We’ve all heard similar adages that we are the victims or villains depending on who is telling the story. With all of the crap I’ve been going through lately I have found myself falling down the victim trail. Any one of us can make that choice because we all experience moments in our lives that feel beyond our control and, let’s face it, the moment anything is beyond our control, we feel victimized. I started looking at my patterns and realized exactly how much I’ve allowed this mindset to take over my life and how often I’ve played this role and I felt disgusted. It felt like a truck crushed me because I’ve fallen prey to this so many times. I started fearing it’s simply my wiring—and I’m a victim of genetics. That may be part of it, but at the very least I do know it’s part of my conditioning if not my actual makeup. I also know I’m tired of it.
The interesting part of being a victim or villain is that those definitions depend on the perspective of someone on the outside. And those on the outside rarely matter when it comes to the matters of your heart. It’s also interesting that we try to portray a certain role (at times) to illicit a feeling from someone else. Not that we are necessarily being manipulative, but if we feel we are at our emotional limit and unable to do something as needed, we always explain ourselves and how we can’t muster that energy now. Maybe we want a little sympathy, but most times it’s to create understanding. But if that understanding is about making ourselves look weak, then we are feeding into the victim role. Is that what the goal is?
We can learn to set a boundary without being a victim, and in full transparency, I have no clue how to do that. That is a skill I am determined to develop, but it is not a strong point for me yet. I’ve worked for people who didn’t give a damn if I was bleeding out and demanded I come to work, so yes, I learned very early on that in order to get any semblance of help, I needed to sell how bad the situation really was. A company policy stating, “While we encourage the use of time off for recharging, we understand that isn’t always possible with scheduling issues” and then short-staffing the place to save a buck puts you in a situation where you feel you have no choice but to put your needs last. I never learned that these were unhealthy habits and that any company worth their weight never would put their employees in situations like that.
I’ve learned I will not get ahead in this world on the good graces of people seeing how much I suffer. My suffering does not endear me to them. No, that only puts me in a position where they see how much I am willing to sacrifice for their behalf and they learn to expect more. And, truthfully, that is human nature. We learn to take the path of least resistance and if we see someone willing to do the work, then we allow it. It is not innate to take on the burdens of others ourselves. So why do we learn to hope others will take on our struggles willingly?
I want to be clear in all of this that victimhood is not the same as vulnerability. And perhaps what I’ve been going for all this time was vulnerability—but I made myself the victim. Vulnerability is about expressing what is going on while maintaining a boundary. It isn’t saying you can’t do something—it is clearly stating you can’t do it now and setting the terms of when you will do it. Vulnerability doesn’t put you in a position to be taken advantage of—that is a victim because the victim then relies on the actions of the other people involved. Vulnerability is about being real and victimhood is a story we tell. So, decide how you want your story to go and start aligning the narrative in your head. Don’t make it about how many wrongs you’ve endured—make it about how you’ve moved through life with grace no matter what came at you. Make it your decision, not someone else’s interpretation. While we are still blessed to be on this Earth, we get to tell our own stories. Harley Davidson is attributed with saying, “When writing the story of your life, never let anyone else hold the pen.” Don’t hand over the tools you’ve been given while you’re still here to use them.