Stop Being the Victim

by Stephen Mills on June 15, 2009

Hurricane

What is the one piece of advice that everyone should take in the area of personal development?  That one thing they can do to make a big difference?  My advice is to stop being a victim.  This has become so cliché that we ignore it and don’t really dig deep into what it means.  We say it without thinking about it.

A victim compels others to rescue him by making them hostage to his alleged circumstances.  He drags them into the abyss of his own making?  Did I say of his own making?  Yes, I did.  No matter what your circumstances, you are responsible for your actions from this point forward.   Where you are now is a result of your previous decisions and actions.  Regardless of what has happened in the past however, you have to power to change your situation now.

When you play the victim and expect others to come to your rescue, you are shutting yourself off from that tremendous power YOU have to make a difference.  You are creating a self-limiting environment for yourself.  You are failing to be 100% responsible.

Do I deny the reality of circumstances good and bad?  No, but I do deny the benefit when you or I or anyone else focuses on them from a victim’s perspective.  For every whine, somebody has a better case somewhere else. No matter what has happened to you, something worse has happened to someone else.  If you demand people focus on victimhood, you owe it to others less fortunate to focus on them and not yourself.  You’ll never win this losing battle of being the biggest victim.

Every minute you spend playing the victim, is a minute you spend not doing something about it.  Aside from that, nobody else wants to hear it.  You are just spreading the misery unnecessarily.

Don’t Enable Victimhood in Others

I’m pained by what I see as the suffering of others.  But if I act differently and incorrectly because of that feeling, then I am enabling their victimhood.  When I do anything to encourage a victim attitude, then I’m enabling that which I’m preaching against.

This is hard to do.  There is a tendency to think with our emotions and our compassion and I’m am often guilty of this myself.  It’s a lot easier to throw money at someone than it is to figure out a way to encourage them to help themselves.  Sometimes money is the easy way out.  We feel all puffed up now that we have done our civic duty and we can quickly get back to focusing on ourselves.

There is a fine line and a difficult line for you to walk when you are helping others.  You can help in a way which encourages them to take responsibility for themselves, or you can help in a way which enables and encourages the problem.  When somebody falls down you can pick them up or encourage them to get up themselves.  Your tender heart may encourage you to go to far.  You must resist the temptation because you are not helping, you are hurting.

Most parents realize that they can go to far in protecting their children from the harsh lessons of life.  As a parent I struggled with this too.  Your heart tugs on you in an instinctual reaction that your mind knows is a mistake.  Just because it makes you feel good for a moment, doesn’t mean you have helped.

Hurricane Katrina was a study in victims and owners.  On the one hand you had the New Orleans TV crowd victims.  They were constantly on TV with their hands out.  They were demanding that somebody do something.  Years later they are still at the same old whine and are still the same victims.

On the other hand you had the owners.  These are the people who quietly went about owning their own situation.  I saw people who almost immediately began picking up and rebuilding.  This was in stark contrast to those who would go on TV and ask when somebody was going to do something.  In fact they were demanding that somebody do something.

What Can You Do?

Clean up your own situation first.  Refuse to be a victim to anything at anytime.  Take immediate and massive action to do something for yourself.  You will be amazed at how many people show up with unsolicited help.

Secondly, ignore the perpetual victims.  Quietly and respectfully encourage them to help themselves.  Show them by example a way out.  Whatever you do, don’t enable their victimhood.  Whatever you feel in your heart, do the right thing.

Go back to the example of Katrina.  Turn off the TV and walk right by the demanding victim with his hand out.  Find the owner who is cleaning up the mess or rebuilding.  Pick up a trash bag or a hammer.

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Lori June 16, 2009 at 12:00 am

Hi Steven~

This is such an important message–one that really resonates with me. In my younger years I dealt with a serious condition that landed me in several hospitals. Although some of my circumstances were challenging, I only made things worse by feeling bad for myself. My attitude was poisonous, and it became almost impossible to form real relationships with people. How can you relate to someone else when you desperately want them to save you?

Although I still have room for growth, I’ve made huge leaps in learning to take responsibility for myself. It’s empowering to realize I can always improve my situation if I make an effort. Thanks for this reminder! There’s no greater gift you can give someone than belief in her ability to take care of herself.

Lori
.-= Lori´s last blog ..50 Ways to Show You Care Without Spending a Dime =-.

