A victim mentality is something that can be really tricky to write about. Before I get going on this subject and share some things about me and my life that I haven’t shared before, I want to first make one thing very clear:
This post is in no way, shape, or form victim-shaming or victim-blaming.
I think it’s crucial (as far as the healing process goes) to acknowledge that you are a victim if you have truly been victimized, minimized, muzzled, abused, and manipulated.
There is a difference between claiming the role of victim in a circumstance or event and actually using the fact that you were a victim to make it your identity and manipulate others.
I have all the empathy in the world for those (including my younger self) who have been the victim of emotional, physical, and/or psychological crimes – especially as defenseless and voiceless children.
I think we all have, at some point, been on the receiving end of abuse of some kind.
Personally, I could not heal until I was willing to step OUT of a victim mentality and INTO a space of survivorship.
Victimhood became my identity after years of not being able to process the trauma that I went through as a child.
A victim mentality was the only way I could subconsciously protect myself from the pain that my emotional body still did not know how to digest. This created a great deal of shame and set me up to be trauma bonded in my romantic relationships.
My goal in writing this post, with all the love in my heart, is to shed light on the pitfalls of a victim mentality; how to spot it in yourself, and how to deal with others who are convenient or perpetual victims.
You may love these people very much but be at your wit’s END as far as their ability to deflect and turn the tables so fast, you end up apologizing for things you didn’t do.
What Is Victim Mentality?
Victim Mentality is a term used in the psychological community that refers to someone who essentially seeks “evidence” at best (or creates their own “evidence” out of thin air, at worst), to automatically place themselves as the abused party. These people are always the wronged and persecuted ones. They are the victim of another person’s actions; life circumstances, and every situation under the sun.
People who have a victim mentality truly believe that they have no control over what happens in their own life. They think that the results they get in life have nothing to do with them and that everyone is out to get, hurt, betray, deceive, use, and abuse them.
Everything is because of everyone else.
It’s hard to trust someone with a victim mentality because these people lack trust within themselves. They are highly offended, easily triggered, and about as predictable as the sun rising and setting.
When I was deep into my own victimhood, the involuntary reflex was always blaming, finger-pointing, and orchestrating pity parties for myself. The pity parties could happen through listening to depressing music, engaging in habits that contributed to my emotional and physical death, engaging in really impulsive behavior, putting myself in danger, doing things that went against my moral code, and of course, oversharing.
No matter what – how I felt on the inside, coupled with how my life was going (good or bad) was ALWAYS because of someone or something else.
Nothing was dependent on the internal, always the external.
It was impossible to have a genuine, meaningful connection with me because I didn’t have the ability to introspect. And when you can’t self-reflect, how can you ever be the problem, let alone at fault in any way? It’s always everyone and everything else.
How Does This Happen? What Jumpstarts Victimhood?
In my non-professional opinion and experiences, a victim mentality stems from trauma that’s so painful (and happens prior to the individual having learned how to self-reflect), the only available emotional coping mechanism is adopting a victim mentality (which soon becomes an identity).
Most people who have a victim mentality were victims as voiceless and defenseless children. Or, they grew up in an enmeshed family where codependency was at an all-time high.
One of my parents, who, although had the best of intentions, was always a victim. I observed how much attention this person got and as a result, modeled the behavior.
This leads us to…
What Can You Actually Gain From a Victim Mentality?
Looking back, it’s easy for me to see why I was so comfortable in my own self-victimization.
*The bullet points below are not blanket statements that apply to everyone. I am merely sharing MY OWN experiences here and am in NO WAY shaming victims. This is my own experience.
- When I was always the victim, I never had to take responsibility for anything! All I had to do was point out where responsibility should be taken.
- I would use my relationships to revisit the scene of an emotional crime in my past. I would then, be a convenient victim when it served me and a manipulative puppet master when it did not. (Either way, I was self-absorbed and manipulative).
- It was an easy way to get empathic people to be at my service.
- People were less hard on me because they knew how much I’d already been through. They knew my whole sob story and did not want to add to any more pain than I was already experiencing.
- People would eggshell walk around me and it made my inferiority complex temporarily go away. I felt powerful.
- I had people that would check on me.
- It was a very easy way to get others to view me as courageous, classy, dignified, and brave (I was none of those things).
- There was constant drama and chaos (that I created), which kept my lackluster life exciting.
- I got apologized to. A lot. And it was very affirming. It justified my self-righteousness and propelled my narcissism.
