Have you ever blamed others for your misfortune?
Have you ever felt sorry for yourself?
Have you ever had the feeling that nobody can understand you, or nobody ever will?
Have you ever felt powerless and isolated?
If you have experienced any of these situations, congratulations – you have played your victim role. It sounds harsh, but it is the truth.
All of us have acted like a victim at some time in our lives, some more often than others. At this point, we are not talking about actual victims – persons who have been harmed as a result of a crime or accident. We are talking about individuals who tend to take the victim role in order to manipulate others, get attention, justify abuse of others, or as a coping mechanism. (1)
However, nobody has the right to judge you for this, nor should you harshly judge yourself.
Playing the victim role comes so easily. It is simpler to blame others for our mistakes and not to take responsibility. It is easier to live in a state of self-pity than to get out of our comfort zone. It is easier to wait for someone to help us or save us, rather than to do things yourself.
How to Recognize Victim Mentality
If you are concerned that you are playing the victim in your life, or someone close to you is, and want to change that, these are the signs you should pay attention to:
1. You manipulate or abuse others (verbally or physically) and then blame the other person for provoking you.
2. You rely on and try to influence other people’s sympathy to gain support and compassion. You commonly use the phrase: “You are the only one who can help me.”
3. You are stuck in your life. You have a long list of the reasons why you are stuck without any plan on how to change circumstances.
4. You tend to form romantic relationships or friendships with individuals who are disrespectful towards you, mistreat you, or even abuse you. These unhealthy relationships confirm your biases.
5. You avoid taking responsibility for your life and your mistakes. Everything bad that happens to you is either a result of mistreatment by others or unfortunate circumstances, and you have no control over it. You always overlook your contribution to the problem.
6. You have a problem with being assertive. You live in repeating patterns of submissiveness and passivity.
7. You see yourself as too good or too kind-hearted, and you talk a lot about how others take advantage of that.
The main problem is that a victim role doesn’t let individuals who play it live up to their full potentials. Also, it causes low-self esteem and poor communication and relations with others. It is sad to know that people who have a victim mentality don’t see themselves as controllers of their happiness and life in general.
If you recognized yourself in these statements, don’t lose hope! There are many ways you can quit this lifestyle and choose another, much better for your well-being.
Self-Awareness is the Key
Abandoning victim mentality and becoming accountable is possible through many ways. You can do it by yourself or with the aid of your therapist. However, it is not something that comes quickly. Once you become more accountable, you still must pay attention not to slip easily back into the victim role if in crisis. You will slip into it from time to time: notice it, forgive yourself for it, and change the direction.
Any path you choose for this process will include empowerment. (2) Becoming more self-aware implies taking responsibility and gaining power over your life. It is a good direction to go.
Here are some general guidelines to help you become more self-aware and stop playing the victim all at once:
1. Understand the benefits of the victim role – The role you have played must have provided you with some meaningful outcomes that you didn’t know how to get otherwise. If there weren’t any, you wouldn’t play it in the first place.
For starters, it may have provided you with attention and a feeling that people care about you. If someone is ready to help you he must like you – doesn’t he?
Also, the victim role allows you to maintain the self-image you’ve created. If you don’t take any risk or action, there is no chance you will be rejected or fail. If you don’t fail, or no one rejects you, that means you are okay. Do you see the error in this logic?
Likewise, if you fail, and accept that it was completely, mostly, or at least partially your responsibility, it means you did something wrong. Victim role says, “No, that cannot be! I always do everything right! It must be someone else’s mistake!” In this way it preserves your self-esteem.
When you see and understand these benefits, you can start thinking about alternative methods to achieve them without playing the victim.
2.Change is OK – You have decided you’ll work on breaking out of the victim mentality, but there are doubts and a strange feeling of emptiness. If you do stop playing the victim, who would you be? Wouldn’t you lose yourself? If you let go of all of those behaviors, what should you do instead?
Understand those fears, but embrace the change. “The Victim” is just one of many roles in your life; it doesn’t define your whole personality. You will still be the same person underneath, just improved. You’ll act differently, but you’ll gain many positive things out of it.
These two steps, understanding what you are leaving behind you and accepting the fear of change, are most important in developing self-awareness. The aim is to understand your personality, your emotions, strengths, weaknesses, beliefs, and motivations. This is the first step towards it.
3. Take responsibility for your actions and emotions – We have a role in almost anything that happens to us. Even when something happens as a complete accident, we choose how to interpret it and how to react to the event.
Admitting that your actions, thoughts, and emotions are under your control will help your self-esteem. You’ll feel more powerful, more in control. You will stop relying on external validation to feel good about yourself. As the days pass by, you’ll build up stability and inner-mechanisms that fuel your life with positive emotions no matter the circumstances. (3)
4. Let go of the blame – It is okay to feel hurt, neglected, and abused. However, it is not okay to live your whole life confined by those feelings, while blaming others for it. Blame is just as pointless as the guilt.
Instead of blaming others and thinking in “me vs. them” terms, start focusing on your own actions and reactions. See yourself as equal to other people: equally worthy of love and equally capable of doing good. Accept that everyone has the right to mess up, as long as you learn from your experience and move forward in life. (4)
5. Be thankful – If you notice you are playing your victim role, do this little experiment. Make a list of at least ten situations that would be worse than yours. Make a list of at least five people, whether you know them personally or not, who seem to have a more unpleasant life than you.
Then, think again about your current situation and break out of the self-pity. This will change your perspective away from a narrow and self-centered one. Ask yourself what challenges and opportunities is this situation offering to you?
Things may be unpleasant but they are never the worst. They are never catastrophic as long as you are alive. Be grateful that you are where you are. Be grateful for the opportunity to work on yourself.
Don’t be hard on yourself, a tendency towards the victim role won’t go away overnight, nor will it magically turn into self-awareness. The sole decision to change is already a significant step forward. Stay persistent and do your best to understand every piece of your personality, no matter how unlikeable it is.