Self-Esteem Killer #4 : Self-Identifying as a Victim

Post 6 of 7 in our Self-Esteem Killer series

Beautiful flower growing on crack in old asphalt pavement

Before I begin I want to be clear that I am not discounting the pain and psychological cost involved when people are victimized. There are truly horrendous things that have happened to people all around the world and most of us have some experience, wherever it might rank on the horrifying scale, of being a victim to people and events that were beyond our control. It can take a lot time, perseverance, and healing to overcome these experiences. My purpose in this is not to blow off that pain as being insignificant, however you may find I handle this topic with a certain amount of uncomfortable bluntness. You see I believe there is a difference between being victimized and being a victim. The first has to do with a specific experience and the impact it made on you which you need help and healing to overcome. The second has to do with believing that life is against you.

I used to be a ‘woe is me’ person. Feeling the sting of ‘what I wasn’t’ or ‘what I didn’t have,’ I felt like life was hard. I am a very mental person, and I do not mean in the sense of being crazy ;). In the past I failed long before I even started simply because my mind had already beaten me. What I didn’t realize then was that I saw myself as a victim of life. I spent my energy ‘reacting’ to its difficulties and feeling like I had no control.  Then I read this small statement somewhere and it began a change in my perspective,

“Most things we feel as difficult are really just minor inconveniences.”

I realized this was true about the things that stressed me out in a typical week. Most of the frustration and hard defeated feelings I had were, in reality, just inconvenient interruptions to my schedule, plans and agenda. I lived defeated simply because I thought life was out to get me.

This is probably the most unexpected assassin. Many people won’t admit, or even realize they view themselves as a victim. However, if you find the following types of phrases typical in your vocabulary, chances are this killer is sitting on your shoulder.

“God, why me?”

“Life is out to get me.”

“It’s just not my lot in life.”

“Why does it have to be so hard?”

Basically any mantra that runs through your head casting the blame for not experiencing joy, peace, and gratitude in life at something outside of self is where this assassin creeps in.

Being very frank, there are four mental shifts you need to make in order to fight this battle.

  1. Stop thinking you are the only one.

I am sure that sounds harsh, but it is just reality. Nothing you experience as hard hasn’t been experienced before. As I said at the beginning there are people who have truly been victimized, but the difference between being victimized and being a victim is where you choose to hang out.

Victims choose to stay sitting in the experience and add each additional experience to the list of evidence they are compiling for their victim state. Oftentimes they do experience the same situations repeatedly because they refuse to learn their responsibility in the ongoing cycle, identifying themselves as a victim to things beyond their control instead.

Someone who has been victimized recognizes it as a moment, a specific event, they acknowledge the trauma, seek the help they need, but choose to not stay sitting in it any longer than necessary. They work to learn from it and move past it. They seek to understand what broken looks like so they can learn what healthy is.

  1. Recognize you always have a choice.

You may not always like the choices but you always have them. Even faced with certain death you still get to choose how you will face it. When we identify ourselves as a ‘victim of life’ we often just ‘react’ to the experiences we end up in.

Understanding that you always have a choice means realizing that you get to pick how you are going to respond to the difficult and hard. Responding, unlike reacting, means choosing how we behave or think when faced with adversity.

I don’t get this right all the time. I have made many a mess because of what spilled out when life squeezed me. However, understanding that we always have a choice in our response empowers us to be more intentional in making them. The alternative is simply to react which causes us to feel victim to our emotions and behavior, as well as the situations of life.

  1. You’ll never be a hero if you see yourself a victim.

Donald Miller has built his business around the elements of story. One of the phrases he used when I was at his conference last November was, “No hero of any story ever self-identified as a victim because if they did their story would stop.” The main character of a story is never the person who is only a victim. Good stories involve a character that faces adversity, overcomes it and transforms throughout the process.

You are living a story, the story of your life, be the hero of it. Face the difficult and hard, overcome them and grow through the process—that is what a hero does.

  1. See yourself as God sees you—Accountable

We are accountable for the choices we make in any situation. God offers us and handles us with mercy and grace, yet we are still accountable.

We were meant to be in control of ourselves and leave everything else in God’s hands. However, in the brokenness of our humanity, we try to control everyone and everything else around us losing control of ourselves in the process.

Recognizing that you are accountable for the ways you choose to react or respond to difficult and inconvenient goes a long way towards empowering you to make the best choice even when it’s the hardest one to make.

At the end of life the only person you will be responsible for is you. Did you take all the difficulties of life and grow through them or did you get stuck in them and stagnate? We mistakenly think that the goal of life if ease and comfort when, in reality, the goal is growth, which usually comes by way of the difficult and hard.

Learning to recognize that you are not the only one to have hard experiences, you always have a choice in how you will respond and are accountable for making it will help you become the hero of your own story who kicks this self-esteem assassin out the door.