Feeling defeated and victimized is something we all experience at times. However, if such incidents are frequent, especially when bad things happen, you might be assuming a victim mentality to a certain degree.
Understanding when and why you are taking on the victim mentality can help you regain control in life. In turn, you will be able to accomplish more than you did with the victim mentality.
Moreover, your confidence and satisfaction with life will increase as well.
What is the victim mentality?
Bad things happen to all of us. And although most of the time, we can’t control whether they happen or not, we can control our reactions to them.
A person adopting the victim mentality would blame the challenges on others and renounce their agency in life.
But what does that mean? And what is the victim mentality?
Victim mentality mindset, sometimes called victim mentality disorder or complex, involves a personal conviction that life is outside of one’s control and is intentionally against them.
They might see themselves as unlucky and others and life as deliberately unfair, thus making them victims of various circumstances.
As a result of this belief that life will treat them unfairly, and they can’t seize control of that, they renounce responsibility for their own life choices. Consequently, feeling even more stuck and paralyzed.
Being a victim vs. Self-pity victim mentality
When life throws a curveball our way, we might feel like a victim. If we endure harassment, fraud, abuse, or assault, seeing ourselves as a victim is expected.
In such instances, it is perfectly normal to experience self-pity as part of processing the experience. In such a situation, taking responsibility and blaming ourselves would be erroneous thinking.
“What separates being a victim from victim mentality is the approach to the majority of things in life.”
Someone with victim mentality characteristics would see the majority (if not all) situations in life as misfortunate and assume themselves as powerless.
Therefore, to have self-pity sometimes is a part of the human experience, but to do it, most of the time, assume a victim mindset.
Causes of victim mentality
No one is born with a victim mentality. People develop it as a coping strategy when they feel other methods are inapplicable. It allows them to get benefits that otherwise would be out of reach.
As a learned behavior, it was, at one time or another, needed and useful.
Most adults playing the victim were victimized in some ways as children. It could be through physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.
Furthermore a study even suggested that victimization experiences and social information processes that describe how a person copes with these experiences are assumed to play a major role for the stabilization of victim sensitivity
Although not everyone who experiences trauma will develop the victim mentality, self-victimization can have roots in a traumatic experience. It can lead a person to feel a loss of control over their life no matter what they do.
Furthermore, a victim’s personality can also result from adopting the victim mindset other family members exhibited. Observing them and the benefits they reap can lead a person to decide, more or less subconsciously, that it is worth following in their footsteps.
Once adopted, people continue to use it for the benefits it grants until the damages outweigh them.
Something needs to fuel the desire to change, and often that is the frustration stemming from victim mentality relationships. Not getting the advantages anymore could lead a person to want to stop being a victim.
Benefits of victim mentality
There are many perks to playing the victim:
Avoiding accountability for your actions.
Receiving consideration and care from others.
People are less likely to criticize you.
Evading conflicts since people want to avoid upsetting you.
Feeling you are “right” to complain.
Increasing the chances of getting what you want because people feel sorry for you.
Dodging difficult situations and bypassing anger hidden underneath the sadness.
Receiving others’ attention.
People expect less of you, and you can get away with more limited responsibility.
Declining things you don’t want with more ease since people don’t want to burden you.
The list of benefits doesn’t end here. Each person has their reasons for fostering the victim mentality.
Although it may seem at first glance that victims are powerless, the victim mindset provides a lot of power. They are indeed influencing others around them on account of the feeling incapacitated.
When people feel sorry and empathize, they are more likely to grant favors, forgive or take care of them in various ways. This, in turn, reinforces the victim mentality and provides power in relationships.
15 signs of victim mentality
If you want to change something, you first need to acknowledge the current state of things to design a strategy to change it.
Though it might not be easy to look at the symptoms of victim mentality and see oneself in them, it is the necessary first step.
The victim mentality relationships are the most revealing when it comes to profits and the dangers of this mindset. The victim mentality can be useful to a certain point in the relationship until people realize what is happening. Dangers of victim mentality include:
1. Damaged trust
If you have someone use your sympathy to carry out their demands, you begin to lose faith in the nature of their motives.
2. Decreased reliability
It is difficult to rely on someone who blames their actions and mistakes on something or someone else.
3. Work-related troubles
It becomes complicated for co-workers or employers to depend on the person, not taking accountability. This can have any number of consequences depending on the level of self-victimization and its impact on the team’s productivity.
