March 8, 2022

Episode 29: Victim mentality

Victim mentality is sneaky. You can be a strong, capable, independent person, never identify with being a victim, and still be in victim mentality. Victim mentality makes you give away all of your power. If you ever feel frustrated, resentful, bitter, righteous, powerless or afraid: there’s a good possibility that you’re in victim mentality.

What you will discover

  • The 6 behaviors that say you’re in victim mentality
  • How to reclaim your power
  • And many practical examples.


Le podcast de Clotilde Dusoulier (en francais): Change ma vie

Mixed and produced by Adrien Grenier

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Episode Transcript

Hi, welcome to the Excellent Rider podcast. I'm Mélanie, I'm a certified life coach and I specialize in helping people like you get things done, find ease and motivation again and get unstuck when it feels like you've lost your mojo. You know that when you take two minutes to leave a short review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, it's super helpful because it makes the podcast visible to other people who need to hear exactly this message.

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But now that I sit on the other side of the microphone, I can tell you that every single review makes a huge difference. So I'm going to start today by thinking Raj9 in Sweden who wrote: "clear and concise. It's been a pleasure and a revelation to hear this. Absolutely loved the way the podcast has been broken down to small bite sized pieces.

And I love the way you explain them with mixed with the humor. Show notes are a wonderful supplement. I appreciate your effort and keep going! Looking forward for more." So thank you so much Raj9 for leaving such a nice review and for letting me know how you apply my tools, I really like that. And I'm definitely thinking of you today as I record this episode; it makes the whole difference. Thank you so much.

Today's topic has been a heavy one for me throughout my life. We're going to talk about victim mentality. And this is something that I felt was plaguing me for most of my adult life. So if you've known me for a while, or if you've known me for a long time, maybe you would not associate me with this idea of being a victim.

And it was probably expressed in subtle ways that I'm going to explain later on in the episode. But basically in my life, there was always a villain. And that's the definition of victim mentality is that you're always assigning the responsibility for the unpleasant way you're feeling to an external villain.

I was bitter about my childhood and that was because of my mom. I was unhappy about my job, and that was because of my boss. I was disappointed about my career and that was because I had chosen the wrong studies. But there was always an external reason, something that I was assigning all the power to define my feelings too.

And that's what I mean by a victim mentality. It's basically not taking responsibility for the results that you have. And when you do that, it means that you're not either feeling empowered to do something about them and to change them. So what I did is I read tons of books and I tried to really investigate how do I stop feeling like I am powerless in front of these things.

I am powerless in front of my past. I am powerless in front of my character. How can I deal with that? And all the books that I read were always saying the same thing: you need to create something. Step into creation. And I didn't really understand what it meant, which is why I have now a much better understanding of what it means to be in victim mentality and how to get out of it.

And this is what I would like to share with you and to break down for you today in a way that is going to help you understand how to be aware of it and how to notice that you might be in victim mentality. And most importantly, how to change it. And for today's episode, I am drawing heavily from an episode of the outstanding podcast, French speaking podcast from Clotilde Dusoulier, who is an amazing French coach.

And if you speak French, I really encourage you to go and listen to her podcast. It's called Change ma vie - - I'll put the reference in the show notes. So what does it mean to be in victim mentality? If you look at the definition, a victim is a person who has been tricked, harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, an accident, or another event or action.

So let's be very clear, if you've had an accident or if you're the subject of a crime: of course you are a victim in that moment and with that regard. There is no doubt in my mind that what has happened to you or what is happening to you right now is not your fault. And this is not what I'm talking about. Victim mentality is different.

It's when we name a circumstance or the behavior of somebody else as the reason for not achieving our goals or for not being who we want to be.

So, if you're in victim mentality, you might have learned to think like this from a situation in your life where you really were a victim, but if you get stuck in it, it has a negative impact on your life. So again, I am not saying that if you've been the victim of a crime, you should step out of it quickly.

That is not what I'm saying at all, right? Some assaults or some difficult situations, they take years even with the help of experts to get out of. I'm talking about when you're taking an external circumstance or the behavior of a person as the reason for you not taking responsibility for how you feel.

I am not talking about if you're the subject of trauma, of post-traumatic stress disorder or things like that is completely different aspect. So for me, I didn't have a particular reason to... I was not a victim of anything at the moment I felt like a victim. And I didn't feel like a victim.

