People who struggle with victim mentality blame other people and their circumstances for their unhappiness. Blaming other people is not productive. Victim mentality robs us of our agency and power. It prevents us from taking responsibility and action to improve our situation.
According to Webster’s dictionary, “a victim is someone that has been injured, tricked, duped or has been subjected to oppression, hardship, or mistreatment.” At some point in our lives, we are all victims of oppression and tyranny. However, you decide how these experiences shape your worldview.
In middle school, I was bullied because I was Jewish. Kids called me a kike (ethnic slur for a Jew), spit in my face, put dog poop in my books, and physically intimidated and assaulted me on a routine basis. The abuse got so bad that I would hide on property next to the school while waiting for my carpool to avoid my tormentors. When I saw my ride, I would sprint to the car.
I chose not to fight back because I did not want to get into trouble at school. Instead of identifying myself for the rest of my life as the scarred victim of cruel kids, I choose to see myself as someone who rose above that abuse.
Scratch the surface of anyone’s life and you will find suffering and hardship. Oppressors and tyranny come in many forms and from many sources. Most of us experience oppression at some point in our lives from a classmate, boss, parent, spouse, teacher, sibling, or stranger. If you are lucky enough to escape human oppression, you won’t be able to avoid all of Mother Nature’s myriad sources of suffering, such as disease, natural disasters, predators, or aging. No one is exempt. Even the most privileged billionaires get terminal diseases, grow old, suffer injuries, and helplessly watch as people they love die.
However, the biggest tyrant of all lives in your head. The stories we tell ourselves about our experiences shape our mental state. Our mental state is our reality. Therefore, if you allow a tyrant to live in your head, you will suffer unnecessarily.
If you are reading this essay, it means you are alive and have access to a computer and the internet. This puts you in an elite group of humans who have benefited from a level of prosperity unimaginable even 50 years ago. We all have a lot to be grateful for.
But I admit, it’s not easy to resist the tyrant in our heads, the one who wants us to wallow in our suffering and point fingers at everyone but ourselves for our problems. Here are a few ways that have help me avoid feeling and acting like a victim.
- Be self-aware. Monitor and understand your emotions. Practice meditation or any mindfulness exercise that provides perspective on your mental state.
- Embrace responsibility. Seek out opportunities to improve your situation. Own your mistakes and the ways you have contributed to your current reality.
- Practice gratitude.Write down three things you are grateful for every day. Even when we are experiencing extreme hardship, we can find things to be grateful for.
- Be optimistic. Believe in your ability to solve problems and overcome adversity. Set high expectations for yourself. Low expectations kill competence and success.
- Show humility. Accept help and support from other people.
Don’t blame other people or let the tyrant in your head shape your mental state. Victim mentality will rob you of your agency and power. Take action to improve your situation and be grateful you’re not rotting in the ground.