Been told you have a victim personality? It tends to understandably leave most of us feeling defensive. We have lived through so much. How dare someone belittle our suffering?!
But they aren’t. They are trying to point out that, without even realising it, you are choosing to continue your suffering. And actually using it to trap yourself.
[Read our adjoining piece “what is the victim mentality?’ for more on just how this works.]
Why should I admit I have a victim personality?
You can’t take your power from victimhood and also develop personal power. It’s one or the other.
If you want to heal past traumas and grow into a mature, responsible adult then you have to accept you are not a helpless child anymore. The pain and anger might still be there from the traumas you experienced, yes. But you are an adult who has choices.
So how to tell if you do or don’t live your life from a victim mentality?
12 Signs You Live Your Life With a Victim Personality
1. You often feel helpless.
Notice how often you experience a feeling that life is ‘just too hard’ and beyond you.
When we experience difficult things as a child, we really are helpless. We can’t just walk out the door, go for a drive, decide to never see that person again.
But as an adult, we are in charge of our lives. When hard things happen, if we are an adult who is healthy, we can feel briefly overwhelmed. But we quickly see things they can do to manage situations.
Victims are still that child who can’t see a way forward. The victim personality arises from unhealed past trauma. So you throw up your hands and do the next thing instead…
2. You have a tendency to complain.
Complaining replaces taking action, and gains attention and sympathy from others, things a person trapped in victim thinking spends a lot of time going after. This is how we feel power as a victim.
OF course there is nothing wrong with attention and empathy. But when we learn to stand from our power, we don’t have to manipulate with complaining to get it. We can simply ask for it.
3. You are rarely visibly angry.
If you are living your life from a victim mindset it’s likely you spend a lot of time being meek or ‘all suffering’ and being ‘too nice’. Of course underneath that meekness is a hidden storehouse of repressed rage. from your unhealed trauma.
This might come out with a vengeance if you can show it secretly. You might have a hidden life as an internet ‘troll’, attacking and lashing out aggressively at strangers on the internet about all sorts. Or be fine to yell at a strange cashier if it’s not your hometown and nobody you know will find out.
4. But you are convinced those around you are always upset or angry with you.
Convincing yourself you can ‘read’ other people and are sure that they are angry at you can act as false proof that they are against you. This means in an argument, you can slip into victim mode, shutting the other person out.
It also means you can keep yourself helpless. If you tell yourself everyone doesn’t like you, then you have an excuse to not ask them for help and move forward in life.
5. You expect other people to know how you feel.
With your own belief you know how others feel about you, you in turn expect them to also know how you feel.
Expecting others to know how you feel means you avoid real, heart-to-heart communication that can lead to having to taking responsibility for situations and step out of victimhood.
6. You talk about other people more than yourself.
Victims are constantly seeking proof that others think poorly of them, or are trying to ‘do them wrong’. This means they talk more about others than usual.
If they do talk about themselves, it will begin along the lines of “you won’t believe what happened to me”. But will then veer into blaming others.
7. You talk about events for a long time after the fact.
Do you run by situations with all your friends? And then a few of your colleagues just for good measure? And then with the person you just met at a networking event just to get their advice, too? All while actually never doing anything about it? So when that waiter is rude to you, you are still talking about it a week later, but never actually call the restaurant to complain?
Overthinking is underacting in disguise, a way to keep yourself passive. And passivity is a core component of victimhood. Action, after all, means you’d be taking responsibility and admitting you have power to change things. Which you do.
8. You believe that the world is a dangerous place.
Bad things do happen in this world, and to good people. The human experience is at times hard.
But for many of us, we are lucky enough we haven’t actually faced real danger.
If you haven’t, but just fear danger, it’s more likely that this fear comes from a rooted core belief. These types of core beliefs often come from unhealed childhood trauma, the main reason we are stuck in our victim personality.
9. You just can’t get ahead no matter how hard you try.
Again, a victim personality means we are passive. We don’t seek the support needed to properly move forward.
If you suffer from a victim mentality you might also unconsciously self-sabotage, taking the wrong actions if you do take action. This fulfils your belief that the world is against you.
10. When stressful things happen you can’t think straight.
Those who suffer the victim mentality often had stressful childhoods where they trained themselves to ‘tune out’ to survive.
This means that as an adult you might now have ‘brain fog’ under stress, still living with your childhood responses instead of being able to go into adult mode and using stress as a trigger to find logical solutions and take action.
11. You bring up the past often, even with people you don’t know.
Do you share your difficult childhood with people you just met? Always bring it up in arguments? Without even realising it we can use our trauma to manipulate others.
In a fight with a partner about how you were late again for something important to them, you might say, “How can you yell at me when you know I was abused as a child” then burst into tears. The other person can no longer have an adult conflict with you.
Or on a first date, that perhaps isn’t going that well. Instead of letting that person see who you are as a person now, and sharing your trauma at an appropriate moment, you find yourself explaining your entire tragic childhood. They are forced to feel sorry for you, and might feel pressured to meet you again.
12. You often feel exhausted or have colds and flu.
Living your life as a victim means you repress how you really feel and think, as well as all your real gifts and talents for handling life. You have to, or others would stop feeling sorry for you.
It’s like living your life while constantly holding a large beach ball under water – it takes more energy and focus than you might realise.
The end result is that victims often are tired or have lowered immune systems. Which then leads to more sympathy.
Uh oh, sounds like me. What do I do?
Recognising you are living your life from a victim perspective can feel overwhelming.
But victimhood is inevitably a survival tactic you’ve learned to use from surviving a difficult childhood. See admitting you are doing so not as yet another thing to be ashamed about, but as a positive step towards self-healing.
Living life as a victim is something you learned, so you can also unlearn it.
But it sounds scary, to just change like that
Again, a victim personality is connected to unhealed trauma. So yes, facing it can also mean facing many deep and repressed emotions, including anger, shame, and sadness.
But the alternative is that you never know who you really are, how powerful you can be. You don’t achieve the goals that would actually make you feel good. You waste your talents that could help others.
Consider the support of a counsellor or psychotherapist when diving into your victimhood. They can create a safe space for you to understand yourself and learn how to step into your real personal power, instead of feeling you must gain it through sympathy from others.
Do you have a sign of victimhood we’ve missed? Share below. We love hearing from you.