By Dr Neeta Pant
To imprison yourself and then beg to be freed;
this is the dynamic of a victim mindset
~ Steve Maraboli
Do you always and constantly feel that you don’t have control over situations? People are all against you and out to get you? Bad things keep happening to you? Nothing goes as per plan? Entire universe conspires against you? If this is happening to you, chances are that you are struggling with a victim mindset.
People with a victim mindset may feel as though everyone else is against them. Even though there might be things that they can do to help fix the situation, they don’t take responsibility for anything and are convinced everything is out of their control. They might take things personally even when not directed at them. They might also feel resentful and keep blaming others and universe for situations around them.
Victim Mindset is an acquired personality trait where a person tends to recognize themselves as victim of the negative actions of others. Victim mindset is a form of avoidance. It perhaps is a way of saying, “I refuse to take responsibility for myself or my life.”
People who have a victim mindset believe that life happens to them, rather than for them. As a result, they feel victimized when something doesn’t go as planned.
Where does it come from?
A victim mindset does not develop out of nowhere. Often, it stems from the following issues –
Betrayal – Betrayal of trust, especially repeated ones can be extremely hard to get over. It may also be the result of a parent or primary caretaker not living up to expectations. The long-term impact and repercussions of betrayal can make it very difficult for someone to trust others in future, thus creating a victim mindset.
Survival – During formative years, if children are neglected, not offered the love they need, may become willing to try anything to make others care about them. If the children can get attention by acting weak or sick, or by expressing all the bad things that happened to them, those lessons can carry into adulthood through a victim mindset.
Past Trauma – Emotional pain contributing to helplessness & vulnerability can disrupt a person’s sense of control & vulnerability. They feel inhumed and surrender. Consequently, victim mindset here acts as coping mechanism.
Past Abuse – Physical or sexual abuse brings feeling of shame and helplessness that translates into low self-esteem leads to development of a victim mindset.
Co-dependency – Frustrations and resentments sets in when personal goals are being sacrificed for the partner. Since one does not get any acknowledgement for their foregone aims in life, it becomes extremely taxing and ensuant is a victim mindset.
Learned Behavior – If a parent habitually complained about hardships of life, he/she is automatically and unconsciously sowing the seeds of victim mindset in the child. Naturally, children end up emulating the behavior of adults who act like victims.
Manipulation – Victims of manipulation and abuse can easily begin to have a victim mindset themselves. They hold people around them feel guilty; they start enjoying blaming others for problems they cause. Lashing out, making others feel guilty, or manipulating others for sympathy and attention are the common signs of victim mindset.
Why does one play a Victim?
Playing victim has a number of juicy benefits which makes victims remain emotionally invested in propagating this toxic behavior. Some of them are –
- Not having to take responsibility for anything
- Bestowed with attention
- Wallow in self-pity to attain priority
- Acquiring sympathy from others
- Less chances of criticism
- Prosper on drama as a victim
- Prerogative to complain
- Higher probability to get what one wants
- Anger & frustration avoidance; sadness covers as prime emotion
Do you suffer from Victim Mindset?
The following should be able to help one recognise the signs of victim mindset –
- Predilection to blame other people
- Disowning responsibility for life
- Seeking and enjoying sympathy or pity
- Being oversensitive
- Believing others’ lives are easier
- Believing there is unfair play of universe
- Over reacting to small things
- Being hypervigilant around other people
- Overly pessimistic approach about future
- Thinking that life is against you
- Repressed anger
- Surrendered looking for solutions
- Aversion to take risks
- Feeling of entitlement to sympathy or pity
- Ultra-defensive attitude
- Exaggeration of risks of situations
- Labelling people as black and white; extremist approach
- Putting oneself down all the time
- Learned helplessness
- Worst things always happens to me.
- I don’t know what to do to change things.
- There’s no point in trying to change.
- I must accept what happens to me.
- I am deserving of the bad things.
- Nobody cares about me or what happened to me.
- I have no choice in what happens to me.
Outcomes of a Victim Mindset
Most common outcomes if one persist in having Victim Mindset –
- Feelings of guilt, shame, and depression
- Frustration with the world
- Feeling isolated, lonely and helpless
- Low self-esteem, low confidence
- Constant negative emotions such as fear, sadness, and anger
- Having relationship issues or problems at work
- Feeling hurt and that people don’t care
- Feeling resentful of other people who are successful
- Feels manipulated or blamed
- Engaging in self-destructive behaviour
- Taking long time to trust people
Impacts Of A Victim Mindset
Victim mindset can have following negative impacts and can be damaging for –
- Morale – Chronic pessimism and helpless outlook end up irritated behaviour that wears one down spoiling overall happiness.
