How to Move Away from the Victim Mentality

by Henrik Edberg

“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.

Habits like:

Gratitude.

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.

4. Forgive.

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.

Image by VonSchnauzer (license).





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{ 19 comments }

Joe Consterdine May 15, 2013 at 7:18 pm

I agree that sharing gratitude and value are two methods which can help you immensely.

I remember hearing that if you write 5 things you’re grateful for everyday then your happiness will rise by 25%. If you put that into context then it seems ridiculous to see all the drugs and tablets we feed society to relieve conditions like depression and anxiety.

Secondly I think sharing value can really boost your self esteem. If you have value to offer people then you’re basically telling yourself that you’re someone who is important. You have the ability to make someones day better.

Joe

Super Achiever May 17, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Hey Joe
Let me continue with the same idea
1st I heard it in the “Secret ” Movie ,if you remember ,it was said that when you get up every morning you hold “The Gratitude Rock” and remember every thing you are grateful for

This activity give us a very good and nice feeling of being blessed with many things ,which really motivate us ,and let us feel abundant ,not feeling of shortage or lacking something

Eslam Talaat

Vamsi Krishna May 16, 2013 at 11:17 am

I found your write very helpful, in organizing my thoughts much better in facing difficult and critical situations. In such times, I find it very hard to keep on repeating the positive thoughts and avoid the flow of negatives to maintain or improve my pace and attain success.

The more the competition is involved, the tougher it gets to me in any such given condition. Normally, I give up then immediately and try to maintain calm for further avoidance of negative thoughts. But, it is happening every time I face such situations, and losing my competitiveness and thereby facing failures more often.

Now, I am concentrating more only on my hard-work, by hoping it would some day come back as a success!

Chang May 16, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Such an inspirational post!
Thank you!

James Williams May 16, 2013 at 7:09 pm

I admire the energy and passion within your posts. Forgiveness demonstrates love and commitment to augmenting fractured relationships. I believe that we sometimes focus more externally than internally; we need to always observe improvement areas in our individual lives rather than the lives of others. Change begins with us.

Patrik Edblad May 16, 2013 at 9:06 pm

The victim mentality is such a dangerous trap to fall into because of the benefits you mention. I have a friend who half jokingly always explains why the universe is against him and by talking that way he can blame pretty much everything in his life on circumstance. Even though he’s kidding around a lot I know there’s a lot of truth about how he views the world in what he’s saying and I think it’s really hurting him more than he knows.
Thanks for these great tips Henrik, I’ll be passing them along :)

Steve Hayes May 17, 2013 at 3:12 am

Great tips here but the one I like the most was about replacing the victim thinking with something helpful! Because I really believe that there is no reason to keep with something that cannot bring us any positive outcomes. And that is the case we have to replace it.
Nice article.

Super Achiever May 17, 2013 at 8:56 pm

For me the 1st time I ever heard about this idea was about Jack Welch
I heard from Dr.Yehia Darwish CEO of Scope World training center here in Egypt

he told us that his mother told him a great advice :”Don’t Live Like a Victim”

The Way I can see simply this idea ,is it easily give u some sort of justification of why we don’t do what we have to do ,which is something we always search for ,we love to find reasons why we are not successful .
You have really laid down specific steps one can make to get out of this destructive mentality

Andy May 17, 2013 at 9:05 pm

You have provided some great tools for coping with the daily grind and beyond. I am a survivor of childhood abuse and for the longest time I felt like a victim. It’s impossible to stay positive and productive when you are constantly belittling yourself with pity. I started thinking of those in much more unfortunate situations than I. We must feel grateful for what we have because it could always be worse! Thanks for the advice.

Chris May 18, 2013 at 9:20 am

It’s hard having that victim mentality and its equally difficult for someone to be with a person who has that kind of mentality. I think it actually does more harm than good. At the end of the day, you really just have to move on.

Ingrid May 18, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Chris,
Good point. The person may infect us with their negativity. We can use the opportunity to infect them with our own sincere positivity.

Dustin May 18, 2013 at 10:51 am

To me it’s pretty simple. Do I want to people to pity me or look up to me? That’s a no-brainer ;)

Ingrid May 18, 2013 at 4:37 pm

OMG!!
Thanks for this reminder. I agree 100% with the forgive component. I get stuck sometimes and the ability to forgive becomes a challenge especially forgiving myself.

zeus May 20, 2013 at 3:05 am

Self pity is like a dicease. It starts small inside of you and as you get into the habit of doing it, it gets bigger and bigger until it consumes you completely leaving behing an empty shell of what you use to be.

IanW May 22, 2013 at 7:25 am

Another insightful post that makes us stop and think outside our self. Your point about gratitude is fundamental to being less of a victim. Certainly there are many folk who have such difficult circumstances that being grateful is barely an option. But many of us have more than enough to be thankful for. And once we see it other things start to fall into place.

I am reminded of the phrase my father often used – ‘Count your blessings, name them one by one and your will see what God has done.’ God may not come into your equation but the premise is still worthy of action. In other words just ‘take stock’ of your position.

Serge Cote May 22, 2013 at 6:32 pm

This is so true!

So many victims all around us. Take charge of your actions and results.

Henrik Edberg May 24, 2013 at 10:03 am

Thank you everyone for your kind and insightful comments! :)

Nahed Bamatraf June 4, 2013 at 6:49 pm

I appreciate your efforts in this valuable blog,that contains a lot of values in life.
There is a quote by Mahatma Gandhi express the same idea ;
We should meet abuse by forbearance. Human nature is so constituted that if we take absolutely no notice of anger or abuse, the person indulging in it will soon weary of it and stop.

Kelly July 10, 2013 at 4:08 am

These are some truly great tips and suggestions for coping mechanisms. I don’t see myself as someone who feels a victim but I must admit some of these hit closer to home than I thought possible. Thanks for a new perspective. Great blog!

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