“I choose not to be a victim!” Those powerful words were shared with me last week by a friend who has had lots of bad things happen to her.
She is currently between jobs, which is why she came to my office to talk over coffee. Because I’ve known her for several years, I also know she is divorced, she’s been bullied at work and, since childhood, she has been preyed upon (and I use that term in its ugliest connotation).
Yet her bold statement—I choose not to be a victim!—got me to thinking.
Does someone really choose to be a victim? Is that a decision one actually makes? Or is a victim created as the result of something bad that happens? Or from the selfish actions of others?
In reality, bad things happen to each of us, so we all might feel victimized in some way. Yet most of us choose to pick ourselves up, or at least to allow others to help us get back on our feet.
Victims, by my definition, are those who choose not to recover. They wallow in self-pity. They feel a sense of entitlement, somehow believing that the world owes them something. Instead of finding solutions, they search for excuses. They blame others for their circumstances. They refuse to take ownership of their reality, and they harbor bitter feelings of anger, despair and revenge.
Like most of my family and friends, I choose to rise above the bad things that have happened to me. I have never been the victim of cancer, though I’ve received that diagnosis. I have never been the victim of a job loss, though I’ve been part of a downsizing effort. I refuse to become a victim because that implies that I’ve resigned myself to let others control my destiny. I am never powerless, and I deliberately decide that I will thrive in spite of—and often as the result of—my circumstances.
Choosing not to be a victim requires a certain mindset. For me, it means that when bad things happen I will build upon the following affirmations:
- I will seek justice, but only if it helps to make the world a better place. I will avoid seeking revenge when my primary purpose is to vent anger or to even the score with an adversary.
- I will accept help from others who want to make me stronger and more self-sufficient. I will reject “help” that makes me feel dependent or entitled to something I did not earn.
- I will give help to others when my intent is to strengthen them or to spark a sense of hope within them. I will refrain from “helping” when I’m merely enabling someone who chooses to continue wallowing in a destructing situation.
- I will look for things within my control, knowing that whatever I focus upon will expand. On the other hand, I will refuse to be overwhelmed or paralyzed by those things over which I have no control.
The world is full of victims—people who have lost control of their circumstances and who feel powerless to change their destiny.
I choose not to be a victim. I will not blame others or make excuses. Instead, I will create opportunities for a better future, both for myself and for others.
I will deliberately surround myself with people who do not label themselves as victims. When I encounter those who have been negatively affected by disasters, illnesses, assaults, slander or infidelity, I will do everything I can to help them take control and rise above their circumstances. I will remind them of the wise words of the great basketball coach, John Wooden, who said, “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”