ll build confidence in yourself and while you cannot control everything in life you can build more and more power in – and influence over – your own life.
Give value to someone else.
A third thing that you can use to snap yourself out of the victim mentality with is to ask yourself:
How can I give value to one person in my life right now?
Help this person out in some way by being kind, by listening or by doing something practically for example.
By doing so you’ll feel more powerful again. You’ll create more happiness for the other person and you’ll feel better about your day too. And it will help you relationship.
Plus, by doing this over and over your attitude toward yourself will also become kinder and more helpful.
I really like this quote about forgiveness from Catherine Ponder:
“When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.”
You don’t have to forgive just because it is something you “should do”. You don’t have to do it to be the better person either.
You can do it just for yourself if you like. For your own well-being and freedom in life.
Release yourself from the agony and focus your limited time and energy on things that will bring more happiness, excitement, fun, relaxation and success instead.