Most of us do it; it is a comfortable place to hide. Often getting us what we want short-term, but rarely creating anything positive long-term. Victim behaviour is manipulating or controlling situations or people, with the spoken or implied threat that we are going to be worse off. It is believing the state of our lives or the actions we take, are justified because of our circumstances and the stories we tell ourselves.
It allows us to stay put, not change, and defend bad choices.
Shit happens, often bad shit; I’m not suggesting that we do not give our genuine love, support and empathy to those who need it. Being truly present with someone in need, loving them and supporting them is what makes us human. Taking the next step and seeing someone as capable of moving forward, strong and resilient, is an even greater gift. One that takes courage and a willingness to be very present with this person.
It’s easy to think we are doing our friends and colleagues a service when we indulge their story over and over; affirming the state they’re in because of what they have been through. What they need, is for us to see them as strong and believe in their ability to create change.
We can say the same about ourselves. Throwing up excuses or indulging in elaborate stories of woe can get us what we want in the moment, but will never create the fertile ground needed to expand our lives.
Why do we need to get a handle on this? If we don’t, we go through life feeling like life happens to us. That we don’t have control or a say in what unfolds; we feel like we are constantly on the back foot.
Think of it as moving on to your toes – leaning into your life, facing it front on, knowing that you have a choice. The choices may not be perfect, but there is always a choice. When we actively choose into life we are living courageously – from courage, creativity and abundance are born.
If you have read Broken Bits, you will have got a glimpse of my back catalogue. Over the next little while I’ll be sharing my whole story from Haystacks to Heroin. My insane journey from self-destruction to a place without fear, overflowing with purpose and the soon to be released Belief School.
Before I did the work, healed my head, my heart and my soul, I lived a Big Victim Story.
Some things happened to me, I didn’t create them, they weren’t about me, I didn’t ask for them. Because of a set of beliefs I created around these events and the victim story I told myself, I spent 15 years destroying almost anything good in my life. Making terrible choices around drugs, alcohol and who and what happened to my body.
Notice I say, I made terrible choices. Back then, I didn’t see it that way. I felt powerless to control the course of my life. It took me many years to understanding that life is always going to throw curve balls, yet we get to choose how we respond. This applies to big events like death, divorce, bankruptcy and possibly more importantly how we respond in everyday life.
We can be a little victim constantly throughout the day.
“No one values me at work.”
“I can’t lose weight.”
“I don’t have time to come.”
Each of these statements and thousands just like these, abdicate responsibility and suggest that everything from the weight we are, to how we spend our time, is out of our control. It’s not – it’s a choice.
What happens when we rephrase these statements to reflect how things really are?
No one values me at work, becomes – I have not been noticed at work yet as I have not created enough value.
I can’t lose weight, becomes – I have chosen not to stick to my weight loss plan.
I don’t have time to come, becomes – This is not a priority for me right now.
Can you see, when we move from victim to ownership we are one step from choosing differently? When we change our language, we change the way we think and then we change our world. From here we start taking action, make better choices to create the outcomes we want. If we blame other people or our circumstance for the way our life is, then we feel powerless to change anything.
Why do we do it? Why do we choose victim and why do we encourage or indulge it in so many of those around us?
- It’s a habit
Victim behaviour is a habit. We often fall into bad habits because they offer the path of least resistance. Coming up with an excuse is by far the easiest way of avoiding something challenging.
Habits are awesome when they are good habits – effortlessly doing something over and over that creates positive outcomes, like cleaning our teeth, looking both ways when we cross the road. These are hardwired into our brains, so much so, it would be more difficult to not do them.
Bad habits are not so flash, these seem so much easier to create and harder to break. They’re not, it’s just that we are a lot more aware of our bad habits, and funnily enough, that is half the problem, we focus on them – giving them more strength. We created our habits, so we can un-create them. More on that coming soon.
- It creates instant gratification
This is a biggy. Putting something off in-the-moment often feels great, “phew, sigh of relief, I got out of that”. All we think about is the reprieve of having avoided the challenge. We are not considering the fallout, our loss of integrity and the eroding of our self-belief. Nor the loss of productivity as we put off getting tasks done or reaching the goals we have set for ourselves.
It is one of my golden rules, never to make up an excuse – especially one that is a little white lie, I always try and own the decision and tell the truth.
- We get to feel loved
Complaining to someone will often create instant sympathy and attention. It is very addictive to have those around us buy into our story and show us how much they care. We feel loved, and our actions justified.
Let’s be honest, someone moaning and groaning about the state of their life, often makes us feel just a little tiny bit better about our own. We are relieved it’s not us; we get to be the rescuer and show-off what a great support we are. Even better, if our life feels pretty sucky, we can feel better about ourselves and our situation.
Does it get us what we want? Well, that depends, do you want to gather a group of mediocre people around you who are happy for you to stay stuck because it makes them feel good? It achieves that. If pity rocks your boat, then yes, you’ll get that too. If you’d prefer to build a network of friends and family that see you as powerful, resourceful and reliable, then you’ll need to look at who you are being.
I had to learn new behaviours, new ways of thinking, new ways of responding to the world. As I did, the world around me changed, not because it was any different – because I was interacting with it differently. We create our relationships, our outcomes, the abundance and love we have in our lives – through the moment by moment choices we make each day.
Stick around and I am going to help you build belief in yourself. Nothing will change until you get this right. This is the starting point for everything, do this work and what is ahead is very exciting.
Action step for today.
Become super aware of when you make an excuse. Start to recognise this as victim behaviour. Write down what you said and then rewrite it in a more powerful way owning your choice. If you are stuck and don’t know how to do this. Leave a comment below and I’ll help you change your words.
Remember: Change your words, Change your mind, Change your world.