My past involved a lot of chaos and trauma. However, I’ve come to realize that my suffering isn’t that much different than anyone else’s. We all have obstacles to overcome and we all know people who have been hurt more than us. At times I wanted to believe my pain was greater, but I’ve been challenged to embrace the notion that suffering is ordinary. Still, I frequently find myself facing a choice between victim thinking versus empowered thinking. How I choose to see my life carries far greater weight than reality itself.
“We could spend weeks, months, even years … trying to change our attitudes and behaviors and not even begin to approach the phenomenon of change that occurs spontaneously when we see things differently.” —Stephen R. Covey, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”
It might be easier if perspective and reality were the same thing but they’re not. One situation can be viewed multiple ways by multiple people, as well as by the same person. Perception dominates reality every time. I think when the consequences of feeling like a victim are negative enough, we’re forced to adopt a different mindset.
What does victim thinking produce in my life?
- Hurt feelings (perceived negative emotions)
- Perceptions of abandonment
- Perceptions of rejection
- Perceptions of loneliness
Do you see the trend? They’re all perceptions. I choose to feel hurt. I allow myself to feel abandoned and neglected. Someone may reject me, but I decide to feel rejected and maybe even unloved and unlovable. I might take on a feeling of shame. If I indulge the bad emotions long enough, I may even progress to feeling hopeless. In victim thinking, I believe the world will never be a safe place to let down my guard. Rarely do I feel happy, because there’s no room for happiness under the umbrella of victim thinking.
It’s time for a huge disclaimer. I am not saying don’t feel your feelings. We must feel our feelings or we will have to work very hard to keep them buried and repressed with substance and process addictions, or other means of escape.
Feelings are real, but not necessarily indicative of reality.
We need to honor our feelings and acknowledge the wounded parts of ourselves. The tricky part is not allowing our feelings to overshadow our reality and dominate all our thoughts.
Bad things happen. Horrendous things happen. I understand and have walked through my share of them. Still, I decide what story to replay in my head about the negative things in life. I can choose to stay stuck in a bad story, or I can choose to accept and forgive. I can even explore how to be grateful for what I’ve learned in tough situations and foster appreciation for the person each of those encounters has allowed me to become. With acceptance, forgiveness and gratitude, I can decide to move on so the person, place or situation doesn’t hold me captive any longer.
When I decide to see myself as an overcomer, I am choosing to stand on several powerful truths:
- I am enough.
- I choose how to experience my life and the circumstances that happen(ed).
- I choose how to embrace each day.
- I choose not to indulge my own arrogance, thinking everything that happens is being done to me personally.
Ouch that last one hurts, but it’s true. Arrogance doesn’t just mean I think I’m better than other people. It simply suggests inflated self-importance, such as making up in my head that “this” happened and “they” did it to me on purpose. I might embellish the story even further and say it happened because I wasn’t good enough or because I said the wrong thing. To me, these thoughts are the essence of victim thinking. It’s warping everything that happens around me to make it about me. Again and again and again.
Victim thinking is an addiction to feeling bad about my life and about myself.
The opposite is choosing to walk through my life moment by moment, knowing everyone is doing the best they can—including me. If I choose to stay in victim thinking today, so be it. Maybe that’s the best I can do today. Perhaps I need another day of experiencing what it’s like to live as a victim. It takes what it takes and when I’ve had enough, I’ll gain the willingness to make other choices.
Empowering beliefs when we’re ready to move on …
- I choose to believe I’m not as important in everyone else’s world as I sometimes think I am.
- I choose to believe that most of the things that happen today are not going to be personal.
- I choose to not give away my peace for pennies, but instead to guard my self-worth, self-esteem, and daily serenity.
- I will adopt beliefs that nurture my well-being, instead of painful or self-limiting thoughts.
Today I choose to see myself as a competent adult—an equal in the world of adults. I surrender the feeling of being a child who continues to experience terrible things. I must be willing to grow up and step into my adult shoes, while nurturing those wounded, childlike parts of me.
I have to acknowledge my pain but I don’t have to relive it every day.
Too often we set ourselves up for circumstances in our present lives that resemble how we were hurt in the past. Life has a funny way of showing us reruns. The names and places may be different but the obstacles seem to have the same theme. The same troublesome boss, coworker or neighbor seems to be everywhere we go. Life is handing us a gift! It’s giving us the opportunity to make different choices or to view what’s happening from a different perspective. When we finally get the lesson, that particular rerun stops playing and we progress to the next opportunity for growth.
I must become willing to be happy and content.
If I want to stop victim thinking, I must gain willingness to end my addiction to feeling bad. Instead, I become willing to love myself and validate my wounds, yet with my adult voice, speak the truth into my life and into my mind.
Our subconscious minds believe whatever we tell them. If you doubt that’s true, try an experiment. Say a few of these declarations out loud. I like to call them powerful truths:
- I am in charge of my life today.
- I get to decide how I feel today.
- I feel great today and I am excited about my ability to make good choices.
- Today I am powerful enough to show up in the world as a strong, brilliant beautiful soul— no better than and no worse than anyone else here.
- Today I realize that I will do my best and so will everyone else around me.
- Today I will not feel sorry for myself but I will give thanks in everything, for the blessings and the lessons. Both are working for my good.
How did that feel? My subconscious likes powerful truths a whole lot better than the other chatter that too often runs on autopilot in my mind—chatter that only beats me down and makes me think I’m constantly swimming upstream.
Not living like a victim is a choice, one we get to make one day or one moment at a time. Hopefully more days than not, we will surrender our need to feel bad. This only perpetuates how we felt about ourselves and our lives as a result of circumstances in the past. Those situations are long gone. We are the only ones keeping ourselves down, continuing to suffer.
When we can embrace that suffering is ordinary, and that no matter what we’ve been through, there are people who have been through that and worse, then we can be free. If we have built our identities around trauma and pain, that’s all we know. Of course it only makes sense we want to hang onto them—until life becomes too miserable.
Ask yourself, “Am I ready to move on? Am I ready to embrace a life of wholeness and wellness?” The choice is mine. The choice is yours. For today, let’s choose to be free and let some joy in. Let’s focus on how we can be a blessing to others. When I’m so focused on what people are doing to me, how can I focus on being kind and loving to others? Once again, arrogance is playing the same old tune: it’s all about me. I think we need a new song!
Please join me in letting go of victim thinking today. Let’s do a random act of kindness for someone else and enjoy how nice that feels. Let’s feed our subconscious minds several powerful truths, allowing hope and joy to seep into the hurt places. Let’s take one behavior that seems to perpetuate feeling bad and today, try something new. Let’s choose to see ourselves as survivors instead of victims. Survivors are very strong, empowered people. Let’s embrace our true identities today—they’ve been buried long enough.