Playing the victim is an easy trap to fall into when faced with the many challenges life brings us. The problem with victimhood is we don’t always know we’re living there. When faced with a problem, how do you respond? Do these scenarios below sound familar?
Have you ever been faced with a seemingly impossible situation? A problem with no solution in sight? You’re feeling stuck and directionless. You’re open to insight from others and you’re committed to not letting the problem get the best of you. The problem still exists but you’re still powerful. You will figure it out.
Now what about this scenario. Have you ever been faced with a seemingly impossible situation? A problem with no solution in sight? You’re feeling stuck and directionless. People have given you ideas, but you’re convinced it wouldn’t work because of x, y, or z. The problem feels too hard, so you decide to just co-exist with it. Pretty soon, your problem actually starts to make life easier. Now you have a legit reason why your life is hard. You don’t have to try as much because everyone will empathize with your problem. You become good at talking about it. You’ve come to depend on it and now you can’t imagine life without it.
Sometimes, to solve a problem you have to know what the real problem is.
Playing the victim is a common life coping strategy. Someone playing the victim has a “life’s not fair” attitude and they’re often overwhelmed. The benefits of this strategy are you have no responsibility for fixing anything and you get to complain. There is a price that comes with playing the victim. You have no sense of being able to change anything. You’re known to be ineffective and a whiner. Victims have no power or influence.
Victimhood is a choice. I’m often confronted with this reality when my husband asks me, “What more is possible?” That’s his power question. He’s the optimistic one between the two of us and the pessimistic side of me likes to roll my eyes when I hear that question. Sometimes I just want to feel bad about my problem and have a few “woe is me” moments. Which, to be clear, is okay…to an extent. Sometimes what we’re faced with and what we’re going through is hard. Acknowledging that fact can help us get past the emotional weight we may be feeling. Our emotions, while good, can often deceive us if we’re not vigilant. We are capable of making choices despite what we may be feeling. Understanding this is the key to steering clear of victimhood.
So, what more is possible? Can you think of small or big areas where playing the victim has gotten the best of you? It’s an easy fix that requires some mental homework. First, acknowledge the problem and the feelings that come with it. Let yourself feel them and process alone or with a trusted friend. Give yourself a time limit though for this step. Victimhood starts to look really good if you stay in this step too long.
Second, decide who you are going to be despite what you’re facing. Are you powerful even if you don’t know what to do? Are you capable of believing there is a solution out there? Can you deal with what’s in front of you even if it doesn’t feel fair? Will you be brave when you face a set-back?
Lastly, don’t go at this alone. Taking responsibility for your problems doesn’t mean you have to face them alone. Now that you’re owning your problems, it’s important to have people to lean on. Your problems won’t get easier just because you decide to deal with them. You’ll need a new coping strategy for when things get hard. A good strategy is having a trusted friend to confide in. They aren’t there to solve your problem but support you as you solve it.
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By Mary Flom