Many moons ago when I was an undergraduate at the University of Zimbabwe, I was so excited about learning , I decided to do Psychology side by side with my main course which was English Literature. Little did I know it was going to be useful.
What do all humans have in common?
We have all played the victim before. How many of us have blamed our little sister or brother for breaking a family heirloom? I know I have. How many of us have pointed the finger at our co-worker for screwing something up at work? But, playing the victim is like eating bad food- it will only make you feel worse in the long run.Here’s the bottom line: people that believe they are victims tend to push friends, family and coworkers away.
Let’s look at some 14 signs that someone is playing the victim card and what they need to do instead:
They don’t take responsibilityThis is a classic sign of victim behavior. A victim has trouble accepting they contributed to a problem and accepting responsibility for the circumstance that they are in. Instead, they point the finger, or simply ignore their role in perpetuating the problem. They are not overtly saying “I’m a victim”, but instead indirectly sending the message that they’re a martyr.
What’s the remedy here? Every circumstance, situation, and event in their life offers the victim an opportunity for growth. They may not be completely responsible for what has occurred, but they can always ask if they contributed somehow. Asking this question invites a person to be responsible, mature and cooperative. Plus, it will help them avoid similar situations in the future.They are frozen in their life
Victims believe that they are at the mercy of everyone and everything around them. Usually, a victim will not make progress or advance in their life because they perceive that they are powerless. As a result, their life is stagnant. If you were to ask them why, they would respond by giving you a laundry list of reasons why they are stuck. The real sticking point here is that the victim will not usually tell you what they plan to do about their lack of progress in life.
What’s the remedy here? The victim needs to see that small behaviors or changes in their attitude can reap big rewards. Try to help the victim make a list of small, achievable steps they can take towards a goal in their life. Hold them accountable and ask them to hold themselves accountable too.They hold onto grudges
The victim likes to hang onto old grievances. They carry these around like weapons, just in case anyone ever tries to hold them accountable for something. A victim will bring up old memories and events in which they were probably legitimately hurt, but they use them as reasons why they can’t make changes to their attitude, their life, or their circumstances in the present. These hurts and grudges underpin the victim’s hobbled life. .What’s the remedy here? This one is pretty simple. Let those grudges go! The victim needs to see that keeping grudges is only holding them down, and not doing anything to help anyone else either- although the victim may not believe this. The victim needs to recognize that freeing others of blame is actually returning all power and self-control back to the victim, so guess what? That means they no longer have to be the victim!
They have trouble being assertive
The victim does not truly believe they can control their life, so they struggle to state what they need, desire or deserve. The victim’s life will usually involve repeating patterns of submissiveness and passivity. This pattern is detrimental to self-esteem and personal development. The victim fails to break this pattern and suffers from potential anxiety or depressive disorders.
What’s the remedy here? A first recommendation is to seek help from a professional psychologist, counselor, or life coach. This is a chance for the victim to turn the direction of their life around. It could also be beneficial for the victim to read a book on assertiveness, commonly available in libraries or bookstores. Ultimately, learning to be assertive is not a quick fix. It will take time, practice, learning, failing, and trying over and over. In the end, however, the victim will no longer feel that gnawing sense of powerlessness and self-pity that has kept them down for so long.They feel powerless
This could be a shadow behavior, meaning that the victim does not outwardly show that they feel powerless. Instead, the victim will try to be manipulative, coercive, and underhanded in getting what they need. You may have dealt with someone experiencing this kind of powerlessness. Usually, the victim is someone that is suspicious of others, feels insecure, and constantly needs to know the latest gossip.
What’s the remedy here? First, do not play the game with them. Stay away from the game of sharing gossip, listening to their stories of manipulation, or their stories of insecurity. Let them know you’re there to support them and to listen to them, but not to contribute to their feeling of powerlessness.They don’t trust others
This issue is not only a problem of not trusting others. This is a problem of the victim not believing they are trustworthy themselves. The victim makes the assumption that other people are exactly like them – untrustworthy.