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Roger | A Content Life June 16, 2009 at 7:08 am

Stephen,

Great point! My favorite part of the post is…

“For every whine, somebody has a better case somewhere else. No matter what has happened to you, something worse has happened to someone else.”

How true and it helps put everything in perspective. It even helps you to be grateful for what you do have while helping you plan for a better future.
.-= Roger | A Content Life´s last blog ..Exercise Is For Losers =-.

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Jay Schryer June 16, 2009 at 8:17 am

This is a really great post. There are too many people in the world waiting for someone to save them, to fix their problems, to give them a handout. Bad things happen to everyone – nobody has a perfect life. However, the way we deal with our adversity determines our destiny: victim or hero.
.-= Jay Schryer´s last blog ..Mindful Meditation Monday – Wrap Up =-.

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Deb Owen June 16, 2009 at 10:02 am

This makes me want to cheer!!

We hear people play the victim so often in our society, that we don’t even pick up on it anymore. It’s not me, it’s them. They were out to get me. But it’s the economy. And so on. And it’s not just with ‘those in need’, either. It’s present in so many people’s lives and manifests in so many ways, leading those who want to ‘be nice to the extreme’ to get too busy rescuing someone else that they don’t live their own lives.

This is just brilliant.
Thanks Stephen!
All the best!
deb
.-= Deb Owen´s last blog ..i’m good enough, i’m smart enough, and gosh-darnit – people like me (what’s wrong with affirmations) =-.

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Nelia June 16, 2009 at 11:14 am

I had dinner with a family the other night, the mother of which was an alcoholic. In the past, the children of this family complained left and right about the injustices each suffered at the hands of their mother; and how said injustices have negatively and profoundly affected their lives.

I’m not in a position to argue about the impact. I can only imagine the challenges. But guess how many times family members asked the mother if she wanted an alcoholic beverages during the course of one dinner?

Six.
.-= Nelia´s last blog ..The Sacrifice Myth =-.

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Vin - NaturalBias June 16, 2009 at 1:50 pm

The victim mentality strikes a nerve with me. We can act in pursuit of the life we want, or we can react and let others dictate life for us. The people who choose to react often complain about what others dictate for them and it drives me crazy! Happiness is a choice!

Nick Vujicic was born without arms or legs. Does he consider himself a victim? Absolutely not! Viktor Frankl survived the horrendous conditions of several Nazi concentration camps and didn’t consider himself a victim either. Although I admit that it’s much easier said than done, we all have the choice to choose a positive perspective about the situations we face in life, and we also have the choice to take action to steer life in a more desirable direction.

The victim mentality especially applies to health. Maybe that’s why I despise it so much. Unfortunately, modern medicine has a name and a drug for just about every health problem imaginable and encourages people to embrace victimhood (my invented word for the day).

Just as you need to take responsibility for your health, you also need to take responsibility for your thoughts and the events in your life.

Great article Stephen! I can already feel a health specific variety of it brewing in my head.
.-= Vin – NaturalBias´s last blog ..The Deception and Danger of Grain Based Foods =-.

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Alex - unleash reality June 16, 2009 at 4:05 pm

hey Stephen!

really liked this post.

interesting to think about what advice i’d give that i think everyone in personal development would take. i’d probably say, “let go”.

funny you wrote this now too because just been working on a post about this and the perils of everybody’s beloved “self help” and “personal development” industry. going to be called “fortune cookie philosophy” – should be done end of the week.

i completely agree with what you say about the way victims compel others to rescue them. it’s just an ego thing in my opinion – a cry for attention, for validation, a need for oneness.

…but isn’t that something we do all the time? we give up control so that we can be the hero and regain control. we make ourselves vulnerable so we can regain our security. question is, can you let go of wanting the feeling of control, security etc. (note the sedona method influence :) )

man, was so difficult for me to convey the idea of neutrality of situations. you put it really well here about things not not being good or bad :p

i like your suggestion for sorting the whole mess out – sorting your own situation out first. really solid, applicable advice.

inspiring stuff
gave it a stumble :)

all the best
alex – unleash reality
.-= Alex – unleash reality´s last blog ..Rap Battles and a Cuppa Tea =-.

