One of the first realizations you have when first embarking on this self-improvement journey to consciously design your life is you must be willing to take the initiative. Initiative is important to cultivate if you are to get what you want or become what you envision. That also means accepting and taking responsibility for what has happened in the past.
Successful people in general are proactive people. They take the initiative. Unsuccessful people are reactive. They blame other people for their failures.
This refusal to accept the circumstances, even those which seemed largely beyond your control, is called the victim mentality. Victim mentality is, at its simplest, the blaming of other people or circumstances for things that have happened to you, either now or a long time ago.
How Do I Know If I Have the Victim Mentality?
If you have ever made these statements, then you have the victim mentality:
- I didn’t get the promotion because it’s the good ol’ boys club.
- I can’t get a job because I don’t have the right background/skillsets/experience/know the right people.
- Jane didn’t invite me to her party because she is a stuck-up snob who hangs out with her own little group of friends. She likes to play games in deciding whom she invites.
Any time you blame other people for your troubles or current circumstances, no matter how much they may seem to be at fault, you are playing the victim. There are very little instances in which you are truly absolved from fault.
Why does this happen?
Naturally, the question arises: Why do we have victim mentality? How does it serve us?
Quite frankly, it is often easier to blame other people for your problems than it is to own up to them. It is often easier to place the onus on others than it is to place responsibility where really belongs: Solely on yourself.
When you blame other people for your problems, you don’t have to actually do anything to solve these problems. Other people empathize with your plight, thinking, “Poor you…”
Blame is just a form of fear. We are afraid of doing something so we use blame as an excuse and reason to justify why we do not have what we want.
Blame allows us to avoid taking the initiative to better ourselves through meaningful action. (“It’s just the way it is, and there is nothing I can do about it.”)
Blame and fear work hand-in-hand. Throughout our evolutionary history, humans have struggled for survival. Giant cats stalked and attacked us, making us their next meal.
As strange as it sounds, even thinking this to yourself is a form of blame: “Well, I can’t go out there. If I do, that big cat I saw earlier might eat me.”
What if that same human had said, “If I walk out there, I’d better carry a weapon to protect myself in case that giant cat decides to make me dinner.”
In other words, fear and blame were evolutionary adaptive. They ensure our survival. The mechanism that has helped kept us alive for tens of thousands of years is what is hurting us in modern times. It is what is preventing us from taking chances even though the threat of death resulting from failure is low these days.
Fear and blame were evolutionary adaptive.
Why We Blame
The other major reason people are consumed by the victim mentality, leading to blame is a lack of experience. Let’s go back to the big cats example. One reason we might be hesitant to carry weapons when venturing out of our caves is lack of experience in using them. So, even if we did leave the safety of our caves with weapons, they would do us little good. Instead, we rationalize to ourselves: What’s this pointy stick going to do anyways?
In the example with being excluded by Jane, perhaps she didn’t want to invite you because of a perception you lack social skills. Perhaps you may just need to work on improving your social and conversational skills.
Putting all the responsibility (read: blame) on Jane removes the “what-if’s” from our own equation. We can’t possibly be at fault. Jane is just a bad person.
After all, admitting we have faults is scary. This means our lives suck because we suck. This means we now have to actively improve ourselves. This means we have to do something. What if we fail?
So, we blame. Blame is easy. Blame removes the uncertainty factor in having to step out and actively work on improving ourselves. That’s the problem most people have. They fail to understand the most important investment they can ever make is in themselves.
Taking the Initiative
What happens if you refuse to take the initiative and become an agent of your own change? What happens if you continue the blame game? You continue to feel wronged. A terrible injustice has been handed to you. This, in turn, leads you to become more embittered and resentful. In what little interaction you do have with Jane and her group of friends, you unintentionally let your anger and disgust show. Jane and her friends wonder what your problem is and why you seem to have such an bad attitude.
To be accepted into Jane’s social circle, we have to do quite a bit of work to improve ourselves. It might mean taking up a new hobby, joining a club, or even just taking a class on basic social etiquette. It also means admitting to ourselves we are failures as a person. Our parents, too, failed us.
