Do you ever cringe when you hear that someone is being “such a victim”? We often carry such harsh judgement around this way of being, although most of us slip into victim mentality throughout our lives.
In this episode, I’ll explain what victim mentality really is and all the various ways it shows up. It can be sneaky and seem very justified, but in letting it stick around can cause all kinds of unnecessary pain and suffering.
While many of us have been victimized at some point in our lives, we can use the feelings we experienced then to re-create suffering now. It pretends to be useful and true, but is hurting you more than anyone.
Tune in to see if you sometimes experience victim mentality, and learn how you can get yourself back to the powerful person you are.
I’m Andrea Giles. And you are listening to the Heal from Infidelity
podcast, episode number 40, victim mentality.
Hello, and welcome to the Heal from Infidelity podcast, where courageous
women learn not only to heal from their spouse’s betrayal, but to become
the boldest, truest, most decisive and confident versions of themselves
ever. If you know there’s more freedom than the life you’re currently
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Stick around to learn how to create a life that will knock your own socks
off. Is it possible? It is and I’m here to show you how. I’m your host,
Andrea Giles. Are you ready? Let’s dive in.
Hello, my friends. Welcome to episode 40. Isn’t that fun? Episode 40. We’re
just cranking right along. It’s pretty fun. Today we’re going to be talking
about victim mentality. Okay. I’m going to explain what it is, how to spot
it within yourself, and how to move past it. Sometimes it seems like it can
be easier to spot in other people than in ourselves. Totally fine. Okay.
Before I dive into the content, I just want to preface all of this with
something. I want to say that we all do this. Okay? We all have various
times in our life that we go into victim mentality. I do not want you
listening to this podcast and finding ways to punish yourself or feel
shame. Okay. Agree with me that you’re not going to do that, that you’re
not going to go, my gosh, I’m such a victim. Look at me. Okay. We’re not
going to do that.
We’re learning every single thing that I say in here that I explain about
victim mentality, I can raise my hand and say, yep, been there, done that.
Yep, sometimes I still sink into that. Okay. It’s just awareness just to
see, just to understand. Okay. No judging. Let’s all be nice. Okay. First
of all, I want to share the difference between being a victim and victim
mentality. So a victim is somebody who in the moment is being taken
advantage of, somebody temporarily has power over us. It can be abuse,
cruel behavior, deception, et cetera. Okay. There’s lots of different ways
that we can be victimized. Now victim mentality is when we adopt the
thought patterns that emerged out of that initial victimization, it becomes
a habit. Those things that we felt when we were victimized, we put on
repeat over and over and over again until it becomes a habit. Okay.
Through their thinking victim, in victim mentality, they’re keeping
themselves as the perpetual victim. It’s like the lens we put on. I’m in
victim mode, you’ve probably heard that, victim mode. Got this lens on
where I see things as life is a little bit harder for me. It might work for
other people, but it just doesn’t work for me. No one has it quite as hard
as me, bad things just happen to me. Things work out better for other
people. Nothing seems to go right. Everyone’s out to get me. You might
recognize some of that in yourself. You might know people who speak that
way. Okay. What are some signs or symptoms of victim mentality? One is
blame. If there’s a victim, it makes sense that there has to be a villain.
If we’re the victim, there’s got to be someone to blame. It can be anyone,
anywhere. It can be a child. It can be a spouse. It can be a family member.
It can be the mail man. It can be a business that we’re going to say is
robbing us, whatever.
Anything or anyone that will help you indulge in that story of helplessness
can become the villain to our story of victimization. Okay. I have to just
interject to say that my daughter is in the background playing the cello
and she started playing after I started recording. So if you hear some
[inaudible 00:04:24] playing in the background, it’s just accompanying my
podcast today. Don’t mind that. Okay. Another symptom of victimization is
complaining a lot. Complain, complain. It goes along with blaming, okay.
We’re not taking responsibility for the situation in any way, we’re making
it somebody else’s fault, it’s outside of us. It’s generally pretty
negative. A victim to things, the weather, your job, your boss, your car,
it’s all out to get us. And so there’s always a plethora of things to
Another symptom of victim mentality is wanting to hide. You feel fragile
like, well, I don’t want to get hurt. I have to hide. I have to shrink. I
don’t want to be injured, I must protect myself. We’re not showing up
boldly. We’re not showing up powerfully. We’re shrinking. We’re hiding.
