Do you feel like nothing ever works out for you?
Like you never get what you want?
Like good things only happen to other people, but not you?
Do you often blame other people for your unhappiness?
If any of this resonates, read on, because this episode is all about a powerful perspective shift you can use to move from an unempowered state of mind to a much more empowered place.
Prefer the audio? Listen here.
What Does the “Victim Mindset” Mean?
What does it mean to feel unempowered or victimized in life?
This includes feelings like:
A pervasive sense of helplessness
Passivity- you do not take action to change things you don’t like
Loss of control
Pessimism and negative thinking
Guilt, shame, self-blame, or even depression
These are all potential signs of a victim or unempowered mentality.¹
A note on the ‘victim’ mentality: I feel like it gets a bad rap because it sounds like victim blaming. I think it is more accurate to talk about empowerment because our focus is on going from feeling unempowered to empowered.
Trauma, distress, and pain are often rooted in the victim mentality.
As a child, if you had traumatic experiences at the hands of other people, you may have learned a certain amount of helplessness.
You likely had no other choice but to deal with awful situations.
Kids are the ultimate captive audience. It is not like you can hitch a ride somewhere and get an apartment when you’re in third grade, right?
As a result of these experiences, seeds of helplessness can take root within us and grow. The belief this sucks and it will always suck becomes hard to shake.
However, when we feel unempowered, we do not take responsibility for ourselves.
Again, this makes sense because when you were a kid, you did not have the power to take responsibility for yourself. You were in an unempowered situation.
But now is not then.
Raising Our Awareness
I wanted to do this episode because there are more ways we can take responsibility for ourselves than we may realize.
A lot of this is unconscious material we are unaware of. By becoming aware, we can change it and take full responsibility for ourselves and our lives.
When we blame others for our misery, it is like we are saying they have power over us. We are subjecting ourselves to what others are doing or what they want.
Even when people do the wrong things (because they will, and will continue to), we can take responsibility for how we respond, what we do, the limits we set, the boundaries we draw, and the conversations we have.
We cannot change the other person, of course, but we can decide how (or if) to respond. It just requires a shift in perspective.
It is inaccurate to believe someone else can make or break your happiness or success. The saying “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for” illustrates this well.
We Come In Alone, We Go Out Alone
If we are lucky to partner with people we love, great.
If we have good friends, amazing.
If we have siblings or family we are close to, right on.
Here is the truth: we come in alone and we go out alone.
I do not say this to be depressing. I am the biggest group gal you will ever meet.
But I am the only one responsible for my happiness.
This stark realization came to me during cancer treatment over two decades ago.
I was in a dark room with a sonogram-led needle in my neck because there was a tumor. It was painful (no anesthesia) and scary as hell.
Even though my husband Vic was right outside the door waiting for me, he could not be in the room with me.
I did not hold it against him, of course, but there was this sudden realization of, I have to do for me. I have to be aware of what I need. I have to take care of my health.
As do you.
You do not need a cancer diagnosis to come to this realization. It is simply the truth about life.
Partnering is amazing. Friendships are amazing. And yet at the end of the day, it is you and you alone who is responsible for what happens in your life.
I am not saying you are responsible for any bad things that happen to you.
There are plenty of things, like cancer, that we cannot possibly be held responsible for. But we are responsible for how we respond and react to it, or what we make it mean in our lives.
What is the Secondary Gain of Feeling Unempowered?
The secondary gain is the unobvious gain we get by being stuck in situations we say we do not want to be in but stay in anyway.
It is helpful to look for the hidden, sneaky gain in situations because we are human. If there wasn’t something in it for us, we would not be doing it.
When we blame our unhappiness on someone else, what do we get to not face, not feel, or not experience by blaming them?
We get to not change anything, right?
If you find yourself blaming others for your situation or feeling unempowered, I invite you to think about what you have to gain from it. Inside the guide are prompts to help you explore the secondary gain. Download it here.
