The Victim Mentality
The victim mentality is everywhere in today’s society, running wild the minds of people far and wide. Ironically, I’m probably taking the victim mentality by pointing out that everyone is a victim. Woe is us, right?
The inter-web defines the victim mentality as “a personality trait in which a person tends to regard him or herself as a victim of the actions of others, and to think, speak, and act as if it were the case.” As a self proclaimed victim, I know how easy it is to fall into this trap. Nothing is my fault, it’s others who are causing me to think and act this way.
When someone takes the victim mentality, they are telling themselves that they’re not in control of their life. They aren’t in control of outside factors (i.e. the actions of other), and since outside factors cause an emotional response, and their emotions are the root of every life decision they make, they therefore can’t control their life.
The victim mentality is convenient when things get tough, liberating when things are going well, and misguided in every situation.
People who fall into line of thinking let life happen to them, rather than the other way around. As Jim Rohn said, “if you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.”
If we want complete control over our lives, we have to shake the victim mentality. “Take responsibility for everything in your life you can change and everything you can’t change,” says David Wood from The Kickass Life Podcast.
When I first heard David say this, I wasn’t only confused, but I disagreed whole heartedly. Why should I take responsibility for the things I can’t change? As I was introduced to the victim mentality - or I should say, when I identified it in myself - his words began to make sense. When we take responsibility for everything in our lives, we empower ourselves to make changes, course correct, find what we love, and go get it. We eliminate all excuses.
The Culprit Mentality
While taking responsibility for everything in our lives is an extreme, it’s good practice to shift our minds so we start naturally thinking in other ways. Instead of taking the victim mentality, we need to take the culprit mentality. We need to realize that all actions are self reflections, and if we don’t like a situation or how we respond to a situation, the fault is ours and ours alone.
Take your professional life. Ever had a job you didn’t like or a boss you couldn’t stand? I’m sure in that moment, all you could think about is how negatively your job or your boss was affecting your life. How dare they! If only you had different job duties or a more relaxed boss. But aha! Following this train of thought leads us to the crux of the victim versus the culprit mentality.
Who forced you to take that job in the first place? Who's making you stay in your current role? And most important, who's causing you to stay in a negative environment all together? If you answered me to each one of those questions, you’ve broken free of the victim mentality. It’s your decision to take a job, your decision to work the way you do, your decision to put up with your negative boss, and your decision to stay or leave. The cost is only your happiness.
What’s more, it’s your choice to continue to act the way you do. Remember that boss you can’t work with? Well, what if you changed some of your actions? Rather than being reactive to their abrasive personality, blaming them for every negative experience you have, try being proactive and working within the constraints they give you.
I was in a situation like this. I had a boss that liked constant updates, while I worked better in constant autonomy. Why couldn’t he see that he was negatively impacting my effectiveness? ’t took me almost 6 months of raging against my bosses wishes until I realized that I couldn’t change him, but I could change myself. So I corrected my behavior. It was hard at first, but I continued to keep him updated, and guess what? I gained autonomy.
The end result of me taking the blame for our relationship and changing the way I acted was that it changed the way he acted.
Now take your social life. Ever been in a toxic relationship? Have you ever been consistently mistreated by someone? A victim would blame the relationship or the person for making your life hard, but not someone who has control over their life. If you’re in a bad relationship, who’s keeping you there? Who’s actions are allowing you to be continuously mistreated? I think by now that the answer is clear.
Just like the example above, by changing your actions - or reactions - within the constraints of your relationship, you might be able to change the relationship completely. Rather than focusing on what the other person is doing wrong, focus on what you could be doing better. You might just find that you’ll change the way the other behaves, and if not, it’s up to you to remove yourself from the relationship. Don’t wait for them to remove you.
Design Your Life
The truth might be hard to hear, and I don’t mean to present the victim mentality as a “shame on you” scenario. I’m as much as fault as anyone. But we need to empower ourselves to take full control of our lives. By taking responsibility for both the thoughts and actions of yourself as well as the thoughts or actions of others, we’re able to take that control. We live intentionally, actively designing our lifestyle.
We can’t do this as a victim, but we can do this as a culprit. The culprit of our life’s design.