Instead of thinking this thing happened, this is this circumstance, this is
what happened. It’s all, this is what happened to me. This thing happened
to me. Can you believe it? My car broke down. If this happened to me, we
can see that, that’s totally neutral a car breaking down, but it can be
used as a story of how we are just subject to all the bad things that
happen. We’re making everything about us instead of acknowledging that it’s
just something that happened.
We often can find ill intent instead of just, again, seeing things as
neutral, we are assigning ill intent. For example, let’s say that there’s
an event and there’s a cap of how many people can get invited and you don’t
get invited. Okay. Instead of just looking at the facts and going, well, I
can understand why only 20 people could go. I’m really not that close to
this person. I get it. I’m not going to take it personally. We might feel a
little sad, we might feel a little left out, but in victim mentality, we
are assigning ill intent that they don’t like me, that they just think that
I’m a bad person, that I’m not fun to be around, that they’re going to sit
around and talk about me. We’re really making it all about us instead of
seeing it for what it is, which is a numbers issue, we’re adding the drama.
In victim mentality, we are defensive. We’re putting up a wall, we’re ready
to fight. Somebody might say something to us and we’re instantly putting on
our armor ready to fight back. Like, you’re the villain, I’m the victim,
and we are getting into that mode of needing to argue, needing to fight
back, to maintain our story of being the victim. Many of us have been
victimized at various times in our life. Okay. I’m not trying to minimize
that. Please hear me on this. Many of us have been victimized. It can be
excruciating. We can be blindsided and go, oh my gosh, how is this my life?
How did this happen? It can feel almost like a bad dream. For some of us we
are victimized over and over again. And some of us it’s like a one and done
Somebody may have exercise control over us where we could not protect
ourselves in the moment, and it was most likely pretty painful. But what
victim mentality does is it’s staying in that victim mode and recreating
the scene over and over again in our mind, we’re recreating the thoughts
and the feelings, we are just playing it over, over and over. We’re playing
it on repeat, okay. We circle back to justifying our victim mentality and
why we’re right to feel this way. Victim mentality is very past focused
because we’re looking at the events of the past to determine how we’re
going to feel today and to justify our current pain. So how does it cause
us pain now? How does it cause us pain? It keeps us suffering. It keeps us
powerless in the moment. This thing that happened before, where we maybe
were powerless in the moment, we are creating that now.
I’m going to give you some examples. Okay. I have a client that I met with
a little bit ago, who was telling me that because of her divorce and her
husband’s infidelity and him deciding to leave the marriage, that she lost
these relationships with her former in-laws that meant so much to her and
that she made it mean that they don’t care about her, and that he sold them
on all these negative stories about her. And she was feeling really sad and
powerless to the situation like, I guess I just don’t get these
relationships anymore. He cost me all these relationships. And when we did
a little more digging, what we realized is that she was making up that
story. She didn’t know what they actually thought. When I asked if she has
reached out to them, the answer was no, because she was making assumptions
that they didn’t want to talk to her, that they didn’t want to engage in a
relationship with her. That was the story that she was telling herself that
was causing her so much pain. She really cared about these people.
And so between that session and the next, she reached out to them, she took
herself out of that powerlessness of feeling like I lost all these people
and there’s nothing I can do about it, and she actively connected to them.
She owned the situation. Now how they respond is on them, but at least
she’s taking herself out of that victim mode and seeing that there is
something that I can do that I have not done. Another client of mine has
been really for frustrated as she’s going through divorce that her
ex-husband often says harsh things, that she feels like he’s just flat
wrong about. And she feels like there is no winning with him, that no
matter what she says, he’s going to twist it, he’s going to throw it back
on her, manipulate it.
And so when he speaks to her, she sometimes gets defensive and she gets mad
and she tries to prove him wrong and tries to say, no, you’re wrong about
me. But the problem is that it’s keeping her stuck because it’s keeping her
showing up in this way that she doesn’t want to show up, that never has an
upside to it. It doesn’t actually move her cause forward. It’s not helping
her to own her part of what she’s putting out there and really identifying
how she wants to be. She’s reacting to him. She’s reacting as if she
doesn’t have a choice. And what she’s learning through trial and error is
that she doesn’t want to give him that power, she doesn’t want to continue
to show up in that way and take the bait and jump into needing to defend
herself whenever he says something harsh.