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Steve June 16, 2009 at 9:59 pm

Beautiful post. Part of taking responsibility is being willing to acknowledge when we have been victimized, but we cannot let it stop there. I have most enjoyed Brian Tracy’s story: how, at a young age, he had been kicked out of school, and was working odd jobs, until he one day realized the magic phrase that separates the truly successful from the mediocre: “I am responsible.” No matter what happens: “I am responsible”. If you can commit to owning that phrase in your life, you will truly be successful. “I am the key.”
.-= Steve´s last blog ..How To Get Off Your Butt When You’re In a Slump =-.

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Dragos Roua June 17, 2009 at 2:35 am

Powerful!

It takes courage to understand that you’ve been victimized and a lot of power to get out of there. I know because I was there for years. The most difficult part is to empower the victimized. Strangely enough you can only empower them by observing and not interfering. Not helping them is the only way to help them.

Thanks for this one :-)

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Stephen Mills June 17, 2009 at 11:56 am

@Lori, thanks for your comments and support. It’s so easy to blame others or circumstances but that gets you absolutely nowhere and in fact inhibits your ability to do something about it. This was really good:

“There’s no greater gift you can give someone than belief in her ability to take care of herself.”

Thanks.

@Roger, I like that part too. Whenever I feel sorry for myself, I seem to run across someone or something that reminds me how good I have it.

@Jay, you are so right. I have lived long enough to see it get much worse. We are becoming more and more a society of victims.

@Deb, I agree. It’s so common we barely notice if at all. Thanks for offering your comments.

@Nelia, no doubt it was a challenge. We all have challenges of some kind and regardless of whether someone gets it worse than someone else, it doesn’t change the fact that playing the victim doesn’t do anything to improve the situation. Thanks for stopping by!

@Vin, good luck on the brewing :-) It is much easier said than done of course. For some reason, biological or cultural, it seems normal for us to complain instead of act. Easy or not though, it’s still so counter-productive and makes the situation worse and not better.

@Alex, Thanks for the comment. Letting go is critical. I can’t wait to read your article on fortune cookie philosophy!

@Steve, I agree about acknowledging your situation and emotions. We all have been and are victims of people or circumstances in the sense that things happen to us that we don’t consider idea. We can call that being victimized. You can’t suppress your feelings but you can change by changing your perspective.

@Dragos, Thanks buddy! I think encouragement and living by example are the best things you can do to help others. In the end the only true solution for them is to help themselves. Otherwise they’ll just be a victim again.

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills June 17, 2009 at 5:47 pm

Stephen, what a pointed and empowering article. It has always amazed me how many people respond to the very concept of “taking responsibility.” As If it were a burden or even an impossibility. In reality, assuming full responsibility for your life is the most liberating thing you can do. It is, in actuality, the fast track to freedom and control.
.-= Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills´s last blog ..The 5 Dimensions of Knowledge =-.

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Mark Foo | TheBigDreamer.com June 18, 2009 at 12:11 pm

Hi Stephen,

I’m absolutely with you on this. Highly successful people assume 100% responsibility for everything they experience in their lives. When things go wrong, they don’t make excuses; they don’t blame everyone and everything else; and they take actions to turn things around instead of complaining about it like most people would.

Thanks so much for this post!

Cheers~

Mark
.-= Mark Foo | TheBigDreamer.com´s last blog ..Don’t Lose Focus On What Is Already Working For You =-.

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Mike June 19, 2009 at 9:32 am

This really resonated with me. Thanks. So often I have brought people into my misery. It sonds harsh… but that is the reality. Basically you are in a very selfish mindset when feeling down on yourself. You just want people to save you and give attension to your problem.
When you are miserable -particularly around people, people will notice you. You get validated. The ‘ego’ doesn’t really distinguish between the negative and positive. You are being noticed and that is enough because it provides the illusion that you are important. Wanting to feel special, and even superior. That is easy when you have a lot of problems. “The world is against you,and you are up against the world” mentality can be, paradoxicaly, pretty empowering.

I have been guilty of making other people try and solve my problems so many times. Usually I would ‘pick’ people who I looked up to. Like my teacher or agent. I became very good at using other people’s time to solve my problems. I realise now (Your post helped with that) that by doing that I was only making my problems stronger and re-establishing useless and crippling thought patterns.