I was just assigning the responsibility of the way I was feeling to external things. So to my past, to other people, to a specific circumstance, there was always a villain. And that's really the marker of victim mentality is that there's always a villain. If there is no villain, there is no victim mentality.

So the villain can be identified directly. It can be a specific person, or it can be a group of people, or it can be a company, it can be a system, it can be a circumstance like COVID, the weather, or a medical diagnosis. That's what I call the villain. So victim mentality is sneaky and it might not directly identify as such, which is why many of you might be thinking "this doesn't apply to me", but a lot of us are experiencing victim mentality without recognizing it.

So again, I used to be a master at victim mentality. And you can be a strong, capable, independent person, and you can be seen as strong, capable, and independent and still be in victim mentality. You can be in victim mentality and never identify with being a victim. But the issue is that when you are in victim mentality, whatever the reason, you are giving away all of your power.

And that affects the way you live and the results that you create for yourself in your life. Victim mentality is just a thought pattern.

It doesn't mean that you're not strong or amazing, smart or capable. It's just one of the default brain loop, or thought loops. If you really were the victim of something, it's not a loop that you want to stay in once that particular situation is over. Because when we identify as a victim, we keep ourselves in powerlessness and that affects our life very greatly.

So remember what I explained in the first few episodes of the podcast, that your thoughts create your feelings? That's right. Your thoughts, not your situation. So when you're assigning the responsibility for your negative thoughts and feelings to somebody else, you're giving away your power to somebody else.

You're not taking ownership of your own emotions. You're making yourself feel powerless and trapped. And that is probably one of the worst feelings that there is in the world. And also you're stripping away from yourself the possibility to make yourself feel better. Because if you're not responsible for the way you feel now, you don't believe that you have the possibility to change that feeling either.

So let's look in more details at what powerlessness looks like, what this victim mentality looks like. There's a number of behaviors that should tip you about the fact that you're probably giving away your power. And this is what we're going to review together. And again, thank you Clotilde Dusoulier for presenting that in such a beautiful way.

So the first type of behavior that should tip you to the fact that you're probably in victim mentality, in the sense that you're giving away your power to an external circumstance or person, is when you're complaining or blaming. So if you're blaming someone or something for your situation and how you feel about it; or if you're complaining, if you're negative, if you're making excuses or if you're feeling sorry for yourself, that should tip you off that you are in victim mentality.

So when you're complaining and blaming, you say things like "I want to lose weight, but I have no control over myself". "None of the methods that I have ever tried work on me", or "if my boss was a more competent manager and would support my decisions, I would be able to achieve my goals". Or "if my parents had taken care of me when I was a teenager, I wouldn't be single today".

So it can be subtle. It can sound to you as if you're simply explaining the situation. "We used to get much better service in Sweden. Now you go to any restaurant and service sucks." or "I would gladly have helped you on your project, but I am so swamped with work that I won't be able to" or something that I have heard quite a lot in the past couple of years: "if there wasn't a corona pandemic, I wouldn't be so stressed.

And I would write the book that I have been dreaming of writing", or I would do the thing that I have been dreaming on doing. So this is typical tip off that you're probably stepping in victim mentality is when you're complaining or blaming, because you're assigning the responsibility for your results or for the way you feel to an external circumstance or person.

The second behavior that should tip you off about victim mentality is defensiveness. This is when you challenge anything that could be perceived as criticism. And very often, as a secondary symptom, you're going to take anything that is not a hundred percent endorsement as a critic.

So typically examples of that would be "yes, but the reason I took this decision is because of the information I had at the time. I couldn't have known what you think I should have based my decision on." That's defensiveness. Or "I hear what you're saying, but my case is very different". That's also defensiveness. Byron Katie, the American coach I quote regularly, she says that defense is the first act of war.

Being defensive can also express itself in another more subtle way, which is the third type of behavior that you might want to watch out for, which is rebellion.

Rebellion is just defensiveness and powerlessness with a Mohawk and a cool car. When you're constantly challenging and resenting orders, it's because you consider that the other person has, is all mighty compared to you and it feels unfair. And so you rebel to prove that you have some sort of autonomy. But you're just reacting, right.