- Because I attracted “helpers,” I always needed to be listened to and “saved.” People did things for me that they wouldn’t do for others. And that felt fantastic because I never got any of it in my childhood.
I could go on but you get the point here. That was very embarrassing to type out but it’s my truth. And if it helps one person feel less alone; gives them the courage to self-reflect or to end a relationship with someone who has a victim mentality, that’s all I care about.
What Do You Stand to Lose With a Victim Mentality?
- Your reputation.
- Your mind.
- The ability to implement healthy boundaries.
- The ability to develop self-love and self-respect.
- The ability to create meaning and connection, which are the foundational forces of intimacy.
- The chance to become attracted to true love and leave the rollercoaster of romantic, hot/cold, yes/no, Jekyll/Hyde love behind.
- The opportunity to realize your potential and live life on your own terms.
- Respect from others.
- The strength you never knew you had.
- Decision-making that isn’t executed through the filter of your shame.
- The ability to be the hero and savior in your own life story. (You’re always wanting to be saved and rescued).
- The ability to unconditionally love yourself, instead of endlessly searching for external unconditional love (that wasn’t given to you as a child).
15 Signs of a Victim Mentality
- The trauma and injustices you’ve experienced did not “just happen to you.” It has literally become who you are.
- You’re a perfectionist. And because on some level, you know that you’ll never achieve perfection, you are your own worst enemy and harshest critic. There’s always some reason to doubt, sabotage, and berate yourself.
- You feel like the only way your life will change is if other people and circumstances change.
- You feel totally out of control and powerless when it comes to your relationships, circumstances, and life.
- There is a ZERO toleration policy for receiving criticism of ANY kind. You also can’t deal with rejection.
- You are highly triggered. The most constructive criticism could have you in tears and completely unglued.
- You think that everyone is happier, more attractive, and has “it” all “figured out” more than you do/ever will.
- It’s hard to see the good in the world. You feel as though the world is a threatening, deceptive, unfair (only to YOU), and hurtful place.
- Your worth is based on the level to which you can get others to empathize with, serve, and feel sorry for you.
- You love telling “your story.”
- Health issues are exaggerated.
- You compulsively (or pathologically) lie.
- Blaming others for how you feel has become habitual.
- When you don’t get the sympathy and handouts you want from others, you vilify them and become a victim to their opinion (which they are totally entitled to!).
- It’s hard for you to ever be wrong.
- Your outcomes in life are always based on what was DONE – never on what you DO as a result of what was done to you.
How to Overcome a Victim Mentality
- First, admit that this has become your identity and be KIND to yourself. Self-sabotage, self-hate, and punishments will get you nowhere. Don’t judge yourself for having a victim mentality. Just compassionately observe and take an inventory of your life and this pattern.
- Every time you want to point a finger at someone, turn inward. Ask yourself where you could have contributed to your own pain and the problem as a whole.
- Get rid of the “YES!” people in your life; the enablers.
- Understand that life is unfair. You had no control over what happened to you as a child, but as an adult, you have full control over how you REACT to being triggered. You have full control over what you choose to tolerate (in yourself and with others) going forward.
- Pivot when you find yourself complaining and remind yourself that you are in charge.
- Stop validation-seeking.
- Learn to say “no.”
- Learn to communicate that you are hurt from an EMPOWERED and strong place instead of a DISEMPOWERED and weak one.
- Realize that internalizing the behavior of others is like stealing from someone else. It’s not right and you’re not entitled to disallow others from owning their own behavior.
- View yourself as someone who has SURVIVED because even if you’re barely hanging on, you’re here and you have.
How to Deal With a Victim Mentality in Others
The best thing you can do when dealing with someone who has a victim mentality is to make sure that your boundaries stay non-negotiable and intact.
Know that these types will either suck the energy out of you with their emotional vampirism (sob stories) or, they will try to blame you (either directly or passively) for the sh*tty relationship that they have with themselves.
The only reason you would stay close with someone like this is if you lacked boundaries. Boundaries are nothing more than a recognition of value. Standards are the criteria that need to be met in order for that value to be accessed. If there is an absence of boundaries, there is an absence of self-love.
Love yourself enough to have limits.
Love yourself enough to appreciate the survivorship and empathize with others, but draw a hard line at it diminishing your mental health.
Protect your peace at all costs and know that there is life beyond what happened to you. And there is life beyond that of non-reciprocal, non-mutual relationships.
Written by: Natasha Adamo