I recently came across a post from Aubrey Marcus that really hit home for me.
The universe will present you with relentless challenges and you have one, fundamental choice:
- Believe the universe is against you, and live your life as a victim.
- Believe the universe has your back, and use all challenges to forge who you are.
Call it karma, the universe, God, or just the big, messy game of life — whatever works for you… but as far as I see it, this one choice defines your life.
One story breathes life into you, while the other makes you weak and miserable.
Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many choose the path of self-victimisation. They — often unknowingly — play the victim-card, expecting something or someone other than themselves to swoop in to rescue them.
Which — in a daily context — can look like:
- Having a lack of enthusiasm for what lies ahead.
- Often complaining that life’s not fair.
- Feeling resentful when other people do well.
- Telling the same old ‘sad’ stories again and again.
- Thinking the world owes you something.
- Getting defensive about any advice, no matter how nicely it’s said.
- Being too caught up in your own problems to care about others.
- Rejecting straightforward solutions, calling them useless or off base.
- Being stuck in the past, unable to move on from old hurts.
- Shifting responsibility and blame elsewhere when you’re clearly part of the problem.
And no, this isn’t victim shaming.
I’ve lived through my own fair share of trauma, and I’m the last person to dismiss the pain of genuine victims. They deserve to be seen, heard, held, and supported, not judged.
However, this is about how we can wear the robes of the victim falsely — the subtle ‘woe is me’ act we put on to gain power or status, feel special, get attention, or dodge responsibility.
Because the truth is that we all get something from playing the victim.
We get to feel better, punish others, feel entitled, and a number of other things, when we point the blame on our chosen target — be it ‘the matrix’, big corporations, your absent father, your needy mother, your narcissistic ex-partner or any other convenient scapegoat.
It’s hard to see and even harder to admit, but one of the most crucial steps in becoming the vital, free and self-led (wo)man you’re meant to be, is to reclaim responsibility for what and where we need to take responsibility.
Even if you’re not responsible for it.
And all of this starts with learning to recognise, accept and befriend the victim within you.
This part of ourselves — often forgotten and left in the shadows — holds the belief that the actions it takes on our behalf are somehow helpful. It typically motivated by one of two reasons: to avoid a consequence or chase a reward.
Which brings me to this question:
What do you get from playing the victim card, which you would have to give up when you choose to take full responsibility?
In some twisted way, pretending like your pathetic, weak or incompetent seems to fulfil one of these two motivators, even if it’s keeping us trapped in a relentless cycle of ‘learned helplessness’.
Yes, you’re reading it correctly — learned helplessness.
To understand this concept, imagine yourself playing a game where, no matter what you do or how hard you try, you keep losing. After a while, you start to believe that you can’t win, so you stop trying altogether. And even when a solution is right in front of you, you continue to convince yourself (& others!) that you can’t do anything about it.
That’s learned helplessness in action, this feeling of giving up and accepting that you can’t change, let alone win your game.
Whether that’s the professional game, the dating game, the money game or the vitality game, whatever you’re struggling to play — perpetuating this cycle of learned helplessness reinforces one or all three of the core beliefs that undermine the victim mentality:
- Bad things just happen to me, no matter what I do.
- Bad things are other people’s fault, not mine.
- I have no control over the situation, so there’s no point in trying.
The plot twist is that we don’t actually learn helplessness, we didn’t learn how to take control. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from 5.000 hours of coaching experience,
it’s that most people are far more in control than they like to believe.
And most “I can’ts” are really “I won’ts”.
Yet, we use “can’t” as a misguided cover-up to to protect and shield us from facings part of ourselves that we haven’t learned to face. And so shedding this albeit self-imposed, detrimental mindset might actually require you to confront the fear, shame, and even the occasional pang of embarrassment that accompanies it.
But this is exactly where most people go wrong.
Once people become aware of the victim within, they try to suppress, hide, fight or “fix” this part of themselves — not knowing they are ignoring, judging or abandoning a younger part within that doesn’t need to be defeated. It needs to be held.
In the spiritual jargon, they call this re-parenting your inner child.
What this younger part of you has been waiting for you to say is:
“Hey little one, I see you and I know you’re scared, but I’m here with you. You’re welcome to stick around, but from now on, I’m in charge. You can trust me, I will guide us through this. I won’t leave you behind.”
As soon as you start showing this part your ability to take charge of your growth, direction and success in the area you’ve felt stuck and out of control, its power over you will start to diminish.
And this is why integrating our shadow is so essential: it helps us to become whole again.
With all this said, you now have the opportunity to take a hard look at where in your life you’re dealing the victim card and reconsider which role you choose to play.
The victim, the villain, the hero, or the guide.
The victim does not transform, they don’t help anybody, and they are simply there to make the hero look good and the villain look bad. They’re the ones rescued, handed a warm blanket, while the hero basks in well-deserved recognition.
The villain and the Hero have a lot in common. Both have a history of pain, having gone through adversities that have left scars. The difference is that they respond differently to that pain and suffering.
The villain says: I’m going to get back at those who hurt me and I’ll make sure others feel my pain too.
The hero says: I’m not going to let this happen to anybody else.
The guide is the sage that helps the hero overcome their burdens and rise up. They have their own deep heroic (or failed heroic) background story and now want to help other people experience a win.
This doesn’t mean you have to take action, but it does mean that you can lift yourself up from being the helpless victim to the conscious chooser of your circumstances.
Spend some time here in this in-between phase, Daniel.
But be warned — following this route totally cancels out any of the benefits of being a hero.
You’ll miss opportunities, you won’t reach your full potential and end up leading a life that’s merely survived, rather than fully lived.
On the bright side, the bar is on the floor these days…. It’s never been easier to stand out, because most people have forgotten how to take some discomfort or deal with challenges in their lives.
All it takes is a little courage, consistency, intentional action, and a gram of resilience to become a modern-day warrior.