Before you can change an aspect of who you are, first you need to be willing to recognize it. Are you someone with a victim mentality? A person with a woe is me attitude. A person who NEVER is to blame for any of the problems in their life–regardless of their actions or words. A person with a victim mentality feels the world is against them and there is nothing they can do about it. If you are not one of them, I am sure you KNOW one of these people–because we all know SOMEONE with a victim mindset and these people are extremely draining. These people are perpetual victims of their own making and victimhood is a way of life for them. It is a deeply ingrained habit and most of the time the person who embodies this mindset can’t see it in themselves. They may be able to see it in OTHERS, but not in themselves. People with a victim mentality tend to lack self-awareness. If you have a victim mentality, not only do you cause stress and frustration for those in your life, but create this experience for yourself. Are you wondering if this could be you?
Ten Signs You Have a Victim Mentality
1.You Feel You are Not Responsible. Pause that. Maybe YOU ARE responsible–for the good things that happen in your life, sure. You will take ownership of THAT. You may even take credit for other people’s successes in your life–your husband got a promotion? Well, of course he did, because I am a great wife! And I push him to succeed. Your daughter got a scholarship to a great college? Well, of course she did, great parenting! You may love to take credit for others’ successes including bragging about them like they are your own. You may even humble brag about your own successes (because who doesn’t). But take ownership for the problems in your life? NO WAY are you taking responsibility for that! Get out of here on THAT!
Get into a fight with your wife? She is being crazy and unreasonable. Struggling at work? Not my fault. My boss is a real jerk. Your sister has been avoiding you because of how much you complain and create drama in the family? She is the asshole. Your doctor refuses to have you as a patient anymore because you have not lose the weight or quit smoking like he’s been telling you for YEARS? Not my fault he obviously is a jerk who is ONLY in this for the money, he doesn’t care about his patients!
See where I am going here? Nothing in your life is your fault–it is always others or circumstances beyond your control. You do not want the weight of responsibility for anything that is not going well in your life.
2.You Feel Others are Trying to Hurt You. Let’s be real here. Most people aren’t against you. They are for themselves. Human nature is what it is. But if you have a victim mentality, any time someone says something that rubs you wrong or you feel someone doesn’t give you the attention you feel you deserve, you think they are out to get you. It wouldn’t occur to you that people are busy with their own lives and that not everything revolves around you. People with a victim mentality tend to be a bit paranoid–thinking Facebook posts are about them, an unanswered text is an assault of their well-being, a birthday gift that isn’t up to their standards is taken as a slight-I know they gave me this to piss me off. People with victim mindsets not only feel others are actively trying to hurt them, but they also feel others should do more of the work in the relationship. They feel entitled–they feel you should call them, text them, reach out to them, make plans with them, and so on and so forth. They pass the burden of maintaining the relationship onto you. Often people with a victim mentality have rocky, unstable relationships. Of course–this is never their fault–other people are just self-absorbed, uncaring assholes. RIGHT.
3.You Blame Others. If you are in a relationship with someone who has a victim mentality, you can bet that any conflict will not be their fault. These are the people who notice YOUR changed behavior but do not have the self-awareness to notice how THEIR behavior made you change your attitude towards them. In any conflict, they will expect you to change but feel they did nothing wrong. They would never think about changing their behaviors towards you to see if they garner a different response. These people often have double standards-they can be short with you, but if you respond in kind, you are the one with a problem. They can not call you but expect you to call them. They can say rude things to you but god forbid you say something snarky to them. I think you get the gist. The blame game is their favorite to play! These people have blaming others and coming off like the innocent victim down to a science.
4.You Feel Powerless to Stop or Change a Problem. You may feel other people just suck. Or life sucks. You feel there is nothing you can do to be a catalyst for positive change in your life. You are just a passenger in your own life. We all know this is bullshit. But if you are someone with a victim mentality this is your gospel. It doesn’t matter what the problem is or who in involves. If it is a conflict with your boss, you may start looking for a new job instead of working on the way you interact with her. If it is a problem with your health, say your doctor has been telling you to lay off the cigarettes, you may just got to a new doctor who won’t give you grief about your smoking. If it is a problem with a friend, instead of trying to look at things from his perspective, you will just start taking tiny digs at him, hoping he gets the message that you are upset with him. People with a victim mentality feel they do now have the power to change the circumstances of their life and wait on others to step up. Like the John Mayer song, they are waiting, waiting, waiting on the world to change.
