Bullying – Breaking Free of a Victim Mentality
‘Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.’ (Anonymous).
When being bullied, it’s easy to fall into a ‘victim mentality’. This is an attitude when someone who is being bullied starts to think: ‘this always happens to me’, ‘I guess today’s just going to be another miserable day’, or ‘there’s nothing I can do about it – it’s just something I have to put up with’. This mentality stops a person from taking control over their life and acting to change their situation. It makes the victim feel the world is against them, and that all they can do is feel sorry for themselves. It is self-pity in its most debilitating form.
People fall into this mentality for a few reasons. Firstly, it is easier then doing something about the problem. Finding the courage to make a change, to draw the line, to take responsibility and/or to confront the issue is not always easy, so, rather then trying and potentially failing, a lot of people simply take on a victim mentality, which requires neither courage nor change.
Secondly, it validates the way a person is feeling. When others sympathise with us about something we’re going through, it reassures us that our feelings are warranted, confirms there is a problem/injustice (i.e. that we’re not just imagining it), and normalises the way we are reacting. All of this reduces stress and feelings of isolation, and ideally help us move forward. Dwelling there for too long, however, can become unhealthy. Sympathy and validation are designed to empower us to change, not to hold us back or keep us ‘in the gutter’ emotionally. Similarly, a victim mentality is like giving yourself sympathy to an unhealthy extent. It justifies the way you are feeling, but it also incorrectly justifies staying in the situation and not taking responsibility.
Thirdly, adopting a victim mentality is a way of getting attention. As per above, sympathy has many benefits, but maintaining a victim mentality simply to get it not only keeps us in a disempowering and hurtful situation, but highlights our other insecurities that are also not being dealt with.
Whenever we take on a victim mentality, we are letting the bully win. It means they have succeeded in keeping us down and stopping us from being all we can be. More importantly, we are also letting ourselves down. Every day is an opportunity to make life better than it was yesterday, but by maintaining a ‘the world is against me’ attitude, nothing changes. Letting another person steal our joy for a day is one thing; stealing it from ourselves for another twenty days after that is another. Ultimately, we can choose to be miserable and blame others for it, or we can admit that we have been hurt, seek support, and do what we need to do to move on and ensure it doesn’t happen again.
As we’ve discussed over the last few weeks, being bullied is something no one should have to go through, but by assuming a victim mentality instead of taking control of our feelings and situation, we only prolong our suffering. It may mean seeking support/help, finding healing and being temporarily uncomfortable as we take steps to deal with the situation, but at the end of the day, it also means being free from hurtful behaviour and a negative outlook, once and for all.