Why do people nurture and feed a victim mentality? I am not an expert on human behavior, but I can share from my own experience. At the heart of my victim mindset was the idea that everybody else was responsible for how I felt. They were responsible for what had happened to me, what was happening to me, and what would happen in the future. The most tragic thing about this mindset, from my experience, is that the longer you settle in it, the more you convince yourself that things will never change, so there is no need to apply effort to improve or grow.
I held onto the image of myself as a victim. I held onto being a little boy who never received affirmation or recognition. I held onto the flaws that others’ teasing had magnified. Even now, as I have moved on from my past, my old victim identity still tries to make an appearance every so often. Even though I am a father and husband, the re-emergence of a low self-esteem mindset sometimes blindsides me.
Playing the Victim Is a Choice
Playing the victim is like firing the gun called ‘Blame’; it never hits the target, but always results in self-injury. The problem with playing the victim is that while you may succeed in making people feel bad, making people feel bad does nothing to help you live your life after that act of retaliation. The problem with playing the victim is that it holds you back from progressing in life. You become stuck in a period of your life that should have been a learning moment, and you turn it into a permanent part of your identity.
Gary Keller, in his book The One Thing, laid out the two choices that confront you every day by simply saying, ‘When life happens, you can be either the author of your life or the victim of it.’ I had to make the conscious choice not to play the victim anymore. As any writer knows, you write one word at a time. The best way to live your life is one day at a time.
Not Everybody is Playing, For Some Its Real
I would like to take this moment to pause briefly to distinguish between victimhood and the victim mentality. There may be readers who are victims of terrible, abusive, or neglectful childhoods. In no way am I suggesting that you are to hold yourself accountable for the abuse that was perpetrated against you.
Abuse against children is heinous and never the fault of the child. It is my recommendation that you seek wise counsel if this is your backstory. The victory that I will discuss in the remainder of this chapter may come for you as the result of intense counseling or work with a trusted spiritual advisor. Please know that there is no shame in reaching out for help—partner with someone who can work with you to find victory over your upbringing.
Victims Create Other Victims
Victims can be influential, but they never create victors; they create other victims. The victim mentality is a contagious epidemic that can contaminate our parenting style, our organizations, and our communities. Leaders are not exempt; leaders can acquire positions and still maintain their victim mentality.
However, it is impossible to influence people in a godly way and play the victim at the same time. You can only choose one master to serve. Bad decisions are made when a victim mentality contaminates leadership. When things go wrong, these leaders will fire the gun called ‘Blame,’ hoping that someone else will take responsibility for the mess and inflicting injury of self and others in the process.
I see this flawed expectation in many marriages and relationships. One partner demands that the other deposit validation and affirmation before they can give anything. Both partners are responsible for their self-esteem and cannot expect the other person to gift them self-esteem.
Changing how you see yourself is key to improving how you relate with other people. However, if you want to change, it takes time, energy, and, in my case, everything I had. I had to change what I fed my mind. I had to change the company I kept. I had to develop habits that fed the victor inside, not the victim. I urge you to focus on the things you can change and leave the things you cannot control in the hands of God.
Embracing a victory mentality means accepting the past, but not allowing it to control the future. The victory mindset also involves working hard to change how you see yourself. The Bible reminds us that we are what we consistently think about (see Prov. 23:7 KJV). Until you can appreciate yourself, nobody else will. No one else can do this work for you.
According to renowned productivity expert Robin Sharma, those with the victim mentality ‘recite their excuses and the victim stories so often they don’t know that they’re not seeing reality, they’re seeing life or reality through a lens of them being a victim.’ A victim mentality alters your perception of yourself and your world to the point that you do not see yourself breaking free. From my experience, the most important thing I did was to hold myself accountable for my future. Start there and see the shackles fall off! It begins with you, my friend. How is it possible?
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2Timothy 1:7