5.You Hold Grudges. Nothing reinforces a victim mentality like a good old grudge. Victims LOVE to be wronged. Love it! Listen, if someone does you wrong, YOU have the power to change what kind of relationship you have with them (if any at all). Some people really are just shitty. But the burden of their shittiness IS NOT YOURS TO CARRY! Do what you need to do but don’t stew in resentment or hold onto bitterness towards them. All that does is give another person power over you. Victims love to give away their power. Victims love to hold onto the feeling of being wronged. This is just a way of life for these people. Yet it is not worth holding onto those negative emotions because then the person who hurt you is continuing to live inside of you in an emotional sense. When interpersonal conflict arises, try seeing things from the other’s person perspective, look at the role you played, try to work it out, and if not, it is time to move on. If you really did nothing wrong, be satisfied with that and get on with it. Don’t continue to stew in the horrible behavior of SOMEONE else. Don’t wait on an apology. Don’t wait on them to change their behavior. It is not your job to police the world. If the other person is truly despicable, you learned who they truly are, you have the option to change the role this person has in your life, and keep it moving. Don’t keep the negativity going in your own life.
6.You are Passive Aggressive. Nothing screams victim mentality like passive aggressive behavior. These people tend to have little confidence and do not have the courage to speak their mind directly, but they sure love to get their anger across in covert ways! Moodiness, sulking, indirect digs, sarcasm, eye rolling, the backhanded compliment, silent treatment, lying, manipulating, triangulating, getting others to do their bidding, and so on and so forth. These people pride themselves on their passive aggressive maneuvers. They see themselves as the puppet masters pulling the strings behind the curtain. If someone is being passive aggressive with you, they are not worth your time. Give your attention to people mature enough to say what they truly feel.
7.You are Selfish. Playing the victim is inherently selfish. Ever been around someone who needs to make everything about themselves? Even if it has NOTHING to directly do with them? These are the people who somehow manage to make it all about THEM and how it affects THEM. They love to garner sympathy–playing the victim card at any chance they get. Negative or positive attention–it is all the same for them as long as the attention is on them. People with victim mentalities are the stars of their own movie. It is impossible to get these people to see things from your perspective because they don’t care about your perspective. They care about how they were wronged, how it affected them, how they are hurting, how this isn’t fair, how they are disappointed, and so on and so forth.
8.You Love to Complain. Complaining is a way of life for someone who plays the victim. If anything it is an anomaly for you have anything positive to say. There is no topic on Earth a person with a victim mentality can’t complain about. Rarely do these people have a good word to say about anyone or anything. Complaining is as natural for them as breathing.
9.You Have Low Self-Esteem. Feeling not good enough is at the core of a victim mentality. These people feel weak and powerless. People with low self-esteem tend to develop a victim mindset because they feel they do not have the self-efficacy to change–at least not to change themselves. However, they may feel they can try to change others. If they felt they could change themselves, they would not feel the need to blame circumstances, others, and a largely “unfair world.”
10.You Compare Yourself to Others. Listen, this one is tough—we live in the age of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, where comparing yourself to others is easier than ever before to do. All you have to do is scroll through your phone to see what others in your “world” are up to you at any given moment. Comparing yourself to others, and coming up short, is a catalyst for feeling like a victim. Why is their life so fun when I am home plopped on the couch?! Not fair! Comparison is also what causes people to try to victimize others when they feel they come up short. The sad truth is there is often a bitterness to a person with a victim mentality and comparing themselves to others is one of their many bad habits. Often enough, they find ways to invalidate the success of others and to feed their victim mindset–anything to perpetuate the thought that they got dealt a shitty hand in life.
As you can see, when you take on a victim mentality, you are pretty much giving up ownership and responsibility for your life. You also are giving up the chance to be happy.
If it seems like a victim mentality can’t be beneficial to living a joyful and fulfilling life, so you might be wondering, why would ANYONE want to live like this? Because like anything else, there are payoffs.
~Attention and validation. Victims love to complain and whine about their problems. Successful people rarely play the victim card. But for the people who play it, they use their victim status as an excuse for why they may have not achieved a great deal. Often it helps a victim bond with others over how they have been “wronged” and what an “unfair” lot in life they have been given. Victims often grip about how others are “evil” and “bad.” Of course, when others are wrong, evil, and bad, the inference is that they, as the victim, are “right,” “moral,” and “good.” A victim gets to be the hero, the “do gooder” in their own twisted story. A “poor me” attitude gives people an artificial “high” from their sense of self-righteousness.
~Staying in one’s comfort zone. Victims do not need to change. Why would they? They did NOTHING wrong. There is certain sense of comfort in feeling like a victim. Victims hate change. These are people who love to maintain the status quo.
~Avoiding responsibility for your life. If you are a victim, you are not responsible for the world around you and you often blame others. Blaming others can feel so good. It absolves you from having take a good, long hard look at yourself when you are busy pointing the finger. It also gives you a fall sense of superiority to blame others and the circumstances around you instead of taking ownership for ALL aspects of your life.
~It is a role from childhood and it feels familiar. Perhaps growing up you played the victim with your parents to get your needs met. Maybe you use to blame your siblings and scapegoat them to get your way. Or maybe you watched your mom play the victim card with your dad to get her way. A victim mindset is often rooted in childhood.