You're just doing the opposite of what somebody else decided. So you're not, you're not choosing the playing field. You're just reacting to somebody else's rules. When you actually own up to your own feelings, you're okay with somebody thinking whatever they want to think about you or your contribution; about whether you're doing the right thing or not.

You're okay with them having the wrong opinion of you. You allow them to have the wrong opinion of you. It doesn't change what you think of yourself. You can still feel good in spite of what they think, because you decide what you think and your thoughts create your feelings. And you don't need to shove it in their face, or to explain in all the details.

You don't need to be defensive because you just know for yourself and that's enough for you. And that's real self-confidence. So for me, rebellion is really just subtle or not so subtle all the time. But in terms of noticing it at least, or picking up on the powerlessness behind it, it's just another marker of victim mentality.

Then the fourth type of behavior that you might want to watch out for is self-centeredness. It's when you're telling stories in which you're always the target of somebody else's negative intentions. It sounds as if people are doing things just to spite you. You're the main reason for other people's behavior.

So for example, "they invited everyone, except for me, they decided not to invite me to the party" or "my mother-in-law made spaghetti for dinner. She couldn't care less that I'm on the diet. I think she's trying to sabotage my weight loss". Or "they asked me for an interview just because they needed to prove that they had considered a woman, but they never really intended to hire me." Note that the stories in those three examples, they might be true.

It might be absolutely true that they chose not to invite you to the party. It could be absolutely true that your mother-in-law hates you and made spaghetti on purpose, but listen to the way you recount anecdotes and notice if there's a pattern. Because if you're telling you stories where in general or in one area of your life, you're always the butt of negative intentions of others, you're probably in victim mentality.

There are two additional forms of victim mentality, which are more subtle. The first one. So number five, the fifth type of behavior that you can watch out for. Is when you're hiding by not sharing yourself, not sharing your feelings, not putting yourself out there or avoiding the spotlight.

For example, when you're thinking "it's not that important" or "do as you prefer, I'm fine either way", or "I just need to fine tune this one more time and then I'll be ready to share". So of course, if you believe that there's a villain out there to get you, you're going to be reluctant to expose yourself.

And this is why hiding is actually a marker of victim mentality. And then the last marker of victim mentality or the last behavior to look out for is the need for control. And that's a very subtle form of victim mentality because it looks like the opposite of being a victim because you're trying to control. It looks like you're a dictator.

It looks like you're manipulating others, but it's actually a marker of victim mentality because you're thinking that you need other people to behave in a certain way for you to feel okay. So you're assigning all of your power to their behavior. So this is what it might sound like. "Why won't my husband take out the trash?" that's a typical one. Or "if only my boss would do this one thing or stop to do this other thing, everything would be great".

So you really need to control their behavior. And this is really what's happening. You think that if your husband would take out the trash, you would be able to feel good, but in reality, since your feelings are created by your thoughts and not by your husband's behavior, you are able to feel good regardless of what your husband does.

The real issue is that when your husband doesn't do what you'd like him to do, you make it mean something about yourself that hurts. So, for example, you make it mean that "he doesn't care about me" or "he doesn't prioritize my requests". And this likely resonates with a deeper thought that you have about yourself.

So for example, "I am not lovable" or "I am not worthy of respect". And those thoughts are of course extremely painful. So you need your husband to take out the trash because when he doesn't take out the trash, suddenly you start thinking "I am not lovable", or "I am not worthy of respect". And that's very subtle and you might not notice it if you're not paying attention, and if you're not really looking to take ownership for your feelings.

But when you start to take ownership for your feelings, you're going to start to notice what's actually going on behind the scene. And when you notice that, you can stop thinking I am not lovable, or I'm not worthy of respect. You can think exactly the opposite, regardless of what your husband does, whether he takes out the trash or not, and you can feel wonderful no matter what.

So the need for control is actually a form of helplessness. It's when we want to make people behave in a certain way, because we think it's the only way for us to avoid feeling bad. So those six different behaviors you can be on the watch out for. So I repeat them. The first one is complaining and blaming.

The second one is defensiveness. The third one is rebellion. The fourth one is self-centeredness. The fifth one is hiding and the sixth and last one is the need for control. So victim mentality, it comes from feeling unworthy. The belief at the core of victim mentality is that we are not enough as we are. It's when we think things like "there's something wrong with me".

