Playing the victim is a common response to challenging situations in life. We’ve all fallen into this mindset at some point, and there’s no shame in it. However, dwelling in victimhood for too long can leave us feeling disempowered and trapped.
When we react to a situation as a victim, we allow ourselves to experience emotions like fear, anger, hurt, inadequacy, shame, and rejection. If we allow these emotional states to fester, they can wreak havoc in our lives.
Acknowledging that we have played the victim role takes courage and accountability because our ego resists the idea of seeing ourselves as victims. The ego prefers to assign blame to the rest of the world and believes it is right in doing so. Personally, I know when the victim part of me has emerged because I start throwing all my toys out of the pram!
Have you ever felt powerless? That’s the victim within you seeking rescue. Have you ever ignored your gut instinct and then blamed someone else for the outcome? That’s the victim mindset at play again. Have you ever felt anger or resentment about your life circumstances but done little or nothing to actively resolve them? Yes, you guessed it right—victimhood.
How many times have you played the “yes but” game? For instance, when someone offers a helpful suggestion to a problem you’re facing, do you immediately respond with a statement like, “Yes, but that won’t work because…”? I think you understand what I mean.
As a therapist, I’ve observed a strong connection between playing the victim and shame. Brene Brown’s research on shame, which I highly recommend watching her TED Talk on, sheds light on this topic.
Shame is an uncomfortable feeling most of us try to avoid and will go to great lengths to escape. Often, feelings of shame lead to excessive drinking, overeating, gambling, or uncontrolled spending. Our ego also plays a significant role in perpetuating the victim mentality because it never wants to admit being wrong or having failed in any way. However, taking responsibility for our lives diminishes the ego’s power.
So, how can we stop playing the victim and start taking accountability for our lives?
By assuming responsibility and accountability for our decisions, past behaviours, and so on, we free ourselves from the victim role and stop running away from ourselves. Instead, we become the creators of our own lives. Moreover, we experience a sense of empowerment.
Here’s a powerful exercise to help you examine your current thoughts and perceptions and take responsibility for them:
Begin by completing the sentence “I should” for every area of your life, such as business/career, health, relationships, and family. Notice the feelings and thoughts that arise. For example:
- I should have left my ex-partner sooner.
- I should have sought help for how I was feeling earlier.
- I should have achieved more in my career by now.
- I should have been more proactive in building my business.
- I should be feeling more satisfied and happy in my life.
Once you’ve listed your “I should” statements, answer the question “why?” for each one. Explore the reasons behind your beliefs. For example:
- I should have sought help earlier because I suffered in silence for too long, neglecting my well-being, and now my health is significantly affected.
- I should have achieved more in my career by now because I’m 41, and it feels like all my friends have been much more successful.
Next, reframe each “I should” statement to “If I wanted to, I could…” This shift in perspective opens up possibilities. For example:
- If I wanted to, I could have sought help for how I was feeling earlier.
- If I wanted to progress in my career, I could have been more proactive in seeking alternative opportunities and dedicating my spare time to reading books that support my development.
- If I wanted to, I could have been more proactive in growing my business by attending more networking events and creating additional opportunities and leads.
Finally, answer the question “Why haven’t you” for each reframed statement. Reflect on the reasons behind your inaction or hesitation. For example:
- I haven’t sought help earlier for how I was feeling because I thought it was normal to experience stress and believed I would eventually overcome it.
- I haven’t explored ways to progress in my career because my inner “poor me” voice has held me back, and I haven’t proactively challenged that limiting mindset.
Now that you’ve reframed your statements and examined the reasons behind your choices, take a moment to reflect on where you could have acted sooner, taken charge, or made different decisions. This exercise also reveals any limiting beliefs, thought patterns, or perceptions that have hindered or are still hindering your progress.
Congratulations on taking this step towards transforming your life! Share this post with a friend to help them on their own transformative journey.