By Bailey Richardson
A victim mentality can paralyze you. But God can help you identify and conquer it. Let’s break this down together.
Looking at a Victim Mentality
Imagine your most frustrating moment or two from this week. Got it?
Now, I want you to think about what you were saying to yourself in that moment.
I know, sometimes this is hard. We’re not always aware of our own inner dialogue. But bear with me. In your anger, did you think any of the following thoughts?
- “Of course this happened to me. Bad things always happen to me.”
- “What’s the point in trying? No one listens to me anyway.”
- “Everyone else is always doing cool, important things and my life is so lame and unimportant.”
Sound familiar to you? If so, you’re not alone. I’m right there with you, sister.
But even though those things feel true in the moment, those reactions are unhelpful. They are examples of a victim mentality. These thoughts actually interfere with our relationships, our marriages, our jobs, our faith and ultimately our own ability to flourish as the women God created us to be.
Let’s figure out how to identify the victim mentality so we can combat its lies with truth.
What Is a Victim Mentality?
A quick Google search will tell you there are several definitions for victim mentality, also referred to as victim mindset.
As I’ve noticed my own victim tendencies, I’ve come up with a personal working definition. Maybe you’ll find it helpful, too.
Victim mentality is choosing passivity and powerlessness during times of difficulty, often blaming someone or something else for the outcome.
Other attitudes and behaviors that often accompany the victim mentality are blame, manipulation, codependency, resentment and an inability to take responsibility.
But that feels pretty broad, doesn’t it? How do we identify it in specific behaviors? Glad you asked.
Identify a Victim Mentality in Daily Life
I’ll share a story with you about one of my shining parenting moments recently.
For a couple weeks straight I was having a really difficult time putting my toddler to nap. It was going so poorly, in fact, that I started to develop anxiety right before nap time because I knew the struggle ahead.
Every day, right as I’d be leaving her room, my daughter would scream and yell about anything she could think of. Her blanket was off center, her curtain was cracked open, she needed water…if you have kids, you might relate to this struggle.
Then, once I shut the door, she’d jump out of bed and throw herself at the door, screaming.
I was totally speechless. At the end of my rope. I had no idea what to do. I felt powerless against my three-year-old. The thoughts started.
- “All I want is an hour of peace and quiet. Is that too much to ask?!”
- I even started to take her tantrum personally. “After all I do for her, this is how she treats me?!”
- Finally, I gave in. “Fine, if this is how she’s going to act, she can come out of her room. But she’s getting the silent treatment so she knows that’s not okay.”
Do you see where my thoughts went wrong?
I took my toddler’s tantrum as a personal offense. I blamed her for ruining my “peace and quiet.” I was growing resentful of her because I thought I deserved better treatment as her mother.
And that all may be true. But also…she’s three.
Overcoming a Victim Mentality
If I look at this situation through a victim’s lens, I see myself as receiving unjust treatment from a little kid who should know better.
But if I look at this situation through a lens of power and authority, I can recognize it is a frustrating situation and will require me to correct my child’s inappropriate behavior. But I’m not the victim of my three year old’s tantrum. Instead, I can choose to take responsibility and use this as a teaching moment about inappropriate behavior.
See the difference? A woman who plays the victim is powerless, angry and resentful. A woman who recognizes her power is level-headed and able to take responsibility for her role in an unsavory situation.
Maybe you don’t relate to my example. But what about these?
Example 1: You feel frustrated that your husband has so many hobbies and plans but you’re always just at home, bored. A woman with a victim mentality whines that her husband has all the fun, but a woman who recognizes her power chooses to call a friend and make some plans.
Example 2: You feel overlooked and underappreciated at work. A woman with a victim mentality blames her boss for being ignorant and insensitive; a woman who recognizes her power asks for helpful critique so she can better understand her boss’s expectations.
The Power to Overcome a Victim Mentality
Second Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (NKJV)
We must recognize the power we have to choose our reactions. Because of the Holy Spirit in us, our response in hard circumstances can be powerful, loving and clear-minded.
Special Note: In this article, I’m talking about situations that are simply frustrating, annoying and wear us down over time. I am not saying you need to take responsibility for someone else’s unhealthy actions toward you or themselves. There are situations where you may be a victim to actual abuse or manipulation, in which cases you should seek professional help. In cases like these, consult with a counselor, pastor or civil authorities immediately.
Wife Step: Pay attention to your reaction during a frustrating interaction or moment. Do you see a victim mentality creeping in? If so, ask God for help in overcoming it.
Bailey Richardson is the wife of a Paul Bunyan look-a-like, the mama of a growing little family, and a woman on the wild adventure of pursuing Jesus. She lives in a small lake town in Minnesota where her family is highly involved in their local church and Young Life, a global non-profit youth ministry. A self-proclaimed “recovering perfectionist,” Bailey loves writing for and connecting with women who want to more deeply experience the grace, freedom, and abundance that comes from following Jesus. You can find her at baileymrichardson.com or on Instagram @baileymrichardson.
Do you want to intentionally grow your faith and marriage? If so, we’ve created the A Wife Like Me Collective for you! We’re waiting for you!