In light of the “train wreck” that most people believe 2020 has been, I am going to state an unpopular opinion: 2020 has been a blessing in disguise. As of this blog post, the Coronavirus pandemic is still a battle both globally and nationally in the United States. It is highly unfortunate and saddening that many families have had to endure the pain associated with the loss of a loved one. To add to the health pandemic, the ongoing issues stemming from racial and social injustice have added a second layer of complexity to our daily lives. Both health and social issues converge at a point that sheds light on a clear mindset and behavioral divergence in our society. You see, times of crises tend to bring out the absolute best, or the absolute worst in people. Many have taken this time to creatively adapt and overcome these stressful times, by finding ways to be productive and useful to themselves, their families, and society as a whole. Unfortunately, many more have taken advantage of the situation, using these trying times as an excuse to not face their own personal trials and tribulations.
Inevitably, I began to observe, think, and reflect on how much our society is suffering from what I like to call Victimitis, popularly known as the Victim Mentality. The truth is that all of us have been or will be the victims of something. It is an unavoidable part of life. We may be victimized mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or physically by any person or event. Where victimization becomes an issue that permeates through all aspects of our lives, is when we personalize and identify with. We allow victimization to become an ingrained mindset and a lifestyle. According to Healthline, the Victim Mentality rests on three key beliefs: 1) Bad things happen and will continue happening; 2) Other people or circumstances are to blame; 3) Any efforts to create change will fail, so there’s no point in trying. So where does the victim mentality come from?
Human beings have an innate desire to be loved and to exert control. As life would have it, things do not always work in our favor or go as planned. Outcomes such as rejection and failure, often leave us with feelings of inadequacy and impotence. For the average person, we deal with these “negative” emotions over a short period of time, until we become reinvigorated and motivated to tackle life head-on again. The same cannot be said about a person who has embraced the Victim Mentality/Victimitis.
Life is not always fair, and everyone has their own sets of challenges to overcome. Depending on the environment you were brought up in, the challenges you faced may have been significantly greater than others. Depending on the opportunities that were afforded to you, you may have had to work even harder to even get a chance at life. Depending on your mentality and work ethic, you may have had the grit and resilience to tackle life head on and work through your struggles. Whereas many CHOOSE to embrace Victimitis for illegitimate reasons, many FALL INTO the Victim Mentality for legitimate reasons.
Our true story, as well as the narrative we tell ourselves, have a big impact on how we view and live our lives. From a legitimate standpoint, the Victim Mentality often gains foothold in someone’s life as a defense mechanism. According to Healthline, three of the main reasons why people may embrace the Victim Mentality is because of past trauma, betrayal, and codependency. Victims of trauma often feel a sense of helplessness to overcome pain stemming from mental, emotional, and physical abuse. Victims of betrayal often have trust issues stemming from a lack of confidence/reliance in someone close to their heart such as parents, siblings, or very close friends. Victims of codependency often feel neglect stemming from the fact that they may have sacrificed themselves in some way, shape, or form, and never received love or appreciation in return. From an illegitimate standpoint, Victimitis gains a foothold in someone’s life as a delegation mechanism. Inevitably, over the long term, both mindsets can lead to a plethora of health issues such as depression, anxiety, and loneliness.
Understanding the difference between falling into a Victim Mentality as a part of a defense mechanism, and choosing Victimitis as a delegation mechanism is important. One is rooted in a perceived psychological need to avoid pain, whereas the other is rooted in the desire to circumvent personal ownership. While one is controlled by our subconscious mind, the other is controlled by our conscious mind. Although the source of the Victim Mentality and Victimitis differ, the way in which each manifest themselves are similar. According to Healthline, three signs of the Victim Mentality are: 1) Avoiding Responsibility; 2) A Sense of Powerlessness; & 3) Negative Self-Talk and Self-Sabotage.
According to dictionary.com, responsibility is the state or fact of being responsible, answerable, or accountable for something within one’s power, control, or management. Although we cannot control everything life throws our way, we ALWAYS hold a certain level of responsibility regardless of the circumstance. Those who embrace the mindset of avoiding responsibility, tend to shift blame to those around them. To take it a step further, the blame shifting further extends to an individual admitting no fault whatsoever in a situation. The main issue at play with the avoidance of responsibility, is that an individual does not learn from their experiences. A lesson not learned places an individual in a perpetual cycle of failure and blame shifting.
