Victim Vacancy

Hey there, it’s your inner victim speaking, and I was just wondering if we could have a quick word. It’ll only take a moment! I have something I need to get off my chest! Oh, you… You mean you didn’t know you had an inner victim? Funny thing about that, I’ve been kind of living here the past couple decades…

You should probably listen to what he has to say. I mean, whether you wanted to or not, you’ve been subconsciously listening to his whispers all this time. Oh yeah, everyone has an inner victim. It’s kind of the part of you that holds you back from being really amazing. Kind of makes you hate him, huh? All that sneaking around and manipulating, totally unbeknownst to you… Not cool, inner victim.

But in all seriousness, let me tell you a little bit about this— one of the sneaky ways we sabotage ourselves is by playing into this role of “victim” within our minds. A lot of times, we may not even notice it about ourselves, but it’s a tool we actively and maybe accidentally use to hold ourselves back.

Still with me? Let me play a few clips for you. Don’t worry, I haven’t been secretly filming you—I just hired an actor to play you so that you can fully immerse yourself in this exercise. And, cue film:

Scene 1: You’re at your desk eating a snack, and you crumple up a piece of paper and toss it at the garbage can… and miss. “I never make it!” you cry out, sighing dramatically and feeling discouraged.

Scene 2: A new person begins working at your place of employment. All your co-workers are buzzing about the new person, and give them a fun nickname by which they continually call the new hire. You grumble to yourself, “My co-workers don’t have any fun nicknames for me… I’m just so under-appreciated.”

Scene 3: You deliberately neglect putting air in your car tire for weeks because you just don’t feel like it, and then one day it goes flat while you’re driving to work. You groan to yourself, “Ugh, why ME?” as traffic passes you on the side of the road.

After all these occurrences, you continue to dwell on your misfortune, your inadequacies, and how you are wronged by others.

As if you don’t have the power to change the outcome in all those scenarios.

If you have bad aim and it bothers you, start practicing every day. If your co-workers like the new person at work, maybe you will, too— no one is forcing you to feel inadequate; you created that bad feeling within yourself. (A key indicator that you’re falling into the victim mentality is when you take a positive scenario that’s about someone else and turn it into a negative scenario about you.) If your tire is getting low, then be proactive and take care of it, instead of knowingly inviting a worse incident to happen later. And even after you mess up, you always have the power to look at the outcome and say, “Okay, well I messed up, but I can make things better moving forward.”

Feeding into the victim mentality is kind of addicting. It’s easy when you can blame the world for picking on you; it shifts the responsibility from you to everyone else. Quite frankly, it’s lazy. And it’s incredibly unproductive. You curse the world for not treating you like a hero when you’re acting like a victim.

In my own observations, I think this victim mentality has become somewhat normalized among my generation. I see it in small, subtle ways, like in tweets that adopt a defeated, over-dramatic tone— “I feel personally attacked,” “Just spilled my coffee seconds after getting it. I hate this life,” “Only I would manage to do so poorly on a test I got a Z,” and many others like this. The way people are expressing their experiences tend to focus on satirizing our bad fortune in this life and on this world, and even if it’s a joke to some people, it’s starting to really affect how people react to basic life happenings. We want to jump from zero to one hundred over spilling a coffee, and maybe that’s not a big deal by itself, but then when someone loses their job, what’s a hundred? Because if you feel that low over spilling a coffee, how low would you feel after losing a job? And I just want everybody to be very clear that how they shape their perceptions of this world has serious effects for themselves and serious effects for others, because attitude is contagious, and so is perspective. Be very careful what sort of thought patterns you’re encouraging in others, whether you mean to or not. You know? We have to start focusing on things that are going to better ourselves and better this world.

A problem with the victim mentality is that it’s an emotional tool people use to achieve validation. Even if you’re only pitying yourself, that’s still a form of validation and you’re only enabling yourself. When you elicit the concern of others by playing up your role as a victim when you know your well-being isn’t at risk, that’s emotional manipulation. When you paint yourself as a victim for the attention and validation of others, that’s emotionally immature. When you take things personally and conflate your unimportance when you are clearly loved and skilled, that’s being emotionally irresponsible.

So, here’s another scenario for you: Maybe when you were a kid, you would milk a wound to get extra special attention. Perhaps you only scraped your knee, but you pretended you couldn’t walk so that your mom would coddle you and make you feel like a baby again— the good life. Mom is extra sweet when you’re acting like you’re paralyzed. That’s kind of the same thought process for when we, as adults, play into the victim role in our own minds. We try to evoke sympathy from ourselves and others so we elicit words of validation, instead of figuring shit out on our own and making it happen, which is a lot more work, I’ll admit—but it’s the emotionally responsible thing to do. Maybe a lot of bad things do just kind of happen to you, and that sucks and I’m sorry, but you’re never going to overcome your struggles by removing your power from yourself and viewing yourself as a victim.

You are not a victim. Whether your struggles are minuscule and made-up, or incredible and seemingly insurmountable, you are not a victim. You are a survivor.

Think about all the times in your life when you’ve said to yourself, “I don’t know how I can go on.” Sister, here you are! Think about everything you’ve achieved, every low point you’ve scraped through, all the bad fortune that’s piled up on you that you’ve managed to deal with, and then kept going… Don’t you dare take away your own power and paint yourself as a victim in your head. You are amazing!

Please understand that I don’t mean I have no empathy or compassion for others. I have immense empathy. But when I was a kid, I remember times when I would whine to my mother about silly kid woes, and she would say, “Don’t be helpless.” And at the time, I would be amazed that someone who claimed to love me unconditionally could be so cold to me like that. But looking back, it’s because I just didn’t understand as a child the power she was giving me—the realization of the power I could give to myself. Do you understand? This is about not doubting yourself. This is about shaking the insecurities that rule you and put you into the victim role. You’re not your best you when you’re groveling in your own pity. Is that fair of me to say? Because I know you are amazing and capable of so much and your only obstacle is your own mind.

It’s about flipping the way you look at your own life. Every time you catch yourself feeling like a victim, tell yourself that you’re not a victim, you’re a survivor. You’re not pathetic. You don’t need the validation of anyone. Just focus on your own business and better yourself every day.

It’s really easy to feel like life sucks and you can’t do anything about it, and to kind of let that weigh on you; I understand. The only thing you can do about it is to change your attitude, and things have a nice way of falling into place better when you have a productive way of looking at the world. It’s important to love yourself and understand how much you’re capable of.

Oh yeah, your inner victim had something he wanted to tell you… He’s moving out.


If you would like to read more self-help articles about positive thinking and mindful living, you may find more here.

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