What is your victim story?
Lately my ears have been tuned in to these. Folks are happy to offer them up quicker than any other tidbit about themselves. And if they aren’t talking about them, they are definitely thinking them.
What are you, a mindreader? Not hardly. I just know that when someone’s got a scowl on their face, it’s a sure sign they are playing a familiar melancholy tune in their heads that provides them a simple explanation of why life sucks.* (Also—takes one to know one.)
Granted, no one likes to consider themselves a victim. But the fact is, most of us have a narrative about why we just can’t progress in the direction we’d like. That one thing that gets in the way, no matter what. Our victim story exists to keep us stagnant, small and safe. Emphasis on the safe. Breaking out of it throws us into unknown territory and that can be scary. More on that later.
When we are particularly bothered by someone else’s victim story, therein lies a hidden nugget of truth about ourselves. Something we hear in the other person mirrors our own go-to tale and. We. Cannot. Stand. It.
A few of my acquaintances have victim stories that match up with my own. A sure sign I am hearing one of them is that I suddenly get the urge to stuff my fingers in my ears and belt out the Star Spangled Banner. One story in particular bothers me so much that the last time I heard it, I ordered a couple more drinks just to dumb the pain. I hadn’t bumped into the woman who tells this dreary tale in ages, but at a recent outing, there was no avoiding her. She turned to me, and, as if on cue, unleashed a torrent of complaints about how little time she had for anything. I wish I was you, she said, and then named some luxurious thing she perceives as how I spend my day. It drove me absolutely bananas. And if you are wondering whether she’ll identify herself here—don’t bother. She claims she doesn’t have time to read.
There is no doubt that her victim story sticks in my craw because it is also my victim story: I never get my own time for my own life. Sometimes it’s my husband spontaneously working from home on loud conference calls on the other side of the wall from my quiet writing space—it’s happening this minute actually—or the child, who is no fan of school, remaining face down on his bed, requiring an hours long effort to coax him into the car. When something like this throws off my day, I tell myself how no one cares one whit about wasting my time. Then I go around with a black cloud over my head, not doing my work and resenting everyone around me with their fancy, undisrupted schedules.
So why do we repeat this story about our lives and let it derail us?
Because we are afraid of our own power, of what we would be capable of if we weren’t strapping on cement boots. We are afraid to unleash our true potential. We got the idea that playing small serves us best due to it’s safety and predictability. If we continue to tell ourselves we can’t because of ______, we can be sure that the worst that will happen is we will be comfortably disappointed in ourselves. Nbd.
But the only way to really live is to take risks. To break out of our comfort zone, not to wait for the perfect conditions. To go for it with no regrets.
Here are some ways to break free:
- We begin by identifying what our victim story even is. (Like me, you may have several.) When we recognize it and accept that that is what is happening, we can take a deep breath and know awareness is the critical first step.
- It’s super comfy to let the story explain why we are here, playing small. The downside is that when we choose fear, we say no to our true desires. Love. Fulfillment. Acceptance. Joy. All of those are within us, waiting to come out IF we honor our true selves, claim our space and choose love over fear. In this life, you only get one of those. Why not choose love.
- We can avoid the grip of the victim story if we give ourselves what we need in the moment. For me, when my son is stuck in the I hate school routine, it works out best when I clean up my own energy. When I don’t pile on the judgment, he has the space to work out what he needs to do in his own head. I also dealt with the practical matter of searching for alternatives to his current program. I now have a great one in my back pocket. We will check it out if and when he is ready.
- Seek the wisdom of your spiritual guides. Eckhart Tolle teaches that life will give you whatever experience is the most helpful to the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because it is the experience you are having at the moment. It is all meant to be exactly as it is right now. Learn what you need to learn from this and then you will move on to the next lesson.
- Recognize the gift. Your life is not about what you have to do, it’s about what you get to do. In recent weeks, I’ve done more caretaking than usual. At times, I have devolved into self-pity. When my husband prepared to go skiing while I sat in an emergency room, I wondered how I’d drawn the short straw. When I shook free of victim mode, I recognized that I had been blessed with the time and resources to spend a beautiful few days with my father and daughter and to reconnect with my brothers. There are people out in the world who have no one at all and others who have loved ones they cannot be with. I am lucky.
- Lastly, all you are responsible for is right now. Don’t waste time regretting yesterday or worrying about tomorrow. You have absolutely no control over that. Do the next right thing and stop freaking out.
And just so you know, I was REALLY getting stuck in my victim story so this little offering to you has been gently used by me first. When you realize it is YOU that holds you back more than anyone or anything, you can make better choices. Knowing you are in control of your attitude and your energy gives you the sense that it’s all going to be okay.
WRITING PROMPT: What is your victim story? How can you break out of it? What hasn’t been possible in your life when you have believed it? How is it going to be different now?
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*You might be saying to yourself, hey, I have this limitation that really is awful and insurmountable.I used to buy that too. And then I saw Nick Santonastasso speak. He was born with Hanhart syndrome, an extremely rare condition that left him legless and missing an arm. His motto: “the biggest disability is a bad mindset.” Check him out. He may just change your life. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rc8offk7Mho