It is very important to get out of a victim mindset. Even though it is a huge challenge because often times that will be the one thing that sepreates you from everyone else- that gives your life meaning. Gradually you can get out of that by just being aware of the thought patterns and just glimpse the truth of most sittuations.

Everything is OK.

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Suzanne June 21, 2009 at 10:19 am

Stephen, I’m here from a link provided by Lisis at Quest for Balance (http://www.questforbalance.com) and I think I’ve found a new blog to add to my reader.

Thanks for the insightful post. The victim mentality is one I come up against in others and it makes me bristle, on the inside. I see how they believe it serves them, yet I do not buy-in. Only some recognize my participation (or in the eyes of some, a lack thereof) in their empowerment over this “affliction”.

P.S. The Comment Luv plug-in (or is it a widget?) on the bottom of the Comments area just keeps processing and not finishing.

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kimmy June 24, 2009 at 5:22 pm

Just found your site the first time and haven’t gone to read anything else here yet. But from this post alone, definitely this will be my new fav.

To me, this is one of the first-rated highly mature post. Absolutely love it!

But I have always been wondering and am writing here only because of the site is named the rat race trap. I think those who come across your post are neither of those two types you described as victims and owners. The real victims will not be able to resonate much and utilize the message, while the owners are busy with their lives. End up we are just a bunch of people enjoying intellectual articulation. I am writing this because I considered myself coming out from a period of being a victim. I am still trying to figure out how this was possible since I wasn’t one before and how did I come out of it. But I remembered during the time I was feeling victim, everything I came across just reinforced that feeling. I tried to imagine had I read this post back then, what would be my response. Cleaning up my situation? I was so much in confusion that I couldn’t tell what was what. Everything is a fine line, like you mentioned, and when something happened, either something like Katrina or a series of smaller events in my case, it took away that line from me and the next thing I know, I was already at the bottom of it, by which I mean everything I saw just reinforce it. I am in the process of doing my own “lesson learned.” :) Would love to hear your further insight.

I hope I have it come across right, by no mean of being negative from my heart. (English is not my first language.)

Kimmy

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Doug Rosbury July 19, 2009 at 9:45 am

Being a victim is a choice. being a victim of a situation like katrina is ridiculous.
Why is it that you made the decision to be in that part of the country in the first
place? Whose fault is it that you were there exposing yourself to such a disaster?
To make yourself a victim of something you could have avoided shows a sense of
unconsciousness on your part. Victimhood is a way of expressing your tendency to
express a controlling and self serving nature. It is a chosen opportunity to be a burden on society rather than a productive member. Every situation that visits you
has been created by you and definitely not by God. Don’t be stupid and
ridiculous.———–Doug Rosbury

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Lalitha Brahma October 7, 2009 at 8:39 pm

Excellent article. Whenever a situation arises, where I feel like a Victim, I quickly ask myself, how can choose to view the situation differetly and be a victor? Its all in the mindset.

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BunnygotBlog December 6, 2009 at 1:54 pm

So many people who are victimized are brainwashed into believing they deserve the abuse by their abuser. It is sad when people don’t realize they have the strength to change their situation. It takes courage and gumption and a lot of faith.
There are places to get help if you don’t have a friend or family.
Great article!

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James Morin December 6, 2009 at 6:50 pm

Have a heat Stephen. “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.” A man from another country told me about America, “there is no mercy.” All this is a lot of blame the victim Puritan bullshit.

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Carol Walczak August 4, 2011 at 7:19 am

Good strong article. There may be a fine line at times between someone who needs a hand up or a boost to get going, and someone who just wants attention but will never change what they do. But if you follow your gut feeling you will know which is which.
Carol Walczak´s last [type] ..Choose_to_Live: RT @dia_2008: Everything God is telling the preacher he is telling you. God does not have a favorite person or spokesman

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Julie October 3, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Do you not know it is our duty to help the poor in this world? Nobody gets rich on their own. Everybody has got some help financially from someone at some point in their lives. What matters is you don’t look at yourself as being a “victim.” Bad things happen, but as a result there is a positive outcome we need to realize that will come out of the situation, or circumstances on what we are going, or have gone through in life. You need to get down to HOW the problem occurred, and GET INVOLVED to find an accurate solution to it, which could eliminate such a problem from happening to many other people in the world.

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batting helmets with mask June 5, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Such a good blog. Well done

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