What’s the remedy here? Examine the evidence. Are all people untrustworthy? Probably not. There are trustworthy people in the world. There are people that want the best for you. There are people that want to help you. It is the job of the victim to begin revising their old assumptions about people.They don’t know when to say enough is enough
In relationships, victims have no sense of limits. They don’t know when to say enough is enough.
What’s the remedy here? The victim needs to start creating their own boundaries. What is the maximum they are willing to take in a relationship, or in any given situation? It is the responsibility of the victim to decide these boundaries for themselves.
Emotional blackmailThe use or threat to use of strong emotions to control others can be very effective. Using this strategy, supervisees become overly emotional (tears, upset, victim) at the slightest hint of negative feedback from their colleagues. Everyone is on egg shells to keep the person from expressing their strong emotions all over the office. Crafty manipulators will go from office to office crying and talking about the horrible things the colleagues does to them. In the long-term, this gives the individual tremendous power. It doesn’t happen all at once but over time others are less and less likely to make or communicate a decision that will set this employee off.
What’s the remedy here: If you stay grounded and understand these remarks as manipulation attempts instead of factual statements, you can stay detached and keep your cool.
They feel sorry for themselves
Victims have a habit of pitying themselves. Their mirror reflects a defenseless child that cannot fend for itself. Since other people do not usually show them sympathy or empathy, they try to give it to themselves, only to potentially appear immature to others. This further traps them in the victim role.
What’s the remedy here? Recognize that all people have tough days and experience bad events. Even the luckiest people experience unfortunate events. The victim must learn to avoid thinking that they are the only person in the world that has experience sad, difficult, or unfair circumstances.They constantly compare themselves to others
The victim usually struggles with the habit of comparing themselves to others negatively. The truth is that we are all lacking in some respect compared to others. No one has it all.
What’s the remedy here? The victim needs to change their view. The victim must recognize that they have good qualities and likely have experienced privileges too. Yes, they’ve probably not always been super lucky, but it’s not all bad!They see life as always lacking
Even when something good happens, the victim will seek out what’s lacking or what’s missing. The victim will complain about complaining and then complain that they can’t stop complaining. It’s a deadly cycle.
What’s the remedy here? They should count their blessings, The victim needs to treasure these blessings and develop a new habit of being positive and optimistic. They should aim to be the most thankful and hopeful person they can be.They are a critic
The victim has a need to put others down and find fault in people. By doing these things, they get a fleeting sense of superiority.
What’s the remedy here? The victim should take all their energy and use it to build others up. This will reflect back on them in a positive way too.They think they are perfect
Ironically, when there is a chance that a victim could be caught in an error, they suddenly become perfect. This arrogance and narcissism closes the victim off from having truly trustworthy and cooperative relationships.
What’s the remedy here? They need to remove the word ‘perfect’ from their vocabulary, and accept that they are human and are not perfect. In fact, the victim needs to realize that the more they own their mistakes and failings, the more others will gravitate towards them.They cut people out of their life
“I’ve had it – they are out of my life for good!” If you’ve heard that statement before and it wasn’t in reference to an actually dangerous or abusive situation, then you’re probably dealing with a victim. Rather, this statement was likely made in reference to everyday behaviors and relationship problems the victim finds challenging. In response to this, their default strategy is to cut people out of their lives. This highly emotional behavior creates chaotic relationships.
What’s the remedy here? Breathe. Stop the brain chatter for a moment. Take a walk.
The victim needs to recognize their pattern of cutting people off. Cutting people off usually doesn’t lead to the resolution of problems and conflict. They could always take a different, more positive approach, such as letting people know their feelings instead.In the end, the victim will end up facing painful consequences in their life and relationships if they do not change their behavior.
As with most things in life, alternative options are there, we just have to be willing to look for them and make a start.