If there were an asteroid zeroing in on the Earth and you looked up at just the right moment to see it burst free of the clouds better than any summer blockbuster CGI extravaganza, would your inner voice dourly give you “Oh, bother” as your final thought?
If you look for relationship exit strategies soon after first meeting someone, consider whether you have ever actually sat in peace with yourself a moment in your life.
Do your friends always seem to get very busy whenever you need to talk to someone about your latest misfortune?
How many times does “How could this happen to me?” become the deepest philosophical conversation you have with yourself?
Life lived as though existence itself is a predator and you are merely its prey will age you and isolate you faster than any artificial means known to humankind. There will be many times where we will truly be victims of some wretched happenstance or another, but that doesn’t make us servants to caprice.
What we choose to do about the hardships and calamities that will undoubtedly befall us as we prance about on this spinning planet is what keeps us from becoming victims, and these steps may help to free us from tumbling down that slippery, self-pitying slope.
So…. are you ready to shake off your victim mentality once and for all?
Step One: Own your mistakes
An uncomfortable, distressing truth is that far too often, we’re the cause of a multitude of woes that befall us. We’re the ones who ignore the partner who always suddenly has a reason to leave the room when their phone vibrates. We’re the ones who seldom say no to anyone, but are never at a loss to tell others that being taken advantage of is simply another aspect of our lives.
Not everything in life is going to be your fault. Conversely, not every bit of unpleasantness makes you a victim of unfathomable circumstance.
Sometimes, your dog ran away from you simply because you insisted upon walking it without a leash.
Step Two: Free yourself from the easy emotional high you get from sympathy
An arm around your shoulders is like a deep sigh in the soul. A hug? The embrace of the gods themselves. The crinkled brow of commiseration? Morphine for your melancholy.
We love the feelings of comfort and protection that sympathy provides, but unfortunately, it’s far too easy to unconsciously engineer our lives to maximize our supply of this gentle intoxicant.
One solution: realize you’re worthy of not only sympathy, but love. Realize that your talents are yours, your achievements are yours, and there is worth in what you do. The resultant stream of confidence not only frees you from the need to seek sympathetic ears for what you see as the weight of the world upon your shoulders, but will serve to shield you from some of the smaller slings and arrows of cruel misfortune.
Step Three: Free yourself from the self-trap of pity
This is the sympathy of the self.
This is where you stare in the mirror and method-act your way through sadness and happenstance. Self-pity is the siren song of the passive individual. We live in a world where one of our primary geniuses is unable to speak without the aid of a computer, unable to move, and yet lives more in his mind and in actuality in a single day than most of us manage throughout the entire year.
We live in a world where people are born without limbs, and yet they paint. We live in a world of unlimited suffering, yet it is a world where even a half-starved child will share a meal with another.
These people do not seek pity.
The Earth should come with a sign: “We do not pity here.” Pity is something offered from the comfort of “I’m glad that’s not me.” What we do instead is show compassion, respect, and forbearance until we are able to make a change to either our own or another’s situation.
People comfortable with a victim mentality need self-pity to get them by when the sympathies of others are not in immediate supply. Freedom from this need allows the former “victim” to be a help to those truly in need.
Step Four: Realize that you’re not being judged by anyone
The boy who cried “wolf!” wasn’t bad, he just didn’t want people thinking less of him for not achieving his goals. Isn’t it amazing how often we reach for an external reason for failing to live up to some nebulous standard we imagine others have of us?
Surely, had we had time to do this, that, or the other we wouldn’t find the need to shout “wolf” to distract ourselves, would we? Of all the traits associated with victim mentality this might be the most difficult to shake off. Western society is largely predicated on the church of CYA: Cover Your Ass. We all seem to believe in one way or another that we’re under constant scrutiny for the tiniest slip-up.
Throw that notion away. You’re going to screw up many, many times over the course of your life. Some of those screw ups will be monumental, and other times no one will even notice. But if you accept that you are not being judged, then you have no need to seek victimhood each time you round a corner.
You are not a bad person for being imperfect. Imperfection kind of goes with the territory, right?
Step Five: Reassess your entire life
Seriously. We’re not joking. Reassess your entire life. Every single, seemingly insignificant bit of it. Grab that journal of yours and write down everything from your career choices and taste in friends, to lovers, food preferences, even the places and things you consider entertainment. If negative things are constantly happening to you, you may not be where you need to be. There’s an expression: “One does not place a lounge chair on the Serengeti.”
Are you upset because you’re never considered for promotion? Is it because the jobs you take suck the soul from your life and you’d rather be elsewhere? Because guess what? Management can likely tell from your performance that the job sucks the soul from your life.
Are you constantly let down by lovers? Is this because you seek out that most “romantic” of notions: people you think you can fix, being the selfless, grand soul that you are? Did you quit your job to pursue the dream of being an artisan of great repute… but spend all your time on social media?
Be very honest with yourself as you think about why various things keep happening to you, not just the fact that things happen. Happenstance is surface-level reality.
Then reassess, and make changes. Don’t just think about making changes, or talk about how you’re ready to make them, but do something about them.
Actions. Not just hollow words.
Please note that none of this is to minimize pains, cast aspersions, or in any way say that we are personally responsible for everything that happens to us. There are so many ways in which life can go wrong, and an equal number of people who seem intent on making sure our lives steer in those directions. This world has chased saints and angels away. What you and I will not allow it to do is convince us we have no power over its ills. We are not victims of some amorphous, grinning Chance: we are gods of our own making.
Pity anyone who fails to acknowledge that. Irony is strength, and contradicting old narratives is not only our right, but the imperative direction of a true, actualized life.
Catherine Winter is a writer, art director, and herbalist-in-training based in Quebec's Outaouais region. She has been known to subsist on coffee and soup for days at a time, and when she isn't writing or tending her garden, she can be found wrestling with various knitting projects and befriending local wildlife.