How to Begin Taking Full Responsibility For Yourself
Taking full responsibility for our lives is empowering and leads to more self-respect.
When you take responsibility for your successes, failures, mistakes, and harm done to others, it uplevels the quality of your relationships and life.
It also makes you feel like you can count on yourself.
How can you begin to do this?
First, become mindful. If you hear yourself saying, “If only this person hadn’t done X, Y, and Z, my life would be better…” stop talking. Take a deep breath and reframe it.
The real question is, what am I doing now?
Taking responsibility is all about actions we can take now. Ruminating about when we were wronged in the past essentially means we are living in the past.
And it only exists in your mind.
Focusing on the future helps. I do not mean future tripping per se- just think about what you want. How do you want to live? If your current situation is not serving you or you do not like it, what situation do you want? What changes do you want to make?
Getting specific helps. Many times, my therapy clients say something like, “I’m not happy in my relationship,” and I say, “Okay, but why?”
“I’m just not happy,” they say.
We have to get down to the granular level of what is going on.
If you want something to change, you have to be specific. What do you need? More communication? More quality time? More sex? More affection?
You cannot tell your partner they need to “be better” without being specific about what you want or what is missing.
Alienation and Compassion Fatigue
Nedra Tawwab, another amazing therapist in this space (who also has a book on boundaries called Set Boundaries, Find Peace), talks about how being dialed into victimhood alienates us from others.²
Think about it: do you have people in your life who complain all the time? Who always focuses on the negative?
It is exhausting, and there comes a point where you’ve spent so much compassion on the person, and yet, nothing changes. It goes from possibly being constructive to more like toxic dumping.
This experience is called compassion fatigue, and it is real.
If you are someone who often complains (which can be difficult to admit), the people in your life may think of ‘complaining’ as part of your personality.
No judgment here. Again, awareness is the first step to changing behavior. Becoming aware and taking ownership of your decisions is how you can create the extraordinary life you deserve.
How to Become More Empowered
Let’s move into practical strategies you can use to shift into empowerment.
When you feel helpless, honor and acknowledge your feelings. Mourn what did not work out the way you wanted.
Stop “shoulding” all over yourself. Tune in and honor your internal experiences instead.
It is okay to be frustrated or angry, but you do not want to stay there forever. Process it and honor it.
You also want to be mindful of scapegoating or blaming other people for how you feel.
Is it possible you are displacing your disappointment, fear, or anger onto someone else? Can you raise your awareness of what you might be trying to micromanage the crap out of in your current reality?
When we are blaming, we often get dialed into what the other person should be doing differently. Let’s bring it back to the truth: you are responsible for how you feel, respond, and react.
Shifting the focus of your lens from others onto yourself helps you see the different options and opportunities available to take real responsibility for yourself.
You can also take a perspective inventory, which will be in the guide (download it here). It is designed to give you clarity around your current situation and make it easier to shift into an empowered mindset.
You can also take an honest inventory of what is working and not working in your life. If you feel a constant low-level frustration, this inventory helps you narrow down where you specifically feel unsatisfied with life. It is a GPS of where you can begin to make changes.
Additionally, become mindful of comparing yourself to others. Comparing and despairing is rarely productive, and it fuels the less empowered mindset we are trying to shift.
Lastly, reframe your perspective on your capabilities. Look for evidence of your strengths and unique gifts. Use this as fuel and motivation to keep going because the truth is, there is no one else like you. You have survived everything you have been through in this life so far. The world would not have your unique gifts and talents without you here.
I hope this episode inspires you to focus more on what you can do to take full responsibility for yourself and less on blaming others and feeling unempowered.
The truth is, you can choose to feel more empowered, one next right action at a time.
Start by downloading the guide to gain clarity on where you feel unempowered and for ideas on moving into empowerment.
I hope you have the most amazing, empowered week, and as always, take care of you.