So she could go back to my episode about boundaries and understand how to
set boundaries and how to, oh, say this is allowed, this is not allowed if
you want to talk to me, but she doesn’t have to take the bait and engage in
what he says, she can learn a different way. So what we tend to do is I
can’t believe he thinks this about me. I can’t believe he did this to me. I
also see this with marriages where people are trying really hard to make it
work. They want to stay, they have a desire to stay. But what this looks
like when we are in victim mentality is I can’t believe he did this in the
first place. I can’t believe he did this. Who would do this? I would never
do this. I wouldn’t do such a thing.
And you know what? That might be true. You might not do that thing, but is
there an upside to thinking it over and over again? Is it actually helping
you move forward and resolve? Or is it keeping you stuck in the story of
I’m the victim here, I would never do such a thing, I’m good, he’s bad, I’m
the victim, he’s the villain? I, of course, understand why our brains go
there, because we want to protect ourselves, we’re so afraid of it
happening again. But when you tell yourself the truth, is it actually
helping you move forward, or is it keeping you stuck? You’re taking the
events from the past and you’re recreating them over and over and over
What we do in this state is that we are creating feelings of helplessness
and fear. We’re giving them total power over us. And most of the time, that
person that we’re so mad at, they don’t even know it. They don’t even know
how much power we are giving them. They’re busy living their lives, even
our spouses, even if they’re well aware that they’ve hurt us, that they
made this mistake, things like that, we are wanting them, it’s like I want
them to suffer as much as I’m suffering. So I’m going to rehash this and
rehash this and make them out to be the villain and then try to prove what
they did wrong. And ultimately we are creating for ourselves so much
I’ll tell you, here’s the thing. Every once in a while, I’ll remember
something that happened in my first marriage and I’ll feel myself mad all
over again. It happens every once in a while. I’ll have some memory and
I’ll go, wow, that was really lousy, but here’s the thing, my brain might
make it seem very, very useful in the moment, very helpful, but it’s just a
lie. You know how I know that? He’s not even here. He passed away. He’s
physically not here. He can’t be the villain because he’s not living. He’s
been gone for almost seven years. He can’t possibly be the villain.
When my brain wants to go to that place, I can tell myself the truth. This
is a past event that I’m using to create pain now. Like I said, we might be
doing it in a way to try to protect ourselves, but it’s false protection.
It’s not real. It’s pretending to keep us safe. We’re creating so much pain
and delegating our emotional life to this other person. Do we really want
to give him that much power and authority? I don’t, I don’t. I want to give
that back to me.
What is the remedy here? As always the remedy first is to just be aware,
call yourself out, hey, I’m being a victim here. Please love yourself in
it. We’re not judging, we’re not being mean. We’re just seeing it. Ah, yep.
There I go. It’s easy to do. It’s easy to slip into victim mentality. I
want to tell you something interesting. As I work with one-on-one clients,
I’ll tell you something interesting, I have them fill out a, just a
questionnaire before I have a consult with them and ask lots of specific
questions. And the reason why is because there are different stages to
coming out of victim mentality. And where I work with people is where they
might still very much feel victimized, they might very much feel stuck. In
fact, most of them do they, if they didn’t feel stuck, they wouldn’t reach
out to me.
But here’s the difference. I have people that talk to me who just want to
tell me all the terrible things that the other person did, and it’s almost
like they want me to just agree with them. Like, yeah, that is awful. Yeah,
you have been really damaged. And that’s not what I’m about. Where I know
that somebody’s ready to work with me is they might still be in victim
mentality, but they know that there is more, some part of them recognizes
that they are hurting themselves over and over with the stories that they
keep repeating, and they might feel very stuck in that, but they know that
they want out, they don’t want me to agree with them that their story’s
just terrible and that, yep, you’re probably just going to hurt from that
forever. Yeah, that’s probably going to just keep popping up for the rest
of your life and good luck. Nope, that’s not what I’m about.
