Why Coming Out of Victim Mentality Requires Looking at Your Own Behavior

Part 1 of 5: What Victim Mentality Is and How to Overcome It

Issue 42. September 29, 2023 ✨ Higher Power Coaching & Consulting

photo credit: Karobo Mdluli

This is part 1 of a 5 part series on what victim mentality is and how to get out of it. In this essay, I’ll share how understanding “your part in things” (as we say in 12-step recovery) brings you out of victim mentality.

If you’re not familiar with victim mentality, it’s a way of thinking that’s so deeply internalized that we don’t realize we have it. You might call it a paradigm, which is a framework for thinking that includes some basic assumptions about what is taken to be “true.” For example, the idea that the world was flat was a paradigm that informed many areas of life. There was a paradigm shift when it was understood that the world was a sphere. There’s often a lot of resistance to shifting paradigms because the assumption that the original paradigm is “true” is so deeply embedded.

That can be true of victim mentality as well. That was definitely true for me! This mindset shift was the most important one of my recovery, and I continue to come out of victim mentality to this day. The thing that helped me the most was doing step 4, where we take a “searching and fearless moral inventory”, or in plain language, come to understand “our part in things.”

In other words, we start looking at the things we’ve been doing in our lives that have created chaos, drama, and unmanageability. Instead of assuming all the bad shit in our lives was because of someone else, we start to entertain the idea that maybe, just maybe, I had something to do with the muck and mire of my life.

When you have victim mentality, it means you’ve internalized the belief that you don’t have anything to do with the fucked up things happening in your life. The biggest problem with that mentality is that if you think you have nothing to do with it, then there’s no impetus to change.

If you really think the shitty things going on in your life are the fault of another person, group of people, organization, or public institution, then you’re not going to do anything to change them. The problem with that attitude is if everybody else is really the problem, you’re fucked! Coming out of victim mentality means you start to realize you actually have choices.

One clue that might help you see if you have victim mentality is this: if you think you’re responsible for all the good things in your life, and someone/something else is responsible for all the bad things, you might have victim mentality.

When you take a searching and fearless moral inventory of your life in step 4, you’re forced to look for your part. And guess what happens when you’re forced to look for your part? You find stuff! You find out that all that shit was NOT always someone else’s fault! It doesn’t mean nobody did anything, but it also means YOU did something to create drama and chaos, or at least make the existing drama and chaos worse.

And this is GOOD news! It’s good news because, when you know what you’ve been doing that’s been creating the dysfunction in your life, YOU CAN THEN STOP!

You can stop doing those things. You have choices about what to do in the future. You have a sense of agency in your life. Having agency means you realize you have the capacity to influence your own thoughts and behavior. You become an actor in your life rather than a reactor. You come out of victim mentality.

When you look for your part in things and see what you’ve been doing, you start to ask yourself “What could I do differently in the future? Where can I make change and have an impact on my life and the lives of those around me?” This takes us out of victim mentality because victims don’t feel like they can have an impact.

Keep in mind that most of us with the victim mentality have been victimized in some way or other in our lives. So it makes sense that you have this mentality. It came from somewhere. But you don’t have to stay in that mentality. I’ll be addressing how to come out of victim mentality even when you’ve been victimized in a future essay, so be on the lookout for that.

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