Do you often find yourself feeling that the world is against you, and it is preventing you from living the life you want? If so, this guide might be the push you require to redirect yourself toward a more peaceful, happier existence. Understanding what it means to be a victim can be the first step toward changing that, and drastically altering your life. Identifying lifestyle choices that prevent you from moving ahead in life can also help. Getting in touch with how you feel and why will clarify the reasons why your life is progressing the way it is. It will also help determine where you could be headed in the future. In particular, childhood experiences and past missteps can complicate your emotional life and trigger feelings of negativity and helplessness during your adult years. Those feelings can eat away at the very foundation of your sense of self and incapacitate your ability to lead the life you want. How you react or respond to challenging situations also reveals a lot about the manner in which you live your life. Do you live it with responsibility and courage or disdain and self-doubt? However, the good news is that you possess the power to alter your path in life. You no longer have to be a victim. You can survive whatever you have been through and live to see many more wonderful days. This guide will tell you how to change from a victim into a survivor.
“Refuse to become a victim of your circumstances and give a lift to your potentials each and every day against the wish of any obstacle you encounter!”
~ Israelmore Ayivor
What Does it Mean to Live Like a Victim?
According to the Wordbook Dictionary, a “victim” is described as someone who is “unfortunate” and who “suffers from adverse circumstances.” If you take the role of a victim in life, you may commonly assume that situations will have negative results. Consider the following points to determine if you might be living life as a victim:
1. Your thoughts are affected. A consistent pattern of negative thinking follows you everywhere you go. It is not unusual for you to think others have it out for you.
2. You ask yourself “why” a lot. Why does everything in my life have to be so challenging? Why can’t everyone just leave me alone? Why do others constantly make demands on me? Why doesn’t anyone understand me?
3. You lament. Rather than look for solutions and consider ways to change, you think, “Poor me! Nothing in my life ever works out.” Sometimes, your lamentations may come across as whiney. This type of thinking wastes a lot of your precious time.
4. Your feelings tell the tale. Do you walk around feeling like you are less important or not as smart as others? Feeling like you are damaged goods has probably crept into the dark corners of your mind. It is likely your self-esteem is pretty low.
5. Anger and resentment have become comfortable for you. In fact, you experience these feelings on a regular basis. You resent it that your neighbor won $7,000 in the state lottery. She already has a nice car, great clothes, and a respectable job. As usual, the good stuff happens to others and the bad stuff happens to you.
6. You look around and feel jealous and envious of others. Most of us have experienced some type of jealously or envy at some point in our lives. Perhaps you have wished that you could live in that house across the street with its beautiful flower gardens and stunning entryway. It disappoints you to think that the Smiths get to pull into that driveway each day, walk through that lovely door, and live in the place you covet.
7. You blame yourself when things go differently than you hoped. When others mistreat you, something tells you that it is because of something you did or that’s “just the way it is.”
8. You blame others for challenging situations in your life. Everyone faces difficult situations. The challenge is to accept responsibility and avoid blaming others. Isn’t it time to abandon the mindset that when others do Behavior A, you have no choice but to do Behavior B?
9. Feeling helpless is a way of life. Perhaps you tend to watch what goes on around you as if you are uninvolved. Things just happen. The world seems like a cold, unsupportive place. You may falsely believe you are unable to do anything that will actually change your situation or better your life. Is helplessness the over-riding emotion in your life? If some of these points describe you, it is likely that you feel like a victim. But your thoughts and feelings are not the only signs. Now we will explore additional signals that may indicate you are living life as a victim.
“Over the years, I learned to smile or laugh when I was supposed to. I kept my true self hidden; I did not need to unleash my pain on the world around me. Instead, I taught myself to ignore it. I did not realize that the pain was eating away at my soul.”
~ J.D. Stroube
Your Actions and Inactions Illustrate Your Life Approach and Sense of Self
How do you behave at home and work? What about in relationships and social situations? Your behavior in various settings and situations often demonstrates to others how you feel about yourself. Does your behavior indicate that you have assumed the role of a victim?
Examine these actions to decide if you are living as a victim:
1. At home, you waste time. As soon as you hit the door, you immediately go sit in your cushy chair. Even after dinner’s done or when the weekend is here, you decide to ignore your home projects. You just do not feel like it. You would rather be sitting on the sofa, watching television. The “hard days” you have had recently hold you back from creating the life you want. You have a valid excuse to do nothing, or so you think. The hours, days, months, and maybe even years fly by, and you still have not completed your painting project and other things on your “to do” list.
2. You avoid social situations. Meeting new people makes you sweat. Or you feel unsure about what to say when in a group. Others seem to look better, know just what to say, and live more fulfilling lives than you.
3. At work, you may stay in the background. You feel like nothing positive ever happens to you regarding your job. You believe that if you do the bare minimum, that is good enough. Is getting by and just collecting a paycheck your mantra?
