Something happened last week that took me straight into victim mode. I was angry and believed I didn’t deserve it. Life was unfair, and I felt sorry for myself. I was focused on all the bad things that had happened and that might happen. Oh my! The stories I made up in my head. Playing out various worse-case scenarios, I managed to get far out ahead of the reality of what was happening. My emotions and body responded as if the future were real, and it wore me out. In my exhaustion, I finally recognized myself as a victim.
At first, becoming aware of my victim mindset didn’t change much. It felt good, in a way, rolling around in this place of self pity. The longer I stayed in the drama of it, though, the heavier and more out of control things seemed and the more helpless I felt. Eventually, I saw I was stuck and the only one who was going to get me out of the negative, unfulfilling and draining place was me.
This experience reminded me how easy it is play the victim, versus take responsibility for creating something different that moves us in the direction we want to go. To be an influential change agent in the midst of organizational transformation, it is essential that leaders feel empowered to make a difference.
It starts with recognizing the victim mindset. A victim mindset invites negative energy and can be destructive to relationships, creativity, and having a sense of accomplishment. Victims suck the air of a room. Victims leave others drained and empty.
When you find yourself with a victim frame of mind, one thing you can do is tune in to the words you are using – whether they be in your head to yourself or out loud to other people.
- Are your words accusatory, apologetic, negative? Or are they positive, confident, motivating?
- What’s the tone you are setting? Are you pulling yourself or the team down, or lifting up and inspiring confidence?
- Are you dwelling on the past, or pointing to what’s possible?
- What’s the impact of your words, tone, and focus on the outcomes you’d like to achieve?
It’s also essential to develop strategies for shifting oneself from victimhood to a place of empowerment. Some of the approaches I find helpful include:
- Take a deep breath. Ground yourself in the present moment.
- Accept your feelings. Be compassionate with yourself.
- Clarify your beliefs. Be clear about what you value.
- Adopt an attitude of gratitude. Tune in to what you have to be thankful for.
- Take the focus off yourself. Be curious about others.
- Take responsibility. Decide what action will move you forward in alignment with what’s important to you.
Taking responsibility requires that we have clarity about our beliefs. Questions like those below help me understand what’s going on:
- What story am I making up about what’s going on?
- What do I believe about the situation?
- What am I expecting will occur?
- What’s my frame of mind?
- How am I feeling?
- Am I expecting someone else to do something to change the situation? Who? Why?
- Am I waiting for something to happen? What? Why?
- What choices do I have about how to respond?
- How can I take responsibility for creating what I want?
- What one action, however small, might I take now?
What do you do to pull yourself out of victim mindset? I’m curious about approaches you use to help others out of victim mode as well. I would love to learn from YOU!
*I took the opening photo in Mariniscica on the island of Cres in Croatia.