"I'm not like other people". "I don't deserve this". "I am not good at this". "I am not worthy of this person's love, admiration or respect". "I don't measure up to the situation or to others’ expectations of me". And the reason why it's so frequent that we think like this is because our brains are designed for survival. And a hundred thousand years ago, if you were kicked out by your tribe, that was a reason for very quick - and painful, probably - death.

So our survival depended on being really well integrated inside of the group. So our brain has evolved to always scan whatever we're doing and to constantly ask itself: am I fitting in, am I doing anything that could get me rejected? Am I contributing enough? Am I special enough? Am I good enough? Am I enough?

And so victim mentality is just overdoing this tendency a little and it's a thought pattern. So if you're in the habit of thinking in this victim mentality pattern, it doesn't mean that you're not strong or capable or amazing or smart or anything. It's just this way of thinking, this default loop, is just one of the possible default thought loops for your brain. So some of us fall into victim mentality.

Some of us fall into a different of these brain defense mechanisms that the brain puts in place every time we're trying to get out of our comfort zone. So there's many others, another thought loop can be confusion, or perfectionism, or anxiety, or exhaustion, or a few others, right? So victim mentality is just one of them.

But it's a pernicious one because it really keeps you deep into powerlessness and helplessness. And of course, from feeling that way, you're not going to accomplish your goal, but also those feelings really suck. So I really recommend that you're on the lookout for whenever you are in victim mentality?

So, how do you get rid of victim mentality? Well, I don't think that you can completely get rid of victim mentality just the way that I don't think you can get rid of any of your thought patterns. But you can definitely minimize it and step out of it very quickly, as soon as you notice that it happens.

So the most important thing is to raise your awareness. So I've given you six different types of behaviors that are probably a marker of victim mentality. What you can do is you can think about them and you can ask yourself, is there any type of situation in my life where I typically exhibit one of these behaviors?

So you can start by raising your awareness there. And then you can also remind yourself when you're going to go into such a situation. So for example, when you're going to go for dinner with your mother-in-law, you can pay a little bit more attention to what you're thinking in the moment, and catch yourself.

And you might not catch yourself the first time. Maybe it's going to take 10 times to try before you catch yourself. But if you don't try, you're not going to succeed. That's for sure. So you try and raise your awareness and pay attention to what you're thinking. And in particular notice what's going on, like, what are the facts of what's going on?

Separate the facts from the interpretation. And in particular, in terms of interpretation, notice who or what you're assigning the responsibility of how you're feeling to. So is it your mother-in-law, is it the spaghetti or is it your thoughts? And really claim ownership for the way you are feeling and really notice that you're feeling the way you're feeling because of the way you're thinking of the situation and not because of that specific circumstance or that specific person.

So you can decide to completely let go of the villain and reclaim your power. And you do that by deciding that you are responsible to make do with the situation and to secure your own happiness. And the more often you do that, the more often you're going to be able to step out of victim mentality and feel really empowered in whatever situation that you're in.

It's just a matter of practice. It might not happen the first time. It might not happen the 10th time. Maybe it takes a little bit longer for you to do it, but if you practice, for sure, there is a moment in which you're going to notice your thought pattern. You're going to notice who you're giving all your power away to.

And as soon as you have noticed that, you can decide to reclaim it. So you can decide, it is not my mother-in-law and her spaghetti which is making me feel that way. It's the way I'm looking at the situation. What could be a different way for me to look at the same situation that makes me feel better? And again, you can listen to previous episodes and I will put some links in the show notes to understand how to do that.

If you found this episode helpful and you want to help the podcast, the best way is to share it with other people, either by leaving a review or by tipping a friend about it. And if you want to go further on this concept, you can check out my coaching program on In my program, this is where we study everything that I teach you on the podcast in much more detail.

I show you how to apply them to your specific situation. And I help you create the results that you are longing to create. Thanks a lot for listening today. And remember that even when you can't get yourself to do what you want, even when you're stuck in negative emotions unpleasant thought loops.

And even when you don't believe it, especially when you don't believe it, you're not broken. You're not flawed and you're not jinxed. You're just learning how to be an excellent rider. There are no bad horses, only untrained riders.

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