4. You fade into the background when you are in social situations. The goal is to avoid being noticed. You prefer to keep from becoming involved with others in any significant or meaningful way. For example, if you end up attending your office holiday party, you stake out one area where there is a co-worker you are comfortable with and stay there for the entire night.
5. In relationships, you avoid speaking up. Sharing real feelings scares you. You feel like what you say is not important enough or you want to avoid making your partner feel hurt or angry. Going along to get along is your motto.
6. Even if you are physically or emotionally abused, you stay. When you are in a relationship, you remind yourself that you have been abused before and that others are rarely kind to you. So, why expect anything different now? The helplessness is your anchor in the relationship.
Your inactions, as well as your actions, signal how you feel about yourself. When you believe the world happens to you and that you are powerless, you are living a victim role.
“As we do at such times, I turned on my automatic pilot and went through the motions of normalcy on the outside, so that I could concentrate all my powers on surviving the near-mortal wound inside.”
~ Sonia Johnson
Historical Wrongs You May Have Suffered
We all emerge from the cocoon of our pasts, and our sense of self formed from our early experiences. Those experiences anchor us! Our identities are attached to those memories and happenings. If you are stuck in a victim role, you are likely suffering with memories of past experiences that were scary, hurtful, or negative. You have been marked in some way with a terrible, internal scar.
Examine these points to help you figure out whether you have been psychologically damaged by your early life:
1. Thoughts of past abuse haunt you. Your childhood might have been pretty rough. Adults were physically or emotionally abusive to you. You frequently find yourself thinking about these circumstances.
2. You feel wronged by prior events. Even if your family members disagree with your interpretation of the events from your childhood, you still feel like you were damaged by your situation.
3. You often wish your past could have been different. You wish you had lived in the house with the white picket fence and two perfect parents. Or that you could have been an only child like your best friend. Trust me, being an only child ain’t all it is cracked up to be. Things just did not go the way you wanted. There is also the “why” question: why did these things have to happen to you?
4. Faulty beliefs result. Because your past was so difficult, you might think that it is impossible to live a happy life. You believe you have been tainted, and see no possibility for living a joyful, stable existence. Those old tapes, filled with negativity, are playing over and over again in your head: “You won’t amount to anything,” “I’m just destined to live this way,” or I won’t ever have the life I truly want.” Driven by your leftover emotions from the troubling events, these messages repeating themselves in your head can make you feel exhausted and “heavy.” Are you burdened by your old baggage from the past? Historical experiences of neglect, abuse, and abandonment can lead you to develop an overall view of life that causes you to live as a victim. Your vulnerabilities may be exposed, and you might feel hopeless about the future. But it is time to get a grip on your life. But you can find the power to put yourself on a more hopeful path.
“It is important for people to know that no matter what lies in their past, they can overcome the dark side and press on to a brighter world.”
~ Dave Pelzer
Changing Your Script from Victim to Survivor
You can act and change things, so that you no longer hear those old tapes playing in your mind. It is up to you to initiate self-corrective measures, so you can alter your outlook on life and change your opinion of yourself.
Put these ideas into action today to begin to live like a survivor:
1. Open your mind. You can change anything in your life if you choose to. Even by taking small steps, you can head down a different path.
2. Find your confidence. You have made it this far. Reflect on positive things you have achieved. Listing them will help you become more self-assured. Isn’t it time you acknowledge that you have made some decent choices along the way?
3. Make the decision to show your confidence to others. Although that work project has stumped a couple of your co-workers, you know exactly what you would do with it and how to tackle the troublesome parts. Step up and offer to help. Although showing some self-assurance can be scary, you can do it.
4. Think positive. Refuse to allow the old tapes from the past to keep playing in your head. Replace them with something positive. Instead of, “I will not amount to anything because of my past,” think, “I survived my past so I can achieve anything I put my mind to.” Create an image in your mind of you burning all of those old, negative messages.
5. Finish. Regardless of what you are doing, make every effort to finish the task. Use your calendar and prove to yourself that you complete what you begin. Schedule time to finish particular jobs. You will feel uplifted when you see that you finish what you start.
6. Take responsibility! Own your own life! No one can make you feel a certain way or carry out a particular behavior unless you consciously choose to go along with them.
‣ You can do whatever you want to do. Create a happy life for yourself one action at a time.
7. Avoid blaming others for how your life goes now. Maybe your parents lacked nurturing skills or were even abusive. But you are in charge now. You are an independent adult who can take steps to ensure you are safe. Make your own life choices.
8. Love yourself, starting now. When you decide to love and cherish yourself, you can focus more intentionally on your own needs. Loving yourself will help you realize that you are worth the time and effort it takes to construct the life you yearn for.
9. Adopt a new mantra. Create a short, motivational sentence you can say to yourself that will help you become a survivor. Consider these examples: “No excuses - I create the life I want,” “I can do whatever I want,” or “I’m a survivor.” Say your mantra to yourself several times throughout the day.
‣ Place the mantra in writing on your refrigerator and bathroom mirror. Pretend you are an artist: paint the words of your mantra and frame it for a special place in your living room, bedroom, or kitchen.
