When the world is against you and emotions run high, it’s easy to paint yourself as the victim of great injustice. Maybe your parents didn’t love you enough or your boss is a bully or racial/sexual/religious barriers are preventing you from reaching your potential, but whatever it is, it’s a serious abuse of your human rights perpetrated by an uncaring and cruel world.
From your dark and miserable corner, I’m sure it feels like this. Like a world unfairly targeting you for reasons beyond your control and limiting your potential achieve even the most basic level of happiness.
No, it’s not your fault. You’re not to blame. You weren’t the one responsible for how things played out and you shouldn’t have to take responsibility for it.
Technically, that’s true, but it’s also wrong.
You’re not a victim
You’re can’t be held completely responsible for your life situation and life experience because in any situation or outcome, in any of the painful and frustrating events you’ve suffered through, there were elements you couldn’t control.
You can’t control what other people thought, what they said, what they did, and how they responded to your honest attempts at doing the right thing. You’re not a master of man and beast and you can’t control their minds. You’re also not able to control other external elements. You couldn’t control the wind or trees or rocks or rain. You’re not mother nature or one of the X-Men (one can only dream…).
But, it’s wrong because whilst it’s technically true that you’re not responsible for the outcome, it’s ignoring one key fact: you definitely contributed in a significant way to whatever happened. You didn’t solely create the outcome, but as you definitely contributed, you’re not a victim, you’re a co-creator.
You can’t be a victim because you contributed to the pain and suffering you experienced. You’re not a tree that germinated from a seed that was swept away from your mother to sprout in a distant field. You’re not a blue bottle floating on the tides, hoping dinner swims into your tentacles. You played a role.
Just as there are elements in every painful and frustrating situation that you can’t control, there are elements you can. Specifically, you can control your thoughts, decisions, and actions. You control what happens inside your brain. You observed the world, had thoughts about it, made decisions, and took actions, and those actions contributed to whatever you experienced.
- You choose who you date and you choose how that relationship is structured
- You choose where you work, what you do for work, how hard you work and who you work with
- You choose who you socialise with, how often you socialise, where you socialise, and what you do whilst socialising
- You choose the food you consume, how often you consume it, and how much you consume
- You choose how well you look after your health
You’re not a victim because being a victim implies you suffered at the hands of others without making a contribution to the outcome. But, whatever you went through didn’t just happen to you. You are an active agent in your life and your activity played a major role in your experience.
Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t in any way excuse the actions of others — especially in the most morally corrupt situations — but I’m not here to assign blame. I’m not here to say you were in your rights to do what you did and the other person wasn’t or the other way around. I’m here to help you take control of your life and the first step in doing that is acknowledging that in every moment of your life, in every outcome and situation, your thoughts, decisions, and actions played a contributing role.
You’re the problem
If you view yourself as a victim, I’m guessing that this wrong you’ve experienced isn’t the first of your short and difficult life. Maybe the previous pain came in a different
If you’ve experienced this pain more than once, there’s a reason it keeps coming back. Not because you’re unlucky or you’ve been cursed by that weird lady down the street who only wears black and carries her cat in her handbag. The problem is not some external force; you’re the problem.
Yes, we just covered the fact that both elements you control and elements you can’t control contribute to your suffering, but if the fact that you keep experiencing these issues over and over again is because of you. You don’t solely create that pain, but you create the conditions that allow it to continue.
When you experience pain and suffering, it’s easy to blame other people. Yes, everyone contributed equally, but if they didn’t do or say what they did or said, things would have worked out differently and you wouldn’t have suffered. Once again, this is technically correct, but it’s also completely disempowering.
It’s technically correct in that changing in the thoughts, decisions, and actions of others can result in an entirely different outcome and far more positive experience. But expecting others to change to improve your life experience is a completely ineffective and disempowering life transformation strategy for three reasons:
Reason 1. People change when they have motivation
The baseline motivation for people is to move away from pain and towards pleasure. Unless they’re experiencing pain due to their actions, they’re not going to change. There’s no reason to. It’s not causing them problems so there’s no motivation to act. In your situation, you’re the one experiencing pain, not them, so where’s their motivation to change?
Reason 2. 6 billion is a lot of people
You’re going to meet and interact with a lot of people over the course of your life and to make sure you don’t go through the same problems over and over again, you’re going to have to convince all of them to act in a way that takes your delicate sensibilities into account. That’s a lot of time and effort and energy. And it’s a lot of time and effort and energy every single time you meet and interact with a new person. All that energy could be FAR better used, especially when you consider that…
Reason 3. Change is hard to maintain
It’s very easy to slip back into old habits and continue acting the way you’ve always operated, especially when you’re not the one experiencing the pain related to your actions. Even if you can convince them to change, there’s very little chance that change is going to be permanent and you’re going to be fighting this battle over and over again, not just with new people, but with people you’ve already been through this with.
