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“Any happiness you get you’ve got to make yourself.” -Alice Walker
LESSON: Are you seeing your life through “victim-colored glasses?”
Warning: This article may make you angry.
“It’s all my fault?” I know what you’re thinking. “Really, Abiola? I can’t take being blamed for one more thing. Not today.” Of course we as women of African descent are particularly sensitive to this and rightfully so. It can seem like we as a collective have been blamed for everything. However, this is not about race or gender.
The real deal however is that it will never ever serve your life and mental health as an individual human being to see someone else as having the power of responsibility over your life. We may not be able to control events and incidents but we can control how we choose to respond.
VANESSA THE VICTIM.
Do you know someone who’s a long-suffering “Vanessa the Victim?” She is almost always embroiled in some kind of drama, whether in relationships, family, cash or career. She’s a victim of her loser of a man, the bad economy, a screwy metabolism, wacky landlord, maniacal mechanic or the weather.
You offer Vanessa repeated advice and it falls on deaf ears because she counters with all of the reasons she needs to stay stuck in her problems. This drama queen is probably an energy vampire in your life. Negative conversations with her leave you drained and empty. Everything is always someone else’s fault. She sees herself as a slave to her circumstances with no control of what “happens” to her.
Or maybe, you’re the Vanessa the Victim to the people who love you.
- Takeaway: Winning in love and life means asking ourselves tough questions and being accountable for our beliefs, behaviors and actions.
YOU ARE IN CHARGE.
A few years ago in my Bombshell Academy love advice video series I did a video called, “Bad relationships reflect a bad relationship with yourself.” Many women wrote and commented publicly to say that that the details of the lesson were a wakeup call in their lives. Several women also wrote to say that they found the idea that they were responsible for their terrible relationships to be hurtful and insulting.
These strong queens posed really great questions such as: “How is it my fault if my man cheats on me?,” “How is it my fault if he abuses me?” How I am responsible if he’s unsupportive?” Write this down somewhere and commit it to memory: It is NEVER EVER your “FAULT” that some insecure jerk decides to be ABUSIVE to you in ANY way. He is completely and SOLELY responsible for his behavior at all times.
- Takeaway: We are fully responsible for whom we choose to have relationships with. A relationship indicates an ongoing communication, exchange and intimate closeness with another human being. Whether it’s an unwelcome series of interactions with your parents or your man, as an adult you must take responsibility for the people you allow into your life.
This may sound harsh but from a point of view of ultimate self-love, no one has a built-in right to be a part of your life except your children. For everyone else, intimate interactions with you are a privilege not a right. A continuing relationship takes your permission and participation.
If another person or entity is solely responsible for my condition, then only another person or entity can help me get out of it.
This was a hard lesson for me to see within myself. My first husband was a serial cheater. This is emotionally abusive behavior. However, I made a conscious choice as an adult to continue to love him, believe in him, and regard my vows seriously. Does it make him any less responsible that I take responsibility? No, however, making this my repeated “Poor Me” mantra and story, as so many of us do, damages me, not him.
- Takeaway: We may feel that if we give up guilt-tripping it absolves people who behave badly of their responsibility. It does not. It only keeps us locked into an unhealthy (and passive aggressive, in my case) cycle. Take your lessons and move on. You cannot love a deficient romantic partner into treating you better.
SO, DO I HAVE A VICTIM MENTALITY?
Don’t believe everything you think.
This is not about “blaming the victim.” What I am saying to you is that you are a victor, not a victim. If you are an able-bodied adult you can make different choices to surmount whatever your present circumstance is in love and life.
For many of us, the victim mentality may be a pattern of learned helplessness that we inherited from teachings from our families. For others of us it’s communal. We bond around victim statements such as, “There are no good men,” “We always get the short end” or “No one hires people like me.” Question your beliefs. Dare yourself to evolve. Ask yourself, is this statement 100% beyond a shadow of a doubt true? If not, are you willing to release this belief?
- Takeaway: If you have ideas such as bad luck being responsible for your situation, you may want to look deeper. If you think that the success of others somehow leaves less room for you to succeed, this may be something to look into.
WHAT’S THE VICTIM MENTALITY PAYOFF?
Every behavior that we repeatedly engage in has a payoff. If you constantly see yourself as the victim of men, bosses, family members and society in general, you are receiving a mental benefit from this vantage point. The payoff could be a sense of superiority that you would never stoop as low as such-and-such. You may receive sympathy as a result of making other people guilty. Maybe you have a martyr mentality where you feel good positioning yourself as “the bigger person” who will take the emotional hit in any situation because “you can handle it.” (Done that!) Maybe a good dose of pity from those around you feels like energy. Perhaps you feel self-righteous in your victimhood.
- Takeaway: This is not about self-judgment, but self-compassion. You deserve to feel like the authority in your life!
THIS WEEK’S HOMEWORK:
Here’s how to move beyond a victim mentality in relationships and life. Address these questions in a notebook. You may want to form a Love School Playgroup with your friends to do these assignments. Take 5 deep, cleansing breaths to get centered and begin.
1) Ask, who/what I am blaming for my current circumstances?
- Make a list of all of the people who have “caused” your present situation. Are there areas where you could have made different choices?
2) Take a 100%/100% communication approach.
- We’re all fond of saying that love is 50/50. As a coach and speaker I teach the 100% all around method of communication. It is the responsibility of the communicator to make sure that the person they are communicating with understands their point. The Love Languages teachings may be especially helpful in this area.
3) Be willing to release your personal “story.”
- We all have a story that we want to tell. When this story becomes your crutch however, it’s time to let it go. Who would you be if you were willing to release your personal history?
4) Have an active practice of gratitude.
- Sure, we have the news and negative conversations to reiterate to us all that is not working in the world. A daily practice of recounting new things to be grateful for creates a new mental groove in your brain that things may be better than you previously believed.
5) Move away from circles of negativity.
- If it’s someone you care about is stuck in victim consciousness, lovingly and gently bring their attention to the behavior whenever you notice it. Limit your reaction to these behaviors. If their entire role in your life is to suck your energy, you may want to consider moving on.
6) Be willing to forgive those who have “done you wrong.”
- Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. Staying stuck in the story holds you both hostage. You could be missing the joys of your present life by remaining in a cycle of blame. Take responsibility for your role, forgive and move forward.
7) Realize that you have choices.
- There’s never only one way to react to a situation. We see this mentality on our favorite guilty pleasure reality shows where people say crazy things like, “she hit me or touched me I had no choice to retaliate” or “that’s that black parenting.” These statements are false.
Takeaways: Taking complete responsibility is not always easy but as an adult you always can make another choice as long as you are healthy, breathing and have agency over your life. You DESERVE to feel joy and be surrounded with those who are for you, not against you. You deserve great relationships and to be loved. As I always say, this is your opportunity to live and love like you mean it!
Passionate Living Coach Abiola Abrams gives extraordinary women inspiring advice on healthy relationships, evolved sexuality and getting the love we deserve. You’ve seen her love interventions in magazines from Essence to JET and on shows from MTV’s “Made” to the CW Network’s “Bill Cunningham Show.” Find love class worksheets, advice videos, coaching, and more at “Abiola’s Love University. Facebook or tweet @abiolaTV or #loveclass.