The victim mentality

By Tendai Saungweme

I often heard people being praised and accredited for the struggles they have conquered to get where they are right now in life. A lot of motivational stories begin with a struggle and show a transition into the greener pastures. I guess that kind of brings out the punch in each story and captures emotion.

“There was a time I went to bed without eating anything.”

“I cried myself to sleep each night.”

“I had reached the point of giving up.”

Does any of these lines ring a bell? Perhaps you have not heard the exact same narration but I would love to believe you have at some point heard someone speak about their struggle in a similar way or maybe you have also spoken about your own struggle too. The fact is, the struggle is an almost an inescapable part of human life. Struggle is actually part of the learning process and should be expected as essential to life. Each stage of life comes with a certain level of struggle and as hard as it maybe to accept humans struggle. Animals too ,maybe, but we wouldn’t know.

Being humans, means always seeking to rise above our struggle and produce results. Ironically, we hold on so dearly to the narrative of the very same struggle we seek to eliminate to such an extent that it appears success is defined more by the struggle. In fact, it seems the bigger the struggle, the better the story. More often than not, attention is paid to the struggle rather than the fruits of the process and that is where the trouble begins.

The issue with struggle is it can potentially build or break a person and this is determined by the perspective from which one views it. The ideal thing would be for one to look at the struggle and use it as motivation to do more (e.g., drawing motivation from the poverty in one’s background to then work and earn a better living). The detrimental scenario which I have often seen is the handling of the struggle from a victim’s point of view and that altogether changes the narrative.

The victim mentality refers to a state of mind in which a person feels helpless and as though the world is against them. While for some, the victim mentality may be a serious problem requiring professional intervention from mental health experts; this case makes reference to the more casual side of the victim mentality where one always sees themselves as a victim. This is a case that can develop in any one of us.Once one adopts the victim mentality, there develops a feeling that they deserve to be understood, to be sympathized with. I do not mean to belittle the struggles that people face as they move through life but it does no good to hold on to past experiences as an excuse for not being competent in the present. That sort of mentality gives room for not doing enough. Unfortunately, society seems to reward people more for the struggle rather than the results they actually produce. At the end of the day, it appears as long as you have an emotional story of how you struggled, then you are good to go regardless of the result.

I will use my example to bring into perspective how thinking like a victim gives excuses for not being better;

I have a tendency of slouching unconsciously from time to time and my friends sometimes have to remind me to fix my posture. I have realized that more often than not I actually do not channel as much energy into self-improvement but rather I keep referring to how at some point in Junior High School I had low self-esteem, was unconfident, hid beneath a mushroom sunhat and coiled my shoulders until I eventually became more comfortable in that rolled up state. While it is true that I struggled back then, I lived past it and the detrimental effects have to be fixed. Going back to the story when I fail to live up to the standard now stands as an excuse for not putting enough effort into bettering myself. That is exactly what the victim mentality does, it justifies present shortcomings using past struggles and gives you all the more reason to hold on to your struggle as an excuse to not be better.

I have used a very minor example but the same logic applies even as the struggle intensifies. As long as you feel like you are the victim in your story then you will always be tied down by the struggle rather than motivated by it.

I for one believe that with the right amount of effort, one can heal from any struggle. It might take time, more time for others but with determination, step by step, humans have the potential to grow past their struggles. While the scars may never fade; for the person who manages to let go of the victim mentality no longer serve as an excuse to be laid back but can potentially push one forward.

The other problem with thinking like a victim is how it bears the assumption that the more one struggles, the more they deserve to be rewarded. Society sometimes cultivates this mentality but realistically speaking, it is really not like that on the ground. The truth is you may struggle so much and not get anything out of it, you could be a student; spending many sleepless nights and letting go of every other aspect of life to focus on studying. That is no guarantee that you will make it.

I have no idea what you are facing today but I dare you to stop seeing yourself as the victim. One step at a time and you will get through it and grow.

13 July, 2023