- Associations – Behavior changes from “victim” to “victimizer.” Playing “victim” and seeking attention one minute and the very next minute, they may blame someone else for their helplessness.
- Efficiency – Victims are busy blaming others or highlighting perceived difficulty that they may make mistakes or cause delays that could have been prevented.
- Reliance – Victims believe their helplessness and that everything is beyond their control and depends on fate, luck or other people. Consequentially, they may not be trusted for any important tasks or responsibility.
Strategies to break free from the Victim Mindset
The following tips can help you address a victim mindset can be extremely overwhelming and exhausting, the endeavor is to move from VICTIM to SURVIVOR mindset –
- Challenge Your Perceptions Of Reality – We frequently engage in worst-case scenario thinking and get caught up in these thought patterns more often than we care to admit. Important is to bring back yourself from the brink of victimhood & think positive when next time these thoughts threatens to distort your perception of reality.
- Take Responsibility For Your Actions – Owning up to mistakes or incidents that put you in a bad situation is the key here. Blaming or getting angry at others will not help much. You should be mindful about how you spell your problems, both to people in your life and to yourself. The moment you stop blaming the world, is the moment that you shift from victim to survivor.
- Change Your Narrative – Think for a moment, does your stories that you tell yourself in order to live comes from false narratives? Do you unnecessary blame others for what has happened to you? Every time you feel compelled to place blame on someone else for your challenges, take a moment to flip the script and focus on what you can change.
- Think Positive – Victimhood stems from negative thoughts. Changing your thinking is the best way to shift from victim to survivor. You must find the silver lining amidst every challenge instead of looking for the bad in everything. Focus on the good will attract more positive things into life. Open yourself up to live an abundant life of positive growth and change that has the potential to transform your life.
- Practice Saying NO – The key to getting over victim mindset is recognizing you have the power to run your own life. Sometimes simply saying “NO” goes a long way to improving your mindset. Even if other people feel you are letting them down, if you don’t want to do something and don’t realistically have to do it, don’t do it. You are allowed to have needs like others, remember that!
- Stop Blaming – Stop yourself when you realise you are getting into blame stories against people. Turn your attention away from these blaming thoughts. Blaming others can only provide temporary relief. It will lead to feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness in the longer run.
- Practice Gratitude – Victim mindset focuses on suffering, specifically what you’re not getting. Flip your perspective and focus on what you get and what you enjoy, what matters to you. Consciously shift your focus from what you’re missing to what you have. Victimhood has roots in the feeling of scarcity – not having enough. Turn that consciously into the feeling of abundance which is where gratitude will come into play. Conscious acknowledgment of gratitude will bring joy, peace and contentment in the present state.
- Practice Forgiveness – Holding on to feeling of bitterness and anger from past is characteristics of victim mindset. It not only colours your daily experiences but causes you to misinterpret well meaning gestures from others. Forgiveness is all about finding the inner strength to move beyond the pain so as to attain inner peace and freedom. Forgiving is vital to begin taking the purposeful actions that will positively impact your life.
- Find The Source Of Your Learned Helplessness – Taking time out to find the source of negativity will be of immense help. Fostered dependence, bullying in school, sibling or spouse’s treatment to your feeling, opinions or emotions, reasons could be many. Knowing where it is coming from will provide you’re the opportunity to address the source of pain.
- Shift Your Mindset From That Of Victim To Survivor – Succumbing to victim mindset can be overcome by adopting the mindset of a survivor. The first step here would be understanding and accepting that you have a victim mindset. The next step is shifting your thoughts from feeling like a victim to realizing that you are a survivor. To be a true survivor, you need to focus attention on developing positive self-beliefs. As a survivor you will need to take full responsibility of good and bad both.
One is a victim as along as one allows oneself to be. Many hold the victimhood label dearly in order to find support and help. Victimhood is a pain that one gets comfortable with but to live one’s life as a victim means that there will always be a cloud hanging over life. Fighting for survivorship can be intimidating and it also means stepping out of your comfort zone but the reward can be incredible.
The good news is, it is possible to change your mindset from VICTIM TO SURVIVOR. Believe that you have the power to conquer it!!!
It’s easy to fall into victim mode and feel like the world is against you.
The truth is, people aren’t against you: they’re just for themselves.
The only thing within your control is how you react and respond to the chaotic dance of life. ~ Kerli