How a victim mentality holds us back…
There is a certain psychological disposition that exists in the minds of many of us today, young and old, called a victim mindset or victim mentality. The belief and mindset that we are victim to outside circumstances, to things that are going wrong in our lives, to ‘bad people’ and bad situations. A belief that other things, other people and other circumstances are to blame for our misfortune and misery, that we are in no way responsible for our own welfare, happiness and satisfaction, or lack thereof. This is, harsh as it may sound, a weak mindset, one that is not only placid and restricting, but passively damaging, a mentality that sets us up not only for a lifetime of constant complaining, blaming and failing, but a settling resentment that comes from never achieving our goals. Not a life any of us wants to lead.
That being said, it’s perfectly understandable that many of us develop a victim mentality. I had this mentality myself, 6 or 7 years ago now, where my miserable existence was the fault of everything else but myself. I felt like nothing was going right in my life, thought that I deserved better and would idly dream of what I thought would be a great life, while taking no action towards it. I thought that I should have more friends and that I should be going out more, that I should have a girlfriend and shouldn’t be so lonely, I thought that I should have these great well paid jobs and they should pay me loads of money. I thought that college sucked and I didn’t want to be there, that where I lived was inconvenient and dull. I thought, I thought, I thought. All the time, with very little doing.
Constantly thinking about how miserable I was and what I didn’t have, led me to a pretty sorry existence. I lived primarily in my bedroom and passively wished for more exciting times, while wallowing in my comfort. I had no money and wished I had more but was unwilling to leave my false comfort. I disliked my life, was down and depressed, idly searching through my mind, looking for things to fix my situation, while never even considering to look at myself or within myself to fix it. I was seeing my life through a blurred lens, stuck in my own head, creating an illusion in my mind. An illusion that said life is terrible and there’s nothing I can do about it, poor me.
This was untrue in two ways, firstly, the reality of my life was actually very different when looked at from a clearer perspective and was far from terrible. When I stepped out of my own head and got out of my own way, (Living In Our Heads, Mental Health Helpers: Meditation) I was able to see my life much more clearly and from a grateful perspective. In reality, I was a healthy young guy with the whole world in front of me. I had friends and family around me to lift me up and support me, to laugh with and share joy together. I was living at home, rent-free, with cooked meals every night, food in the cupboards and heat in the winter. My college course, looking back on it, was great. I was studying outdoor sports instruction and got to spend a lot of time being active and getting fresh air, rather than being in a traditional classroom. I was the one making sure I didn’t enjoy or appreciate any of it. I wanted a girlfriend because I thought I should have one but thinking back on it, I would have been terrible in a relationship back then and was better off on my own. I was at a time in life where I thankfully didn’t need any jobs or any money, I didn’t have any real stress or pressure to deal with but despite that, my victim mindset made life seem worse and worse.
The second truth I was failing to realise was that, actually, I could do something about it, I could make the difference in my life and change my circumstances. Whether it was changing my mindset, choosing joy and appreciation over negativity, or actively doing, taking actions that would change my life for the better. I had a choice and I was choosing misery. My life changed when I chose to change it, my life got better because I decided it would.
My most profound experience of the power of choice, came at age 17 when I chose to stop being depressed. I was at the peak of my victim mountain, sat atop a huge pile of poor me when I came crashing back down to earth. My “poor me pile” had grown so tall that it was unstable, toppling over and throwing me to the ground. I had reached a point where I was so mentally out of control that my mind was being ridiculous enough for me to recognise it as being ridiculous. I was caught in a moment of sudden awareness, analysing myself, my thoughts, my life. Through this self-awareness and self-analysis, I realised that my depression was a self-imposed illusion. By the time I got home 10 minutes later, I had chosen to stop being depressed, chosen to get myself and my life together, simple as that.
Though a change of mind can be incredibly powerful, a simple action can be also. My most rewarding action taken in life so far was my choice to go to university. It was not a choice that I made on my own, it wasn’t born from within my mind but sort of forced in from the outside. Thank god it was, because after I accepted the idea and took it in as my own, I chose it and never looked back. That choice took me from a lonely, dull life, to one full of love, friendships and laughter. To connection and experience, to a life full of living, and all it took was a very simple choice. Get out of my bedroom and go to university. Such a big change in circumstances might seem like a big deal, but the choice itself is very simple and easy to make, and the rewards are invaluable.
We must choose better. Yes, there are some things that are out of our control, that we cannot affect with our choices, but the huge majority of things within our lives are within our control. We have power over them with our responsibility and our choices, conscious or not.
Let’s take back our own power, reclaim our control, make our own choices and take positive action. It’s absolutely amazing how far these things will get us. So choose well and remember, not making a choice is a choice of its own.
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If you’re looking for more reading on Victim Mentality, here is an interesting and useful article I found on the topic, How To Ditch The Victim Mentality.