One thing that gets in our way toward living an empowered life is feeling victimized by the actions of others. When we let the actions of others define us or interfere with our decisions, it’s easy to lose our way, to lose our personal power. The thing is, though, what other people do, don’t do, say or don’t say, is not about you! Below is an excerpt from my manuscript, It’s Not About You: How to Stop Taking Things Personally by Developing Resilience to the Actions of Others, where I share some specific examples of what it means to fall into the role of victim and what to do about it.
One of the hardest parts about knowing whether you’ve allowed yourself to fall into the victim role is that most of us don’t know what being a victim looks like. The number one clue that you might be vulnerable to becoming the victim is when you realize you are on the defensive. Finding yourself on the defense is a sure sign you’ve succumbed to the actions or behavior of someone else.
What if you had some other clues to help prevent getting to the defended state in the first place? Well, guess what? You do! There are seven signs to help you identify whether you are at risk of becoming the victim. Once you get familiar with these signs, you can do things to prevent falling into the victim role, or at least not falling so hard.
- You often feel lonely and have no one to talk to or lean on. You have a sense of abandonment and distrust in life. No one is there to look out for you. No one “has your back.” You feel paranoid, vulnerable, and often scared to take a risk because no one is there to dust you off when you fall. You lack a sense of community, connection, belonging, safety, security. Even if you have a large number of family members, you crave family—one that understands you, supports you, and loves you no matter what.
- You used to be creative, or always wanted to be, but you now have no creative outlet. Maybe no one encouraged your natural talents as you were growing up. Maybe you used to paint or dance or write but stopped for some reason. You’ve lost the desire to express yourself creatively and you blame someone else. Maybe your spouse, children, or job are taking up all your time, leaving no room for you to write, paint, or learn to play a musical instrument. Not having a creative form of expressing yourself has limited passion in your relationship with others, namely with your partner. Perhaps you’ve even developed unhealthy relationships to fill the void.
- Your self-confidence has diminished. You let people walk all over you or don’t stand up for yourself (when you know you should!). You might blame an overbearing boss or coworker for preventing your talents and job skills from shining. Maybe your partner has a habit of second-guessing you, saying things like, “Are you sure you meant to hang that picture there?” and now you’ve even started questioning your decisions about the most basic things. Or, maybe you are self-sabotaging by not “showing up” and honoring commitments you’ve made to yourself or others.
- You hold resentment, or a grudge, toward someone (or many people) and having a hard time forgiving them or accepting them for who they are or how they are. You just can’t seem to accept what is. Perhaps your mother abandoned you or you have a “deadbeat dad,” or your boyfriend cheated on you and you vow to never forgive him. When you see a couple holding hands as they bounce with joy on a walk at the park, or a mom and daughter having a lunch date, you get a twinge in your heart, feel jealous, and have to look away. Or perhaps you stare at them, longing for what you are witnessing.
- You hate your job and doing work that does not support your true calling. You are not speaking (living) your truth. Perhaps you don’t even know what your calling is, but you know it’s not what you’re doing now! Each day that you get up and head to work you are filled with a sense of dread. But, to pull your weight and care for your family means you can’t quit. You put your desires to do meaningful work aside as you perform your duties half-heartedly. You’ve got the another day, another dollar attitude. You have no voice in the matter. You just have to keep plugging away.
- You lack vision or feel confused about what you are supposed to do—your calling, your purpose, or spiritual path. You feel that no one listens to you or seems to get you. The more you reach out for support the more lost you feel. Your natural instincts used to serve as a trusted guide, but your intuition has misguided you lately. You no longer trust your feelings and worry you might make the wrong choice about something important. You just don’t go with your gut feelings like you used to.
- You have a general sense of apathy or disconnect with your internal wisdom—your higher, wiser self—and you don’t know how to connect to it. You’ve experienced going to church and have been left with negative consequences, leaving you with a general aversion to the whole organized religion thing. You just can’t seem to find your spiritual home to nurture, guide, and mentor you on your journey. It doesn’t make any sense to you how so many people can claim to be living in God’s light and joy when their actions and behavior do not align with their words—the outright display of hypocrisy has turned you off.
If any of the above signs sound familiar, you are vulnerable to falling into the role of victim in some area of your life. If you are feeling lonely and lacking a support system (as noted in the first sign), you may feel envious of your friends who gather with family on the holidays while you sit alone or go on vacation by yourself. On the outside, you appear to be doing just fine, but on the inside you harbor a sense of abandonment and feel sorry for yourself. You might even start blaming your parents for your circumstances. You’re blaming them for leaving you, or perhaps you’ve chosen to divorce yourself from them because you can’t forgive them or accept how they raised you. Either way, you feel victimized. Another example is having a partner who doesn’t support your desire to be a writer or painter or whatever creative outlet you crave. Or, you remain stuck in a job that drains your energy and holds you from your dreams. Resentment builds each and every day you go to work. If only your partner would let you quit. You blame him or her instead of looking for a creative solution that supports your desires and their concerns (often financial).
Trinity of Truth Tip# 6: If There’s A Will, There’s A Way
It takes will and determination to bring real change. Sometimes things will flow into your life with effortless ease, but other times you need to muster up a little courage and a lot of will and determination to bring change or make change stick or evolve into lasting change. Get quiet and imagine the change you want. See it, feel it, be with it. How does it feel? Do you really, really want change? If you do, what one thing—within your control—can you do? Name just one thing. If you can’t find even one thing, you are claiming the role of victim.
The secret is seeing the signs and addressing them right away. When we choose to ignore the signs, they get buried in our subconscious mind and gradually become routine behavior. And as we all know, habits are hard to break! Becoming self-aware helps to correct a problem before it becomes a habit. We’re all vulnerable, so it’s good to start paying attention to the signs. The signs show where you might be susceptible to becoming the victim based on your thoughts, behaviors, and actions. It’s easy to see these signs in others and get caught up in thinking about them, but make it a point to think about yourself when reading through the list.
You may notice a few or even all these signs feel familiar. If so, don’t get down on yourself, but rather treat it as an opportunity to expand your awareness. This gives you something to work with, to move you into a state of freedom, power, and ultimately peace.
“When wealth is lost, you have lost a little. When health is lost you have lost something of more consequence; but when peace of mind is lost, you have lost the highest treasure.” ~ Paramhansa Yogananda