‣ Telling yourself you can do something builds up your energy so you can accomplish it.
‣ You might find it helpful to adopt your own special “anthem.” Choose an anthem by thinking of a song from the past that energizes you and reminds you that you can make it. Some examples could include, “It’s My Life,” “True Colors,” “I’m a Survivor,” or “I Will Survive.”
‣ Choose a song that speaks to you and carries an uplifting message you love to hear.
‣ The point of having a mantra or anthem is that whenever your thoughts start heading back toward a negative place, you can say or sing it to yourself and turn your thoughts around.
10. Remind yourself about what is and is not in your control. It is helpful to realize that you are unable to control what others do, but you can control your emotional and behavioral reactions to them. Remember that 100% of the time, you have a myriad of options in life. Allow yourself some time to consider them whenever a tough situation develops.
11. Keep a journal. When you write down your thoughts and feelings, it provides insight about what is driving you. Only then can you figure out how you can change your life. Journal daily at first to get comfortable and establish the habit of looking within yourself.
12. Share genuine feelings when it is appropriate. Recognize that someone who cares about you is interested in hearing about how you really feel. If you are unsure your partner wants to know how you truly feel, talk with them about it. Let them know that you plan to verbally share your feelings more often. Ask them to listen and make efforts to understand you better. You will want to mention that you will pay attention to their thoughts, feelings, and words, as well.
13. Ask those you trust for feedback. Inquire about what others have noticed about your emotions in the past. How do they see you? Listen carefully for any clues to how you are coming across to others. Feedback from others can help you figure out how you can alter your path to one that is more positive and hopeful.
14. Tell yourself it is okay to experience some discomfort. When you leave a predictable or comfortable place, physically or emotionally, it can be scary and intimidating. Making changes takes some effort, but it will eventually be worth any initial discomfort.
15. Focus. When you stay centered on your options, choices, emotions, and behaviors, you will find life gets much easier. When we remind ourselves to stay personally centered, we relieve ourselves of the need to control others, earn their permission, or seek their approval. Keep your focus where it counts. The power is within you!
16. Consider seeking professional help. Depending on your situation, you may have a lot of personal work to do. You have the options to work these things through on your own, attend support groups, find a therapy group, or locate a therapist or counselor to assist you. Sorting out the details of your life and determining how to make changes will help you live a more conscious, fulfilling existence.
Use these “tools” to help you build a stronger sense of self and discover your desired pathway in life. Commit to applying these techniques in your daily life and unleash the survivor that is inside of you.
“Being a survivor doesn't mean being strong - it's telling people when you need a meal or a ride, company, whatever. It is paying attention to heart wisdom, feelings, not living a role, but having a unique, authentic life, having something to contribute, finding time to love and laugh. All these things are qualities of survivors.”
~ Bernie Siegel
Ten Books That Can Inspire You to Become a Survivor
Start seeking out inspiring stories and literature. Reading about how others persevered and rose above life’s challenges can add fuel to your fire and turn you into a survivor.
Read these inspiring books:
1. Bootstrapper: A Memoir by Mardi Jo Link
2. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari: A Fable About Fulfilling Your Dreams & Reaching Your Destiny by Robin S. Sharma
3. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
4. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
5. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
6. The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin
7. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff ... and it’s all small stuff: Simple Ways to Keep the Little Things from Taking Over Your Life by Richard Carlson
8. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
9. The Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbonsky
There is so much incredible literature that can light the fires of energy, motivation, and passion in you. Peruse your local or online library for inspirational works. You will be amazed at how much you can find to help you. The one author who I recommend the most
“I'm a survivor - a living example of what people can go through and survive.”
~ Elizabeth Taylor
Ten Films with Powerful Messages on How to Survive and Live Life with Passion
Another way to pique your interest and provide you with ideas about how to change your approach to life is to see a film about how it has been done before.
Movies provide us with many great stories of how others changed the direction of their lives.
View some of these films to become inspired to live your best life:
1. Pay It Forward
2. Life of Pi
3. The Blind Side
4. Eat, Pray, Love
5. The Shawshank Redemption
6. On Golden Pond
7. Coalminer’s Daughter
8. Stand and Deliver
9. Pursuit of Happyness
10. Searching for Bobbie Fischer
If you are a movie buff, you have probably already seen several of these films. Search for other movies that will fuel your motivation and help you become more confident, responsible, and inspired. Include documentaries and movies based on true stories, as well as fictional works.
“I am a survivor and not a victim. Life is not perfect. When you get a knock, you have to get up, dust yourself down and get on with it.”
~ Patsy Kensit
You have the opportunity to live a beautiful life. The power to throw off the victim persona is in your hands. Doing so will be an ongoing process that requires daily effort, especially at first. But the rewards will be great.
“Forgiveness has nothing to do with absolving a criminal of his crime. It has everything to do with relieving oneself of the burden of being a victim--letting go of the pain and transforming oneself from victim to survivor.”
~ C.R. Strahan