Your choice-victim or leader?

Photo © Jenn Shallvey 2015

Photo © Jenn Shallvey 2015

I see a lot of people of all types and stages of personal growth in my work.  My observation is that each of us is on our own personal journey through life. We are learning in every opportunity whether we are aware or not. There are some interesting themes that emerge in the work I do. Perhaps it is a bias people have when they seek to engage in personal growth. Yet I see it in conversations with strangers, in the news, in hearsay. It is everywhere. Even in myself so I know it first hand. What is it?

Being a victim.

It's not me, it's you!

When we are in the state of being the victim the world is against us. Someone else is to blame. Someone or something else is the problem. Never ourselves. We are the way we are because someone else did something to us. It’s me against them. It’s me against the world. It’s me and my perceptions against reality. I see the world one way and you see it another way and you must be wrong.  

In the victim stance we submit, we give in, we let others take charge and be the leaders of our lives. Or we can fight and rebel against anything and everything that comes our way. In the victim stance we absolve ourselves of personal responsibility. In a victim state we blame rather than accept, resolve and get on. We stay stuck. We stay 'safe'.

Quick to react?

You can see it in your reaction. If something happens to you that you think is unfair what do you do? Do you immediately jump to an emotional response or consider the experience.  If your emotions take over watch out.  The unfed victim mentality thrives on emotions. Anger in particular is powerful ally. We rise up in defence and attack the perpetrator. It could be anyone and have nothing to do with your original reason for feeling a victim.  But because you got so attached to the outcomes of being a victim you perpetuate the habit of being one.

For example, perhaps years ago you had something happen to you. Something that was not nice. Can be anything. At the time you identified with the experience. You likely built a story about it as well. Then as time went by the story grew or gained traction. Others in your inner circle unknowingly colluded with you to perpetuate and grow the story.  Soon the story became part of your identity. You can tell this identity confusion happens when you notice you define yourself by your story and not by who you really are.

You then might notice as well projection of feelings onto others. So anger at the experiences that generated the victim response will be triggered in other situations.

Choosing to shift

What is underlying in the victim experience is the opportunity for healing. There is always an opportunity for healing and forgiveness. Mostly of self but also of others.  The power to rise above an experience and be our true self takes courage. It takes commitment and willpower to step into being a leader of your own self.  It is not easily done. It is also not easily done on our own.

In my own experience I chose to seek help to move from a victim state to one of being clear about myself and who I am, to be a self leader. It took years actually.  I gave permission to those helping me in this process to call me on the behaviour. Through a variety and myriad of processes and experiences I moved from complete denial of my victim self to loving and accepting this part of me so I could let it go.  This one sentence does not even do justice to the work and achievement of this process. Let's just say it's in the past and a learning experience that shapes who I am today.

A conscious response

Yes you read this correctly! For me the ultimate place to get to is self love and acceptance not criticism and judgement.  I accepted that the choices I made early in my life to cope were what I needed to do. And likewise with the triggers and reasons for being a victim no longer present in my life I can now choose not to be the victim.

I went from unconscious to conscious. By this I mean I can now see myself almost like a third person when I need to. In doing this I am able to notice how in a situation where I previously had the habit of being a victim I can consciously choose another response. Whereas in the past I reacted emotionally I now consider my response.  And yes I still am tested. And yes I am still learning.

Breaking free from others

What was harder though was changing the internal mindset that life was unfair and that it was everyone else’s fault. It took a bit more to get there because around me I created a world that supported me being a victim.

Getting to this place means that many who know you will not get you. When you choose to no longer be a victim you break the habit and patterns of dependency on others. You break ties that others find familiar. You leave others in unknown territory because they no longer know how to deal with you. It is not easy and it is not smooth. You may seem on the outside like the same person but inside your are fully expanded and evolved. Only you really know the fullness of this new place.

You also no longer have satisfaction in commiserating with other victims about the plight of your lives and the world around you. The difference opens like a chasm separating you from a world you used to find comfortable to one that now you choose to create.  You know this because conversations that you once animatedly participated in are now simply distractions. You can see the circular nature of the dialogue and how these worlds insulate members from seeing their true potential.

Some go with you. Others do not. Either way it is still about acceptance and non judgement of either.

Testing along the way

Yes. Staying in the victim state holds us back. It ultimately is a place that is safe and keeps us protected. We can avoid stepping forward. We can avoid being who we really are. We can manage the fear by staying small. I know. I have done this for many years. It is a familiar place.Yet stepping forward to be the fuller person we are, to really experience life and all its potential has so much more reward. 

The shift is not instantaneous. Though we do have epiphany moments. Sometimes these epiphany moments inspire us to take a risk. Yet if our victim personality still has a stronghold we can be pulled back into our old habits.  It takes regular, supported and reinforced choice to overcome the victim and consciously move into a new space. It also requires self love, self acceptance and self belief.

So why share all of this?

Well I want you to choose to let go of your victim state and step forward. 

I want you to choose to be brave and courageous about being you, the full you. 

I want more people to choose to let go of their habits of hiding and playing small in the world. 

The more we do this then the more we can all make this world a better place. 

The more we shift from blame, criticism and victim to acceptance, support and leadership the more we will enjoy life, living and work.

Jenn Shallvey