But now the time has come to change for the better. To become a person who takes ownership for all the things in their life-good OR bad. If you have a victim mentality, there are ways to begin to shift your mindset to a more positive way of being.
Strategies to Stop Having a Victim Mentality
1)Be willing to give up the so-called “benefits” of being a victim. The attention. The sympathy. The shirking of responsibility. Playing the martyr role. If you are playing the victim, you are headed nowhere good fast. Begin to look for proactive ways to go after what you want in life. Be an agent for change. For example, if you are unhappy in a friendship, try to make the effort to work on the relationship. It may not be reciprocated (which you cannot control) but then at least you know where you stand. Do not keep on waiting for the person to reach out and then complain they don’t care. If you want a relationship to improve, you need to make the first move.
2)Stop complaining. I know it is addicting. We all have our moments where we complain too much but it is when it becomes a way of life–that is when it is a problem. It is so much easier to complain than it is to ACTUALLY do something. But habitual complaining is bad for your health–your mental AND physical health. Complaining is a quick way to make yourself–and everyone around you–miserable. Start to break the habit. Complaining keeps you from taking action. But worse it keeps you in a negative reality. To quote Maya Angelou, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” Sometimes what you need is an attitude shift more than any actual external change.
3)Stop living in the past. People with a victim mindset are often grudge holders. They can remember with great detail what you did to them…in summer of 2002. That’s right– I said 2002. They can remember vividly (and with fresh rage) the time their mom made them stay home on a Friday night from their favorite band’s concert– while ALL their friends were allowed to go. That was so unfair, they still think to themselves, 20 years later. They can remember when their parents spent more money on their little sister than on them at the mall. When they were 9 years old. NINE. They can remember when their high school boyfriend stood them up to go hang with his friends. Or the college professor who embarassed them when they fell asleep in class. These types of people remember EVERYTHING. There is no perceived wrong a person with a victim mentality can let go of. Yet the time has come to stop living in the past and LET IT GO. No good comes from holding onto all that negativity. If is literally a cancer of the mind. If you are an adult, you need to accept that life is not always fair. Not just for you but for everyone. We all get the short end of the stick sometimes. Stop making things worse for yourself. One way you can begin to anchor yourself in the present is to start a mindfulness practice, which may be helpful, if you are someone who ruminates (which most “victims” do). Try working on living in the present moment and leave the past where it belongs- in the past.
4)Take responsibility for your life. This one is kind of self-explanatory. Everything in your life is 100% your responsibility. That’s right-I said EVERYTHING. The good, the bad, and the indifferent. If you are unhappy with something, it is time to either make a plan to change it or work on changing your mindset.
5)Know you always can choose differently. We are all one choice away from a completely different life. Stop feeling stuck. If you are stuck, you are choosing the status quo over the fear of change.
6)Get counseling. I am biased with this one, I know. Yet a good counselor can help you process your hang ups from the past, look at the ways you are currently contributing to the problems in your life, and help you begin to shift your perspective.
7)Be grateful for all the good things in your life. It is hard to be a victim when you practice the art of gratitude. Try to be grateful even for the bad experiences in your life–they have taught you many lessons. People who may have wronged you have acted as great examples of who NOT to be. Unfortunate circumstances can help to open your eyes to all the many blessings in your life.
8)Learn to forgive. Let go of the grudges you carry towards others. And yourself. Stop beating yourself up for choices and mistakes you made YEARS ago. Stop being angry for what people did to you. Everyone, including you, is doing the best they can. Anger and resentment are heavy burdens to bear. See how it feels to get the weight of anger and resentment off your back.
9)Help others. Try looking outward. People with a victim mentality tend to spend a lot of time navel gazing and nursing their grudges. Victims tend to think over and over again about all the ways they have been “wronged” in life and are extremely focused on themselves. Try to do something to help and support others-it is hard to feel like a victim when you are focused on being there for others. Be a positive influence in someone’s else life–that is true empowerment.
10)Give yourself a break. You are doing the best you can. Most victims struggle with their self-confidence. Stop being so hard on yourself–beating yourself up does nothing but foster negativity and encourage you to keep the victim mindset. If you feel negativity on the inside, you will inevitably manifest negativity, in your external environment.
The time has come to release yourself from your self-made prison. Take control of yourself and your life. No matter what happens in life, you have the choice in how you respond. To live your best life, you need to see yourself as a survivor, not a victim. Once you let go of being a victim, you can begin to free yourself from all the negativity you have been carrying, for far too long. Just remember, if you want to fly, give up everything that weighs you down.
If you enjoyed this article and are interested in seeking counseling with me:
Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC
THEODOROU THERAPY, LLC
590 Franklin Ave.
Nutley, NJ 07110