One of my favorite quotes growing up came from American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” As a teenager, like most, I was selectively rebellious and was responsible when I felt like it truly mattered. Although my family dynamics and upbringing made me more visibly responsible than most, I still fell into the trap of avoiding responsibility and blame shifting. I embraced the adage that “kids will be kids”, in order to avoid any “negative” emotions or consequences stemming from my actions. The problem with the latter is that it breeds the foundation for entitlement, complaining, and lack of ownership that leads to avoiding responsibility and blame shifting.
Fortunately, my upbringing also enabled me to develop a certain level of cognizance at a young age. That cognizance enabled me to see, analyze, and understand, what the long-term effects of avoiding responsibility and blame shifting can have in one’s personal life, professional life, and in society as a whole. With that, I became more intentional about taking responsibility of everything I face, even if the burden of said responsibility does not lie completely on my shoulders. How do you think avoidance of responsibility and/or blame shifting have impacted you, your family, and our society?
Sense of Powerlessness
According to dictionary.com, powerlessness is the inability to produce an effect, and/or being helpless. Again, we cannot control everything life throws our way. However, like with responsibility we ALWAYS hold a certain power to do SOMETHING that works in our favor no matter how minuscule. Those who embrace the mindset of being powerless, believe that everything life throws at them is just pushing them deeper into an abyss, and that nothing they do will enable them to escape from it. The main issue at play, is that an individual views most things in life as a problem. Regardless of the circumstance they are faced with, there is something or someone making their situation worse, and even more unbearable.
Without a shadow of a doubt, one of the things that I felt powerless over for a long time was love. Having a father who was raised with an old school “men cannot be vulnerable” mentality, not having the tender touch of my biological mother, constantly moving around, and being physically distant from both my paternal and maternal nuclear and extended family, definitely took a toll on me growing up. It left a void that I know I am still working on filling till this day. However, one revelation that came from this sense of powerlessness was the need to look within and love myself.
I came to realize that not only are most not exposed to what healthy love for another looks like, but most are not exposed to what healthy self-love looks like either. As such, most of us spend our time seeking a level of love and validation we have never seen, from people that have no idea what it is supposed to look like to begin with. I have taken power over my perceived powerlessness by exposing myself to people, ideas, and environments that can help me define what I believe love looks like. Defining what love looks and feels like to me, enables me to look for a woman who aligns with a similar mentality, so that we can create a loving family and lifestyle together. How do you think a sense of powerlessness have impacted you, your family, and our society?
Negative Self-Talk and Self-Sabotage
Although internal, self-talk and self-sabotage align with the external social-psychological concept of the self-fulfilling prophecy. According to Rutgers Social Psychology Professor Lee Jussim, the self-fulfilling prophecy is “a process through which an originally false expectation leads to its own confirmation. In a self-fulfilling prophecy, an individual’s expectations about another person or entity eventually result in the other person or entity acting in ways that confirm the expectations.” The same can be said with someone who continually embraces negative self-talk. If your mind is filled with thoughts such as “I am never going to be successful”, “I do not deserve love or affection from anyone”, “I deserve all the bad things that are happening to me, and will never be able to overcome this,” then eventually your mind and body will internalize those messages. Eventually, that negativity WILL become your reality, and your actions will embody said reality to the point where you will sabotage your ability to find success or happiness in anything.
At the age of 17, one thing that I began to realize (which I solidified in preceding years), is how much my identity and self-image were being affected by the things I told myself on a daily basis. My teenage years were paradoxical to say the least. To the outside world, I was a motivated kid doing all he could to overcome his struggles, and who was finding success at doing just that. To me, I was just another urban minority kid from a broken household, who felt unworthy, who felt unloved, who felt like success was unattainable, and who needed to prove himself to every single person he met. That mentality almost landed me in the life of gangs, drugs, and crime. The only thing that kept me from becoming a negative statistic within my family, my neighborhood, and the world, was a positive childish dream that provided direction. That direction has since become a driving force for purpose and legacy within my life. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for everyone. How do you think negative self-talk and self-sabotage have impacted you, your family, and our society?
