I write a lot about bullies, targets, victimization, and the like. I expect many people skip over those posts because they think it doesn’t apply to them. I’m not a victim! I’m super confident and easy going! Think again. Most of us feel victimized by something at one time or another. So if you’ve ever done (or ever do) any of the following, you’re one of us:
- Complain about anything at all. Get mad enough to complain about your first world problems like a slow elevator or delayed flights or broken air conditioners.
- Feel sorry for yourself.
- Repeatedly seek comfort from others for the same problem.
- Feel powerless, as if only something bigger than you can solve your problem.
- Blame someone else – to any degree – for any problem. Or believe someone or something has screwed up some aspect of life (companies, exes, bosses, etc.)
I know for some time I was trapped in victimized ideation, self pity, and disempowerment relating largely to a (mostly emotionally) abusive relative in childhood (and in adulthood, though the nature had changed). She was the enemy. She taught me to hate myself. She was the reason I had a crappy [anything].
The path out of it – the spark that started the path – was gratitude. If empowerment is the goal, acceptance of realities beyond our control is along the path to it. And when we feel anxious, powerless, and victimized, a kind of over-gratitude for what we do have helps us accept reality and discover our strength, enabling empowerment and achievement to emerge.
Sound cheesy? Maybe it is. But it works, if we can just pull our heads out of our asses.
Somehow victims believe power lies elsewhere and we aren’t equipped to solve whatever problems we experience. Victims feel they can’t or simply don’t want to take responsibility their lives, their situations, their unhappiness. The Monster is the problem and someone else (sometimes The Monster himself, sometimes a Hero) needs to solve it for poor, helpless, hurt, scared, little ol’ me.
Victim ideation is cheap. It requires far less energy to sit around and complain than it would take to actually DO something. As an added bonus, we don’t risk looking like idiots for doing it wrong. And as long as we can find coddlenablers (which in the advent of the internet age is so lamentably easy, what with online forums and social media), we can find an endless supply of people who pat our heads, blame someone else right along with us, and don’t expect us to solve our own problems. Yay, us!!
Solving ones own problems is so damned exhausting, isn’t it? Ugh. You mean I have to do something? I’m going to have to keep (eye roll) getting up every (sigh) godforsaken day and actually face my own life? Can’t someone else just change [this] to fit my needs?
Is that really who you want to be? A can’t-do?
My answer to that question was “no”. I was surrounded by fellow complainers for a long time. The tiniest little setbacks were met with a great deal of drama from people perfectly capable of saving themselves. And the worst of it? I saw myself in them. And how ridiculous it was to complain when I had food, an education, my health, and even the ability to breathe. By exploring gratitude, appreciating even stupid shit like my dog and good hair and cable, I was better able to disconnect from the victimized behavior of myself and those around me and find my own path to personal responsibility.
You’ve seen people who lose everything – limbs, homes, life as they know it – the ones who thrive somehow accept the realities of their dreadful (far more dreadful than yours) circumstances. How can false victims like the rest of us look at those victors and believe our situations are so terrible? Why are they able to accept their fates and just get on with it while us whiners bitch about hating our jobs or big mean Etsy?
I don’t know. But I do know when we sink to helplessness, expressing gratitude can be a first spike in the well to climb out. If we are so arrogant in our pity to believe we’ve got it bad because of [this terrible thing], we need to remind ourselves how good it really is. To accept ourselves, our circumstances and the reality around us. Countering the anxiety of victimization with the peace of gratitude can help us fight (our own damned battles) another day.
Sound silly and stupid and want to tell me to go fuck myself? Yep. You’re probably still a victim of yourself and your stubbornness, fear, or anxiety about trying something new and unfamiliar that might actually help you take charge. I know. I’ve been there. Even the phrase “practicing gratitude” makes me throw up on my mouth a little bit. But it’s a great tool whenever you feel disempowered, anxious, or downright scared. It can help restore the self esteem that has been charred in this area of your life. It can help you accept then confront challenges that seem so insurmountable. And by the way, if you’re all pissed off at victimized people, you’re victims of the victimized and could benefit from this exercise, too.
Is it easy? Not always. But if you’re able to breathe on your own, you’ve got a leg up on a lot of other people with far greater misfortune whose attitudes are probably more empowered than yours.
Here’s how to get started.
- Who’s your Monster? What Monster, right now, has you so upset you just want to hide in a closet with a stuffed giraffe? Or maybe just a little upset. Name it.
- Who has he helped? Now, without being all sarcastic about it (a monumental feat for me), name one thing said object of ire has done positively for someone else. Not you, because poor you for a moment. Who have they helped and how?
- What do you admire about him? Let’s go one more. Name three non-snarky qualities you can admit you admire in The Monster. I can honestly say my childhood abuser is very bright, creative, and talented.
- How has he helped you? Now for the hard part. Find one tiny way the beast has helped you be a person you admire. For instance, my experiences with my childhood monster probably made me emotionally stronger than I would have otherwise been.
- Feel any better yet? Any more confident? No? Keep repeating steps 2-4 until you feel less pissed off, more self-admiring. Then proceed to step 6.
- What if you had everything? If you had all the resources you needed, what non-harmful thing would you do for yourself to overcome the power of The Monster? Could you start your own business without any help or hindrance from The Monster? Would you try something new or go somewhere else?
- Take Action. Right now, do not wait but do it right this minute, take the first step to achieve Step 6. If you’re an Etsy seller who’s mad at Etsy, google how to create a website or build a craft business. If you’re a working stiff who wants to tell corporate America to go fuck itself, make a list of your unique skills that you can turn into a sologig.
- Now. Stop screwing around. Go. Now.