Would you want to invite this kind of person to a party? How can you blame Jane then?
You perpetuate the victim mentality with these thoughts. And bottom line: To escape the victim mentality is as easy as changing your thoughts.
It hurts to admit that the fault may really lie within us.
The Media Glorifies Being a Victim
Our brains play games with us in order to protect us from real, or even imaginary threats because we lack of experience. Our fear is in large part derived as a result of our experience levels. And so we blame.
It hardly helps that in recent years, the media has perpetrated the victim mentality–and to a large extent—glorified victims. It’s always better to be the victim than it is to be the aggressor, even though it may take violence to defend oneself from violence.
But you know what? It does take a certain level of aggression to pursue what you want. It takes initiative to put yourself out there and start racking up experience. It takes guts to start chasing your dreams, likely failing in the process. It takes aggression and guts to gamble on something that may or may not result in big gains.
It does take a certain level of aggression to pursue what you want.
If you want to be successful, then you have to start owning up to this simple fact: You are where you are because you got yourself there. No one else is to blame.
Asking the right questions matter a great deal. The victim constantly asks, “Why me? Why is life so unfair? What have I ever done to deserve all this?”
The successful individual asks, “What is the one thing I can do? How may I improve my situation? What am I doing right?”
Humans Are at Homeostasis
Humans are funny creatures. We live in homeostasis with our environment. If we had spent our lives being miserable, then as soon as something good comes along, the primitive part of our brains gets nervous and sends us scrambling for the hills.
The action we take to become responsible for our own future and our own happiness takes us out of homeostasis. We have just rocked the boat! We get nervous. We get scared. We start thinking self-sabotaging thoughts. We think we are unworthy. We think whatever thoughts are necessary to return to homeostasis!
There was a case study done on happiness. Two lives were examined. One became a quadriplegic in a horrible accident. The other was a new lottery winner. They measured the happiness levels of both people when their life-changing events took place.
You would think such a study was a waste of time and money. After all, what does the quadriplegic have to be happy about? If anything, the lottery winner had every reason to be happy.
Six months later, the two individuals were interviewed again. What they found was surprising. The happiness levels of both the quadriplegic and the lottery winner returned to the same level six months earlier!
Do you ever wonder why lottery winners seem to blow through their winnings in a matter of a few years, returning to the same level of finance they were at before they won the lottery? It’s because they failed to change their inner game, their thoughts and beliefs about money. They in essence blamed money and did everything they could to remove money from their lives.
Own up to the fact that at any given time you likely exhibit the victim mentality. Even highly successful people do it; albeit, at a much lower level.
Accept the circumstances for what they are. They are neither good or bad. They just are. It’s how we perceive the situation that gives meaning to it.
You are solely responsible for the results you have been getting so far in life. You blamed your parents when you were younger. But now you are a grown-up, capable of making your own decisions. Any results are solely your creation.
Monitor your thoughts as best you can. Take a step back and ask yourself if you are making statement, blaming someone or something. Turn it around by learning to ask the right questions:
- How have I helped make things better?
- What can I do to get what I want?
- Why do I believe XYZ is to blame? Even if I do blame XYZ, how is it serving me?
- If I could wave a magic wand, what would the ideal situation look like?
- What can I do to get to this ideal situation?
In other words, you have the victim mentality victim simply because you choose to be a victim. So, start being proactive!
Admitting all faults may have been created by the person looking back at you in the mirror is a harsh truth to face. But it is also empowering and liberating when you free yourself from the victim mentality.
There are lots of things you could be doing instead of blaming. Chief among them is to start asking the right questions. Ask questions which help you progressively realize your goals.
Start taking the initiative to answer those questions. Work on different ways to actually get what you want. Often, this requires taking yourself out of your comfort zone and actively engaging in self improvement. It also means having to put yourself out there to start gaining experience.
At the end of the day, we can scream at the world and at Jane until we are blue in the face. We can try to change other people. But once you realize the only thing you can really change is yourself, the magic begins.