Call to Action
Most if not all of the highly successful people in the world have three things in common: 1) Their upbringing was not impervious to struggles that needed to be overcome; 2) They visualized and believed in their potential to succeed; 3) They took ownership of their life and put in the work necessary to place themselves on the path, and become successful. It may surprise you, but to a certain level, your brain cannot tell the difference between what is reality, and what is imagined. There are a multitude of scientifically backed studies that agree and disagree with the latter statement. However, where most converge, is that the way you talk to yourself does affect your emotions to a high degree. If your mind thinks it, your body feels it. Inevitably, action and inaction are directly affected by your mindset. So, what are three things you can do to put yourself on the right track of ridding yourself of Victimitis or the Victim Mentality?
Commit to Helping Yourself
The most difficult yet rewarding thing you can do in this life, is to help yourself. Helping yourself does not have to be a gargantuan task. You do not have to switch up your whole entire life, or make a gigantic leap in the opposite direction to make progress in the right direction. If you tend to shift blame in the presence of others, a good start would be to make a mental note of catching yourself in the act, even if you decide not to vocalize it. If you tend to feel powerless over life, a good start would be to find something that you know you are good at, and acknowledge that your effort is what is making that thing possible. If you tend to engage in negative self-talk, a good start would be to give yourself a compliment on something you routinely do that others tend to notice you do well. The point is to move forward 1% every day. At the end of the year, your mindset will be 365% better than it was the day you started!
If committing to helping yourself on your own accord seems like a daunting task, because you do not know where to start, then start by seeking help. There has been no time in previous history where information was so readily accessible than today. Thing as simple as jumping on Google, watching a YouTube video, reading a book, or listening to a podcast on personal growth or emotional development, can provide much needed free/affordable information to you. All of the latter can expose you to information that will help you work through past traumas, or present-day problems you may be dealing with.
Once you get comfortable on your own, seek the help of a trusted coach/mentor, friend, or family member. Their insight and life experience through similar issues is another free resource at your disposal, as long as they have developed healthy habits and coping mechanisms. Lastly, consider the use of a certified therapist or counselor. You can choose an in-person service, or online service. Certified therapists and/or counselors are a great resource to invest in, as many are specialized in different types of therapy such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Interpersonal Therapy (IPT), and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), to name a few. A certified therapist can lead you to discovering repressed memories, or dealing with subconscious trauma that may be the root of your mindset.
I am a firm believer in the power of choice. In this instance, you can also choose to do nothing about your mindset and your situation, which is the most counterproductive thing you can do. Regardless of the legitimacy of your victim mentality, or the illegitimacy of your Victimitis, the truth is that both have the power to lead you down a dark path in life. Mental illness is a very real thing that is affecting the world daily and is going to continue to get worse over time. What do you suppose some of the consequences of ignoring our mental health could lead to, besides a societal implosion? For those that are unaware, September is National Suicide Awareness Month. Below you will find a short list of statistics pertaining to the same.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness:
50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24; 19.1% of U.S. adults experienced mental illness in 2018 (47.6 million people). Represents 1 in 5 adults; 43.3% of U.S. adults with mental illness received treatment in 2018; The average delay between onset of mental illness symptoms and treatment is 11 years; Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-34 in the U.S; Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.; 90% of people who die by suicide had shown symptoms of a mental health condition, according to interviews with family, friends and medical professionals (also known as psychological autopsy).
If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911 immediately.
Listen life is hard, and we will all inevitably be victimized from time to time. There are very real, and legitimate reasons for why one may fall in the slump of embracing a victim mentality. The fact is that we are all fallible human beings and that is okay. However, for the sake of your personal well-being, that of those people you love, and the world that surrounds you, it is VITAL that you fight the urge to embrace Victimitis. Again, there is a very real distinction between reacting to what life throws at you and feeling impotent in the moment, versus consciously make a decisioning to be impotent.
You may not have all the answers you need to overcome the problems in your life. You may have not been dealt the best hand in life. However, that does not mean you need to stay stuck where you are currently at. YOU DO have the ability and responsibility to make your life matter, and be accountable for everything in and around it. YOU DO have the power to ask questions, google resources, and/or work towards something meaningful and filled with purpose. YOU DO have the obligation to remind yourself on a daily basis that your life is worth it, and that you have a very real impact on the lives of the people you interact with every day. So what are you doing to bring out the very best of you in these trying times? Plant the right seeds, and you will inevitably transform your life for the better! If you do not know where to start, checkout my recommendation page here!
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Seize the day, seize your life, and we will seize our communal tribe together!