You’re probably reading this and thinking “Hmm … strange title for a blog post!” Well, yes and no. Allow me to explain. The saying “Life kicks you in the balls and then you die” is a variation of the more popular slogan “Life is a bitch and then you die.” This variation is actually my father’s personal mantra. (Yikes, right?). And it’s a perfect expression of the core belief system of a “victim” – i.e., life is difficult/life is unfair/ life will wear you out/ life is a struggle.
The victim mindset is a habitual way of looking at life — an automatic orientation towards all life events as being unfair and giving the victim “the short end of the stick.” To that end, a victim:
- Gets angry easily and is almost always offended.
- Never takes responsibility for their actions.
- Is quick to judge and criticize others.
- Always justifies their actions as being triggered by external events.
- Feels powerless to confront their circumstances.
- Projects their inadequacies on others.
- Blames others liberally and complains about the world at large.
- Expects a standard of others that they don’t hold themselves to.
Most adult victims assumed their victimhood at a very young age. For children and teens who lacked the emotional capacity to fully experience and express deep and painful emotions (sadness, hurt, loneliness, fear, anger, despair) in a healing and liberating way, victimhood became a survival technique during those formative years.
Victims focus on what they fear rather than what they want. Victims fear change and risk, so as adults they maintain the status quo by focusing on the perceived benefits of victimhood:
- Victims don’t have to take any responsibility or personal ownership.
- Victims don’t have to take any action to change or improve their lives.
- Victims get lots of attention and sympathy.
- Victims don’t have to feel their real emotions.
- Victims get to feel right because everything is someone else’s fault.
So there is a method to the madness. But . . . it’s still madness. Because in the long run, playing the victim invariably leads to self-sabotage by damaging our personal and professional relationships, as well as our health and well-being. I say this with such conviction because that was my experience. I was a victim for most of my life. I was a child of two victim parents; my father consistently complained that life kicked him in the balls year after year after year (hence the title of this blog), and my mother urged me to be emotionally tough and independent while I tried to “get through” life. And I believed them. Like many children, I thought “Well, if my parents say it’s so, then it must be so.” Not surprisingly, whenever I faced a challenge in life or experienced a difficult or painful event, my response was always “Well, that’s my cursed life! I’ll just try to get through it!”
But I stopped the madness and discovered the power to reinvent myself from victim to owner when I started doing deeply transformative mindset and personal development work. I started inventing an owner’s voice inside of me. I chose to start building my life based on what’s right with me, not what’s wrong. It took practice, and it requires daily discipline. But it’s becoming a happy habit.
As a recovering victim, I have a better perspective and understanding of some key distinctions between owners and victims, including:
- Owners see problems as bodybuilders see weight: it’s resistance training, and it feels good. Victims, on the other hand, don’t want to lift that weight. They look at weights with horror, and they look at problems as betrayals.
- Owners focus their energy on problem-solving. Victims engage in problem-avoidance. And by avoiding things, victims create even more misery than they avoid. It’s not the problems themselves that make them miserable (as they think), but rather it’s their own deliberate act of avoidance that lowers their self-esteem and destroys their self-respect.
- Owners have an awareness of their own freedom of choice. Life is an energy source and a gift for them. There is always a lesson learned and strength gained from every situation. They own their spirit and have a sense of personal responsibility and self-control. Victims, on the other hand, think life uses them.
- Owners focus on what they want and what they can create. Victims focus on what they fear and what they can avoid.
- Owners guide the patterns of their thoughts. Victims experience thoughts as things that happen to them; they are victims of their own defeated thinking.
- Owners and victims use starkly different language. Owners habitually say, “I can,” while victims say, “I can’t.” Owners say, “I’m busy at work,” while victims say, “I’m swamped.” Owners “design a life,” while victims “try to make a living.” Owners feel “psyched” and “excited” about change, while victims feel “worried,” “fatigued,” and “pissed” when life throws them a curveball.
Letting go of victimhood isn’t the easiest thing to do — after all, most victims have years and years of experience playing that role — but it is possible! You can make the choice to reinvent yourself from someone to whom life happens, to someone who creates and builds a life. Here are some powerful tips that helped me ditch the victim mentality:
- Change your mind.
Living your life as an owner or victim is always a choice. Understand that even though you may have chosen to be a victim in the past, it isn’t a choice you have to keep making. Your life is all about evolving – building on the good, keeping the best, and moving on. Remember that while being a victim got your sympathy and other perceived perks at times, it didn’t get you the life you wanted.
2. Change your relationship to life.
If you see life as something outside of you, pushing in on you, then you will reveal that by saying things like, “That’s life!” when things go wrong, or, “Life is difficult” when you feel the need to sound disconsolate and wise. But when you reconsider your relationship to life and change “life” from being outside pressing in to being inside as a source of energy, everything gets fun again (as it was when you were young and just knew intuitively that life bloomed and blossomed from the inside out.)
- Use the language of intention.
Owners use the language of intention. They do things because they intend to, because they want to, because they choose to. When you do something because you intend/want/choose to, you do it with a different spirit. You can set yourself on fire and burn through your projects. You consume what’s in front of you with a happy vengeance.
Notice how much better it feels to use the language of intention than it is to use the victim’s language of obligation (where you do things because you “should” or “have” to). Also, notice that you will be less inclined to procrastinate because you won’t be doing things reluctantly or resentfully.
- Convert reacting to creating.
You can use your marvelous bio-computer (your brain) two ways: (i) to react to things, or (ii) to create things. Which do you think is more powerful?
At any moment, in any situation, you can step back, breathe, and get still. In that moment, notice whether you are using your brain for creating or for reacting. For example, think about a recent life event that was difficult, painful, or just didn’t go the way you wanted it to. Instead of asking yourself, “Why is this happening to me?” you could instead ask, “Why is this happening for me?” Wow, there’s a world of difference in those two questions! The first one leads you down the victim path. The second one leads you down the owner path and takes you in the direction of deeper growth, awareness, appreciation, responsibility, and healing.
Another good “owner” question to ask yourself is, “What good is here that I’m currently not seeing?” You don’t have to like what’s happening, but you can appreciate it (i.e., recognize the value of it). What are you learning? What is it forcing you to deal with, let go of, heal or confront in your life? The more willing you are to look deeply at and learn from this situation, and the less energy you put into being at the mercy of it, the more power you’ll have in dealing with it and growing in the process.
Reinventing yourself from a victim to an owner does not mean denying the pains of the past or taking responsibility for circumstances you may have had no control over. Rather, it means accepting and owning what shows up in our lives, and looking for what we can learn from all that we experience. Reinvention facilitates growth, and we are happiest when we are growing.