4. Diminished relationship satisfaction
People close to the victim often feel used and manipulated. The victim easily becomes the victimizer and seeks attention when demands aren’t met.
5. Broken relationships
Close ones can tolerate the victim mindset to a certain point. Once they start to feel handled, they might question not only the behavior but the relationship itself.
6. Reduced confidence and life satisfaction
We tend to believe our self-talk and accomplish what it suggests to us. If we believe that only bad things await us and it is all we deserve, we will not feel good about ourselves or experience much pleasure in life.
How to deal with the victim mentality
Overcoming the victim mentality is not easy, yet it is possible.
The victim mindset is an acquired trait that emerged from past experiences, upbringing, and coping mechanisms. The good news is that anything we learned, we can “unlearn.”
Depending on who the person assuming the victim mentality is, your approach will differ.
Also watch: Motivation advice in how to overcome the victim mentality.
Helping someone overcome the ‘victim’ mindset (friend, partner, relative)
The first thing you need to remember is that you can’t take responsibility for their life although they would want you to. And even if you could, you shouldn’t.
Being there for them when they are playing the victim can be rather challenging. As soon as you stop doing what you did so far, they will use guilt. Therefore, if you are looking to help someone with the victim mentality, you should:
1. Identify your own limiting beliefs that keep you paralyzed.
What are the triggers and beliefs keeping you in the vicious circle of taking responsibility for them? Or perhaps help them assume more responsibility for their own life?
It might sound like: “A good friend/partner/son/daughter/etc. is always there to offer help/solutions/advice/etc.”
2. Create new ways you can offer help.
If you pull away completely, you will feel guilty, so ask yourself what you can offer and still feel like a good friend/partner/relative? Maybe, for now, that is a sympathetic ear and no resolutions?
Since you can anticipate their reactions tailor the suggestions that don’t have you feeling drained at the end of the conversation.
3. Prepare for the conversations in advance to avoid being sucked into the old dynamic.
Once you change your approach, they will try to pull you back into the old pattern. When we are under stress, we all go back to what we know best, which would give them what they want.
In discovering how to deal with someone with a victim mentality, it can help to have answers prepared to decrease the chances of falling into old habits. Modify as you see fit:
I am sorry this is happening to you. I am here when you want to think and talk about solutions.
I have X amount of time before I have to do Y; I would gladly hear what you are dealing with within that time.
Our relationship is important to me, but I can’t solve this problem for you. I am willing to be there for you by doing X for you.
I care about you, and I want you to feel better. It seems we are going in circles, though. Let’s come back to this after we had some time to think.
What if I’m the one with a victim mentality?
If you are unsure how to handle the victim’s personality or change it, don’t despair. You don’t have to know the journey; you only need to want to take that road to change.
There are steps you can take to start walking the path and begin to change the victim mindset:
Observe and keep in mind the damage the victim mentality is producing. This can help fuel the desire to change.
Be mindful of how other people are acquiring the same benefits without assuming the victim mentality. Knowing alternative ways of gaining the same benefits could help make the first steps.
Use “I” instead of “you.” Being responsible can be scary, but it is also empowering and will boost your confidence and sense of worthiness.
Identify the beliefs that are keeping you in this dynamic. Our anticipations drive our behaviors. If you believe you can’t do something, you won’t even try.
Practice gratitude for the things you have and value.
Lend a helping hand to others. Being helpful can help us change our perspective, feel better about ourselves and our experiences.
Consider counseling. A professional will help you uncover the roots of the victim mentality and help you grow at a pace suitable for you.
Approach with care and patience
Whether you’re confronting a close person or attempting to change your victim mentality, be gentle.
A person is most likely subconsciously choosing victim mentality over other coping methods. Any type of attack won’t be helpful. If you want them to grow and become better, treat them better.
Assume an empathetic approach without letting yourself become a part of the dynamic. Caring about them and approaching with compassion doesn’t make you a doormat. It shows you care about the relationship while having boundaries that you won’t cross.
The experience of taking on responsibility is an overwhelming one. It can be a long and fruitful journey because with responsibility comes freedom.
Once you attain your freedom of choice and accountability for actions, you start to realize your dreams and feel great about yourself.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Rachael Pace is a noted relationship writer associated with Marriage.com. She provides inspiration, support, and empowerment in the form of motivational articles and essays. Rachael enjoys studying the evolution of loving partnerships and is passionate about writing on them. She believes that everyone should make room for love in their lives and encourages couples to work on overcoming their challenges together.