9 Ways People Play The Victim (+ How To Deal With Them)

If you’ve landed on this page, you’re probably more than a little bit fed up. There’s someone in your life who constantly plays the victim, and your patience is starting to run out.

Playing the victim is a tactic that lots of people use, consciously or subconsciously. Often, they do so because they believe that painting themselves as the injured party could benefit them in a certain situation, or in life in general.

It’s basically about never accepting responsibility for their actions, blaming everyone else for things that go wrong, and complaining that they’re always the one who suffers, even when that couldn’t be further from the truth.

We all play the victim now and again, it’s part of human nature. Very few of us have the mental strength to accept responsibility for our mistakes every single time we make them, and that’s okay as long as it doesn’t become a pattern.

But if you’re reading this, you’ve probably been on the receiving end of this behavior repeatedly.

It can be frustrating and also a bit confusing to deal with someone whose default mode is the victim.

How do you know if someone’s playing the victim card deliberately, and how on earth do you deal with it, whether it’s deliberate or subconscious?

People can play the victim in all kinds of different ways. Keep reading to find out what they are and see if any of them sound familiar. 

Then, we’ll take a look at how you can deal with this behavior if and when you come up against it.

9 Ways People Play The Victim

First up, let’s look at some of the most obvious signs that someone likes to paint themselves as a victim.

1. Not accepting responsibility.

This is one of the main ways that we human beings try to pass ourselves off as the victim of a situation, rather than the responsible party.

Rather than acknowledging the part they’ve played in causing a problem, they point the finger at other people or contributing circumstances, and ignore their own involvement.

2. Not taking action.

When something goes wrong, someone whose default mode is a victim mentality won’t do anything to try to fix it. They complain about the fact it’s ruined, but they refuse to think constructively about how they could remedy it.

They throw their hands up and complain and will find excuses to never give something a try unless they’re 100% sure it will work out.

3. Not believing in themselves.

If someone tends to play the victim, then they will have zero self-belief.

They won’t have the self-confidence to follow through on their ideas or desires and will always find ways to avoid putting themselves out there.

They always manage to put things off or find a way out, and live firmly in their comfort zone, just coasting along. They always find an excuse to justify why there’s no point in going after the things they want.

They then spend a lot of their time complaining about how nothing ever changes and they can never follow through on anything.   

Whenever anything happens to them that justifies their negativity, they grab onto it and use it to feed their inner critic.

4. Not making their own decisions.

A classic way of playing the victim is putting control over their life firmly in someone else’s hands.

They let themselves be guided by others because, that way, they have someone to blame if it doesn’t work out.   

This need for guidance and desire to surrender to someone else’s judgement can lead to them developing unhealthy relationships and being passive, never expressing their wants or needs.

5. Not treating themselves well.

The narrative that someone like this has in their head is that they’re not good enough, not capable enough, not attractive enough…

And, perversely, they’ll probably go out of their way to prove that to themselves.

They might tend toward self-destructive behavior, with habits that harm their health or damaging relationships, to try to show the world that their bitterness is justified.

6. Not forgiving and forgetting.

Somebody who views themselves as a victim will struggle to forgive people who they think have done them wrong.

That’s because those wrongs – real or perceived – are great ways of justifying why they can’t make changes to their life or their attitude.

They like having crosses to bear that they can show people whenever their mindset or approach to life is questioned.

If someone wrongs them, no matter how insignificant what they’ve done might seem, they’re quick to cut them out of their life, no second chances.

7. Not knowing how to pick their battles.

Those that go through life with this mindset are constantly on the defensive, so they’re likely to get equally angry about something small as they would about something serious.

They always feel like they’re under attack, so at the first sign of hostility they’re ready to counter, and often go overboard.

8. Not recognizing everything they do have.

People like this are blind to all the positives in their lives.

They focus so much on what’s missing that they can’t appreciate what they do have and find it impossible to see silver linings.

9. Not seeing the good in others.

Just as they can’t see the good in themselves and in their life, they’re quick to find fault with others too.

They will criticize others for small failings in a vain attempt to make themselves feel better or look better in comparison.

How To Deal With Someone Who Always Plays The Victim Card

Any of this sounding familiar? If there is someone in your life who takes playing the victim to the next level, here are some tactics for dealing with them.

1. Listen politely, but don’t get sucked in.

When they start complaining about this, that, or the other, you don’t have to be rude or cut them off, but you don’t have to let them draw you in either.

Don’t get emotional about it or be drawn into taking sides. Don’t try to present a solution or help them fix whatever the situation is, because they won’t let you do anything about it anyway.

Listen for a reasonable amount of time, but don’t let them bend your ear about it all day, even if it feels awkward to make excuses to remove yourself from their company.

Tell them you’re sorry to hear about their situation, but you’ve got something to be getting on with, or, if you can’t physically escape, change the subject.

You’re doing them a favor, really, as dwelling on their problem clearly isn’t going to fix it.

2. Don’t call them out directly.

You’ve probably gathered from all of the above that people like this don’t do very well with confrontation or criticism, so telling them directly that they need to stop playing the victim isn’t going to get you anywhere.

They may well ignore you, but it’s always worth steering them toward thinking about solutions to their problems for themselves.

Offering solutions yourself will probably be met with rejection, but if you suggest they think about solutions, you might be able to break their vicious thought cycle.

3. Prioritize your own mental well-being.

Constantly being around someone like this is really hard. It’s draining and it can start to take its toll on your mental health.

Sooner or later, you’re going to need a break. If this is someone you work with, then you might be able to speak to your manager and see if there’s any way you could be reshuffled.

If it’s a personal relationship, you might have to put limits on the amount of time you spend around them, or even let them know that you need to take a break.

Realizing that their behavior is damaging your relationship might just be enough to jolt them out of their mindset.

4. Say goodbye.

If taking a break from this person wasn’t enough to make them realize they need to make a change, then it might spell the end for your relationship.

After all, they’re probably not just complaining to you about other people. They’re probably blaming you for things too, meaning you end up spending all your time apologizing and feeling guilty, no matter who’s at fault. 

If there comes a point when you realize that the relationship is only doing you damage and they’re not going to change, you have to put yourself first and let them go, no matter how hard that might be.

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About Author

Katie is a writer and translator with a focus on travel, self-care and sustainability. She's based between a cave house in Granada, Spain, and the coast of beautiful Cornwall, England. She spends her free time hiking, exploring, eating vegan tapas and volunteering for a local dog shelter.