Focussing on what others contributed and what they should have done differently is a complete waste of time because it doesn’t work. At best, you’ll achieve small and temporary wins that will give you a momentary reprieve from your frustrating life before having to go back on the offensive when you meet new people or people slip back into old habits. At worst, you’ll just be wasting precious hours and days of your life trying to convince people to change their life for your sake when they will get no direct benefit from doing so.
At no point in time will it help you live a more remarkable life. All it will do is keep you stuck in the same holding pattern, running up against the same problems over and over and over again. People will never act the way you want to and allowing their decisions and actions to determine your life experience is a flawed strategy.
The only way to be in complete control of your life situation, life experience, and life trajectory and remove this pain and frustration from your life forever is to focus solely on what you contributed in any situation. Yes, you read that right: solely. Your less-than-perfect experience was created through a combination of contributions inside and outside your control. You change either one and the outcome changes. Just focus on the one you can control.
And why that’s the best news possible
Focussing solely on what you contributed allows you identify how your thoughts, decisions, and actions contributed to the outcome and come up with a different set of thoughts, decisions, and actions that will allow you to avoid that outcome in the future. By doing this, it removes the reliance on other people (who, as we already discussed, aren’t motivated, are too numerous to count, and who can change back at a moments notice) to improve your life experience. You gain total control of your life. Instead of being a victim subject to the whims and decisions of others, you become an active agent, totally capable of creating a remarkable life experience whenever you desire.
Sure, you might not get the exact outcome you were hoping for, but what you definitely won’t end up in the same situation as you did last time.
This is why you’re the problem: you’ve been allowing these situations to occur over and over and over again by focussing on what other people have contributed and expecting them to change. It’s a completely ineffective life strategy yet you’ve been repeating the same mistakes over and over again.
But now you know and now you have a choice.
This concept of focussing solely on what you contributed to any situation in any area of your life is called Ownership and it’s the foundation of creating a remarkable life.
When you focus solely on what you contributed to any situation that worked out in any way other than you wanted, you’re left with an action plan that will ensure that situation doesn’t work out that way again in the future. You know what you can change and have complete control over whether or not that change is implemented. The next time that situation looks like rearing its ugly head, all you need to do is implement those changes and it won’t work out the same way.
This isn’t to say it’s going to work out perfectly every time and white doves will fly forth from the loving hands of angels. But, it does mean that even if it doesn’t work out the way you want, you’ll once again have a new action plan to transform your life, rather than just sitting at home in front of Netflix bitching about how unfair the world it.
How to stop being a victim
You’re not a victim. You contribute to every situation you’ve ever experienced. You are an active agent and you’re consciously and unconsciously creating your life experience.
Up until this point, you’ve been using your ability as an active agent to create the same frustrating and difficult experiences over and over again by focussing on what other people contributed and what they should have done differently.
If you’re ready to stop being a victim and start taking active control of your life situation, life experience, and life trajectory, take Ownership. Stop wasting the precious minutes of your life on things you can’t control and direct 100% of your attention to your thoughts, decisions, and actions. Doing so will allow you to gain complete control over your life and start to create the remarkable world you want.
If you’re unsure of how to start this process and want help doing so, we’ve developed a completely free challenge you can complete in as little as 15 minutes a day for three days that will help you start this process. You can access it here: Ownership Challenge
7 thoughts on “You’re not a victim, you’re the problem (and why that’s the best news possible)”
Hey, I really enjoyed this article. It inspired me to take both the ownership and integrity challenges – as you say its one thing to read about something and something completely different to start implementing it in a structured way in our lives.
Great to hear mate. I wasn’t sure if it was just going to get people angry and have them yell at me or if people were going to engage with the ideas and take action. Happy to hear it’s the later, at least in your case 🙂
I really like that, as I am going through this article,
when I get to the finish line,
I find myself at a new start line, instead. I’m finding myself in the process of creating ownership in my life with your step by step challenges that I can complete .
I found myself often wanting to do something and not knowing how to or where to start.
I had the words but what I actually needed was knowing how to start. Thank you!
I like your practical way of engaging me further ahead .
(P.S. Even though english it’s not my native language I Hope I made myself easily understood.)
Awesome to hear, mate. Keep pushing.
If it is true … I have experienced this change … Of course I realized some time ago that I had to make more adjustments in other situations … They are smaller. But these days I started to change one of those little things and seeing this article I think I’m going to change more of those little things. Thanks leigh
Good to hear, mate.
I think this is true in many situations that you find yourself in as an adult, and I understand trying to shake up and empower people. I do however believe there are still situations where you truly are a victim. Like a child being sexually abused by a family member. Or physically abused. A child has little power over their life, can’t pick where they socialize, who they socialize with, have reduced mobility and access to things. Can’t pick what they eat, when they eat. They are dependent on caregivers. It would be wrong to say a child caused someone to molest them. It’s important to still keep some of these things in mind, in case someone has found themselves in that situation, and not generalize this theory or else you might unnecessarily put extra guilt on shoulders where it doesn’t belong. (Not to mention, these children often already carry that guilt, wondering what they did and believing wrongly that they deserved being mistreated, ending up with a negative self-image that spirals into repeating the vicious circle of abuse).