You know how, in every horror movie, there’s the one person that runs back into the haunted mansion? Or they run into the creepy forest first? The audience always knows what’s going to happen. The victim always goes in first. There’s a reason so many horror movies are alike: They all need a victim. That role is great when you having a budding Hollywood career, but not when you’re trying to manage a career.
Your personal brand is how you sell yourself. Are you selling yourself as a victim? If so, unfortunately, others may be “buying it.”
So, what happens when you find yourself starring in your own personal horror movie as the victim? It’s easy to get caught up in the “woe-as-me’s” and the “everyone-is-out-to-get-me’s.” And that’s fine for a brief period when you are sorting through some hard changes. But, if left unchecked, before you know it, you are spiraling into a permanent victim mentality.
While the world is very interconnected, we all tend to live in our own little worlds in silos. And if you’re not careful, that silo becomes your own echo chamber. It’s like a carnival house of mirrors, where you are only own reflecting your obstacles, bad habits and bad attitude back. Some of those sneaky victim mentality thoughts are:
Everyone is always against me.
I never get the best jobs/projects.
I’m never going to make a sale.
No one really respects or appreciates me.
Good things never happen to me.
The 3 Roles
Even scarier, some research even suggests that a victim mentality can be nearly addictive when it’s seen as a benefit and is part of your self-identity. The term “learned helplessness” applies to multiple areas of psychiatric research, and it can apply to how we live our lives. Being a perpetual victim can sometimes be the easy way out – when no one expects more from you. Some of the people around us, like friends, family or even managers, enable that mentality, and it becomes a nasty cycle.
Victim mentality is rampant in the workplace. We all know those people: the blamer, the shamer and the martyr. Each role is not a real victim. Maybe at one point they were, and they gained attention or other benefit from it, but now they are just volunteering in their own victimizing thoughts.
- The Blamer: This person can’t take responsibility for anything that goes wrong. They have trouble apologizing and feel like the world is out to get them. In the workplace, this person is not a team player and makes it hard for your coworkers to trust you.
- The Shamer: This person is quick to point out the faults of others. They deflect their internal feelings of inadequacy and put it on others, hoping no one will see how ashamed they are. In the workplace, this person isn’t trusted and is not invited to help in big projects because no one likes a deconstructive critic.
- The Martyr: This person takes all the blame – even for stuff they weren’t part of. Their favorite word is “sorry,” which basically takes all meaning away from the sentiment. In the workplace, they are exhausting to be around because they can’t stop finding things to be sorry about and make themselves more of a victim.
Save the drama for your momma
You may see a theme in the victim roles: No one enjoys partnering with them. The victim mentality keeps you and your team from getting ahead. The key is recognizing when you’re stuck in a spiral of victim mentality.
How do you break the habit?
- Stop catastrophizing. Get outside of your house of mirrors and really ask yourself if the situation is as bad as you think it is or are you exaggerating your difficulties. Find a trusted friend who can help you tease out the truth from the “ghosts” of catastrophe.
- Take responsibility. You cannot control other people’s actions (despite your best efforts). You are only responsible for how you react to others. When a situation occurs, take appropriate responsibility and allow others to own their own actions and reactions as well.
- Self-compassion. Victim mentalities are usually a way to cope with uncomfortable situations. If you find yourself spiraling, try this trick: Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” And give yourself some realistic answers. Then ask yourself, “So how will I deal with that if it does happen?”
- Stop self-sabotage. Realize when you want attention and what a healthy way to get it is. Start asking for what you want – even if it feels basic. Baby steps! Realize that self-sabotage is a dramatic reaction to a non-dramatic need: respect, love, and attention.
- Help others. There may be no better way to snap yourself back to reality than giving back your time or talents to those who need the help. Showing kindness is the antidote to the woe-is-me’s.
No one starts out life with a victim mentality; it is something we learn and choose to make part of our personal brand. That means we can choose to break free of it, too.