I need meet people that are ready to work with me, who are, yeah, they’re
hurt. They’re hurt. They’re sad. They’re stuck. But they have enough
awareness to know that they are not tapping into what they do have control
and power over. And so when I can see that they have that much awareness,
I’m like let’s go, let’s go. It’s okay to feel like a victim. I know I went
through that where I felt like a victim, but where you’re going to help
yourself is where you can have compassion for yourself at that stage like
yeah, of course, I felt victimized by that and then the awareness to go and
I’m done continuing to be a victim to it. I want something else. I want a
different story. I want this to stop taking up so much space in my brain. I
want to stop the whirlwind of emotion in my head, into my body, get off
that crazy train and start feeling some peace, start feeling some results.
Start feeling like I’m moving, like I’ve made some decisions and I’m moving
One thing I see a lot with clients is this story that, well, my spouse said
to me that it’s my fault that he did this thing. It’s my fault. And so they
feel stuck in their victim story, partly because they feel like, one, they
were victimized, and two, it was my fault, or at least partially my fault.
And so what I say to them and what I want to say to you is, so what? What
if there were things that you contributed to the marriage that were not
really your best? Does it really justify somebody else’s poor behavior to
you? Can we ever actually control the actions of other people? No, we
can’t. Why should we be perfect? Why aren’t we allowed to be human? If
somebody accuses you, for example, says, well, you were rude. You were
selfish. You were too critical.
Even if they’re currently saying it to you, instead of responding with
defense, pause for a second, sit with it. Is there any part of this that
might be true? What if the answer is yes. Interesting. Sometimes I’m
selfish. Sometimes I can be rude. What if it is? All your power is tied not
to the fact that maybe sometimes you’re rude or selfish, but to what you
make it mean, what are you making it mean about you? Does it mean you’re
not worthy of good things? Does it mean you’re not worthy of love, of
somebody to love you? Does it mean you’re not worthy of your own
protection? What’s the story you’re associating with it? You know how you
can shut down a conversation where somebody’s trying to blame something on
you? You turn it around, you’re right. Sometimes I am. You’re absolutely
right. Sometimes I am selfish.
Now a concern that can come up is, what if I sound like a doormat? I don’t
want to be a doormat. What I want to suggest is that what if the opposite
is actually true? With this client who finds herself feeling defensive when
her soon to be ex spouse says things to her about the way she’s showing up
in the divorce, things like that. She feels a little powerless in the
moment like he’s so wrong about me. I have to defend myself. What if, that
feeling of helplessness, you’re taking action from that and then you are
creating more of the same. You’re thinking, they’re unfair, but guess who’s
being unfair? You’re being unfair to yourself because you’re taking the
bait. You’re taking the bait with somebody who doesn’t really want to hear
what you have to say. That’s not fair.
Think how much more powerful to pause in that moment, to step away,
whatever you need to do, and then come back from a different emotion of
power, empowerment, resolve, confidence, whatever it may be and say the
things that you want to say from that place, not from a defensive place,
that conversation can go very differently. Why do we stoop to
defensiveness? Why do we do that? It’s because, like I said before, there’s
a part of us that believes their story. Okay? Growing up, my parents had
this quote, that truth needs no defense. I think that’s true. Here’s the
thing, truth needs no defense means also that if somebody’s accusing us of
something, and even if there’s just the tiniest shred of truth in it, we
don’t have to defend ourselves. You can say, yeah, sometimes I am that way.
If somebody is saying something to us that we know is ridiculous and
totally not true, if somebody is making fun of us for, let’s say the car
that we drive, you drive the most ridiculous blue, whatever. It’s so
ridiculous. And you’re like, I don’t even have that car. That’s not even
me. I don’t know who they’re talking about, but we’re not even going to
need to even engage because we’re like, what are they even thinking? That’s
not me. They’ve got the wrong person. I don’t even own a blue car. We’re
not going to feel inclined to take the bait because we know that there’s no
truth to what they’re saying. There’s no truth to it. I like thinking of
it, of stepping into conversations the way Brene Brown talks about it, she
says, do not puff up, do not shrink, but stand my sacred ground.
Defensiveness is puffing up. Okay. Shrinking is becoming a victim. They
both are. They both are in their own way.
