When I was a kid and felt misunderstood or mistreated by my mother, I'd think to myself, "I hope that I get sick or get hurt. Then she'll wish that she'd treated me better." There were times when reality and imagination got blurry, and I actually convinced myself that I was sick. This was the beginning of my victim mentality.
Years later, I was an adult (so to speak) living with a grown man, where I was the only one bringing in a steady income. I still believed that I could get what I wanted through passive aggression. So, I worked and toiled and huffed and puffed. You know, hoping he'd take a hint and bring something more to the table. Because men are always so responsive when we’re vague and indirect, aren’t they? Right.
So, this was my pattern. Allowing people to mistreat me and then playing the victim card. It worked fabulously for me and I always got what I wanted. Okay, not so much.
But that didn’t stop me from resorting to the same behavior time and time again. I gave my power away all the time as if there was some type of reward for doing so. On the contrary, my self-pity and desperate behavior repelled the things that I really wanted.
So many of us are unaware of how much we sabotage ourselves in this way. There's no personal freedom in playing the victim and it’s absolutely lethal to your self-esteem.
In my case, I didn't stand up for myself, I didn't respect myself and I didn't expect others to respect me. After awhile I recognized that I had this self-defeating quality, but I blamed it on my flawed nature and I didn't think I could do anything about it.
But I did and I still am. It’s a process of making more cognizant decisions about how you want to see the world and how you want to be treated. Here are some practical tips and situations that demonstrate how you can shift your thinking and take your power back.
*Don't take it personal. Don’t be so sensitive. So, you didn't like that person's tone of voice or you think what they said is unfair. So what? That's their reality, not yours. Allow people to express their truth without it impacting yours. Maybe you didn't get invited to something. If you think there's a misunderstanding, address it without bitterness. Otherwise, let it go. You can't control what other people think, say or do.
*Trust people to be who they are. If you know someone to be a gossip, then don't be surprised when they gossip. I've known people to have undesirable qualities, and yet I've continued to deal with them thinking that their behavior would never be directed at me. Use your observations to empower yourself. If you choose to stick around then realize that you may ultimately be negatively impacted. If and when that day comes, remember that you chose to play with the fire.
*Get to know yourself intimately. When people criticize or attack you, it hurts deeply when you aren't certain of who you are. Sometimes we catch it right in the heart and find ourselves defenseless because someone has hit upon something we are already insecure about. Am I really a bad person? A poor writer? lazy? selfish? The only defense for this is self-awareness. Know your strengths and weaknesses and be open to discovering new ones.
*Exploit your weaknesses. Getting comfortable with my shadows has put me in touch with a deeper level of self-expression and creativity. We are taught that unpretty things should be hidden, but I disagree. There's nothing more attractive than candor. One day, I started telling people about my bouts with depression and anxiety. I started talking about my self-doubt. Instead of feeling ashamed and letting it control me, I exploited it. I put it to work. Now, no one can use it against me and I feel more powerful because of it.
*Always start back at one. Be accountable. Remember that you are happening to the world and it is not happening to you. Don't look at life as a blame game, see it as a huge classroom. Confidently admit when you are wrong or when you don't know something. Remember that when you blame others, you only block your own growth. Know where you've come from, where you are and where you would like to go and find meaning in everything.
Despite my declaration that my days of playing the victim are over, I still feel ignored, misunderstood and mistreated sometimes. Who doesn't? The difference is that now I don't dwell on these feelings for long. I know it’s up to me to find the lesson.
Self-pity won’t get you what you want. Passively exploiting your suffering to the person you think is causing it, won't cut it either. Your resolution must come from within.