Not only did you spill coffee on your suit today, but your train left early making you late for your lunch date and you got passed up for the big promotion by your younger, less experienced co-worker. “Why does everything keep happening to me?”, seems to be the recurring question in your head. Your luck has run dry, and every day, there is a newer and harder obstacle to face. Nothing is going your way and it feels like the world is up against you. You’ve predictably become the victim and rarely the victor.
Changing the tide in this narrative seems like an uphill battle but the solution you seek isn’t as far-fetched as you’d think. Our diagnosis? You may be struggling with victim mentality. Though it’s much easier said than done, the simplest resolution to this problem is to change your attitude and stop being the victim.
Victim mentality, explained
A victim mentality is when one takes on the persona of a victim and feels continually victimized by the actions of others or external forces. Rather than taking accountability for their own role in their misfortunes, people who have a victim mentality tend to defer to others as a source of blame for their struggles. Some common traits exhibited by people with a victim mentality are self-pity and pessimism.
What’s a martyr complex?
Similar to the victim mentality, the martyr complex characterizes a person who often gets the short end of the stick. In this case, a martyr elects to sacrifice themselves or their needs for others while neglecting their wellbeing. As heroic or considerate as this may sound, martyr complex typically obliges the individual to act this way in an effect to boost their self-confidence or perception of self-worth. People who struggle with this complex tend to suffer at the neglect of their own needs and desires in exchange for praise and sympathy from third parties to whom they relay their good deeds.
15 signs of victim mentality
1. You blame other people or circumstances for your misfortunes.
2. You believe the world is against you.
3. You approach most situations with a pessimistic view.
4. You like to wallow in despair.
5. Everyone else seems to have it better than you.
6. You don’t take initiative in changing your situation.
7. You enjoy telling people about your failures.
8. There’s never a bright side.
9. You hold onto past misfortunes.
10. You blow your problems out of proportion.
11. You enjoy self-pity.
12. You have a hard time managing stress and stressful situations.
13. You believe all of your misfortunes can be blamed on someone else.
14. You get upset when people don’t feel bad for you.
15. You don’t acknowledge your role in your misfortunes.
How does self-victimization develop?
Typically, people who inhabit these mentalities are not born with them or struggle with them during childhood. A victim mentality and a martyr complex can develop due to a variety of factors. Why are some people more prone to adopting these characteristics than others? Some factors that affect your likelihood of developing a victim mentality or a martyr complex are your upbringing, societal factors and self-esteem.
We learn many things in our childhood — some of which we don’t recognize or exhibit until later in life. Like our values, desires and traditions, we can learn and adopt certain attitudes and mindsets depending on our childhood experiences. People who spent time with — or were even raised by — others who struggle with a victim mentality or martyr complex may one day find themselves mirroring the traits and habits that they once observed through an elder as a child. Being reared in a household where this was the norm can influence how one behaves in the future and can shape how they come to perceive the world. In these cases, the victim mentality might come naturally, and it might be hard for the individual to realize that they struggle with these mentalities.
Society and Environmental Factors.
Though most of us have had ample warnings about peer pressure, surrounding yourself with others with this mentality can lead to you subconsciously pick it up. If you find yourself with melodramatic friends and coworkers who always have “bad luck” or spent their free time saving someone else to their detriment, it might become second nature to imitate these behaviors as they are frequently demonstrated to you.
Having low self-esteem can make you more prone to taking on a victim mentality or to feel constantly bullied and victimized by the world. Low self-esteem is hard to combat and it can take years of personal growth — with or without professional help — to completely shake. When a person with low self-esteem has a victim mentality or a martyr complex, it might be even more challenging to break out of the mentality as it is sometimes used as a coping mechanism.
8 ways to stop playing the victim
1. Focus on your actions and how they can contribute to the outcomes in your life.
2. Surround yourself with positive, motivated people.
3. Try to look at the bright side of bad situations.
4. Be forgiving of others who make mistakes.
5. Regain autonomy over your life.
6. Be grateful — even for the small things.
7. Be kind to yourself.
8. Take full responsibility for your emotional responses and their consequences.
Consequences of playing the victim
Not only can playing victim cost you important relationships and connections, but it can also be detrimental to your professional and educational aspirations. Maintaining a victim mentality for a long period of time means that for many circumstances, from latenesses to financial hardship, rather than looking for permanent and effective solutions to these problems, you seek someone or something to blame. The time spent deferring the blame onto external factors turns into time lost on personal growth and learning how to navigate the world despite occasional setbacks.
Over time, employers, colleagues, family and friends become used to the excuses and the lack of accountability. Soon, what used to be a slight personality trait could evolve into your defining characteristic. A loved one might try to intervene, but if their efforts prove unfruitful, you may find yourself alone with no one to blame but yourself.