Standing my sacred ground is neither. Standing my sacred ground is saying,
I belong, I can take up space and I can allow this person to be wrong about
me. Why do I need them to think whatever about me? Why do I need their
validation? I’ve got me, I’ve got my own back. Another way to help yourself
as you are just identifying your own victim stories is to pay attention to
your emotions when they come up and paying attention to the cues that they
offer. You’ve heard me say before that one of my cues is when I feel
resentment, it’s a cue for me to go, what am I needing right now? And who
am I blaming that I can’t have this thing? Who am I giving responsibility
to for this thing that I don’t have?
It instantly takes me out of victim mode of oh, poor me. I don’t have this
thing and I don’t, whatever. Don’t have the help I need, don’t have this or
that. And I go instead to problem solving, what do I need? Oh, I’m really
tired. I need some more rest. Oh, who am I blaming for that? Ah, I’m
blaming my husband. I’m saying it’s his fault that I’m so tired. And then
guess what? I can step into problem solving, how can I give this to myself?
Now, I can be very deliberate about my request. I can say, hey, I need this
from you. Kids I’m assigning you a night to cook dinner. I need this from
you. We get to work. We get out of that victim mode of, oh, I just can’t
help it. everybody’s out to get me. And I just take much better care of
everybody else than they do of me. Well, my friend take care of yourself.
What can you give yourself?
Another one is overwhelm, overwhelmed reeks of that victim mentality, and I
know that one really well. You’ve heard me say that. I know overwhelm. And
I remind myself the same thing, it never goes anywhere good and it
definitely doesn’t help me solve anything. So I suggest in the moment, when
you notice yourself in that place where you’re feeling defensive, where you
want to hide all the different things that I said before, check in, what do
I need to feel? What am I afraid of feeling? What am I afraid of?.
If you can see, for example, if you’re staying in a marriage that your
spouse is taking the steps to move forward and you continue to go back to
this space of feeling victimized, ask yourself, what am I afraid of? Oh,
I’m so afraid he’s going to do it again. I’m so afraid that I’m going to
trust him again, and that he’s to do it again. How can you give yourself so
much compassion for that, and tell yourself the truth of the pain that
you’re creating for yourself now based on a past event? You’re dragging it
right into your present and right into your future as well. You’re looking
out to the future, afraid of something that may or not happen.
You know what? It could happen, it could happen, but how you can speak to
yourself instead of I’m so afraid to take myself out of this mode and
really own my life and create the life that I want, the results I want, the
experience that I want. We can trust that we will know how to take care of
ourself when the time comes and that we showed up in a way that we’re
really proud of, that we gave it everything we had, that we risked enough
to love again and to trust again, you can change that narrative. Okay.
Now the more that you can grow in trusting yourself, the more you can trust
and love somebody else, the more you can offer yourself curiosity in these
spaces instead of judgment, the more you’re going to understand yourself,
which builds self-trust. You get to be your own rescuer, your own hero. We
don’t have to wait for somebody else. We don’t need to give them that much
power. We do not need to give that responsibility to somebody else. When
you find yourself going into this space of victim mentality, I want you to
ask yourself and tell yourself the truth. Yes, I was hurt at this time. Am
I being hurt now? Am I really being victimized now? What am I forgetting
that I have control over, that I have power over? And that will help you
decide to get out of it and decide to look for ways that you can take
action and show up and move forward.
I understand, I understand feeling victimized, feeling so deeply hurt by
people that we love. I understand it, but I love you and I want you to stop
causing yourself additional pain that is unnecessary. Life is short my
friends, you get to decide what you want your experience to be. Okay. Just
notice, love yourself through it. Notice where you are giving power to
somebody else instead of taking back your own power and taking personal
responsibility and just decide to maybe move forward in a different way. Am
I really being hurt now. Am I really victimized now? If the answer is no,
then start getting to work looking for problem solving. How can you use
that beautiful brain of yours to solve, to solve for the issue that you’re
struggling with? Okay. Victim stories never got us anywhere. Okay.
All right. That’s what I’ve got for you today. Sure love you all. Thank you
so much for being here. Thank you so much for sharing. Thank you for
reviewing. Thank you for emailing me and telling me about your life. It’s
such an honor. It’s such an honor to share this space with you and to help
you at this particular time in your life, it means the world to me. All
right. Take care my friends. Bye-bye.
Thank you for listening to the Heal from Infidelity podcast. If you would
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