6 Reasons It’s Always a Mistake to Think of Yourself as a Victim
The Price of Victimhood
Sociologists Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning came up with a useful way of explaining how America’s culture has changed over the decades. Essentially, they believe we initially changed from a culture that revolved around honor to one that revolved around dignity. Now, we’re in the process of becoming a victim-centered culture. Here’s a short, but sweet explainer of the differences.
An honor culture revolves around the idea of being strong, brave, tough, and unwilling to accept even small insults to your good name. You still see a lot of this sort of culture in the Arab world and perhaps ironically, it shows through in the culture around rap music as well. The notorious Hatfield vs. McCoy feud and dueling fit into this sort of mindset very well.
On the other hand, a dignity culture expects people to be civilized, not particularly sensitive to slights, and to possess a sense of their own self-worth that is bigger than a petty insult. Being quick to violence, insult, or complain is looked down upon. Think of Frederick Douglass saying, “A gentleman will not insult me, and no man not a gentleman can insult me” or “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” and you start to get a sense of it. If there’s a dispute, then it should ideally be talked out and if that’s not possible or it’s too severe for that, let the “authorities” handle it.
Today, America seems to be moving towards a victim culture, which borrows the sensitivity to the slights of the honor culture without any of the virtues that went along with it. It also borrows the willingness to go to the authorities of a dignity culture, without the restraint or willingness to work through problems that are part of it. In other words, it’s cowardly, weak, soft people getting offended and immediately running to the “authorities” and asking them to fix their hurt feelings. It’s essentially the same dynamic as a small boy crying to his mom after his bigger brother does something to him. In a victim-centered culture, he who is perceived as the weakest, most aggrieved, outraged, and victimized “wins.” Think about the sort of people who claim to be upset by microaggressions, cultural appropriation or that claim “words are violence” and you will get the general idea.
There are a multitude of problems with embracing victimhood, but as you are about to see, one of the biggest is that there are very few people who think of themselves as victims that end up having a good life. After you read this, you will understand why that’s the case.
1) It stops you from fixing your problems: One of the biggest advantages of taking full responsibility for your own life is that you always know exactly who has to fix what’s going wrong. It’s that person you look at in the mirror every morning when you get up. On the other hand, if you attribute all your problems to “society” or some “ism,” you have a very big problem because those are mostly out of your control.
Changing yourself can literally happen in a single moment of decision, but changing the world is an extraordinarily difficult, unpredictable process that may take decades or lifetimes if it ever happens at all. If you’re only going to be happy when you decide that “racism no longer exists,” straight men like transwomen,” or the imaginary “patriarchy stops repressing me,” you’re going to spend your whole life waiting.
2) It spurs you to create oppressors: If you have to be a victim, then you need to come up with someone or something that’s victimizing. Maybe it’s “structural racism,” “Trump fans” or “Christians.” Why, if it wasn’t for those people, life would be great!
Except, the reality is that there is no conspiracy to keep you down because very few of us are that important. White people aren’t secretly conspiring to keep minorities poor. The Jews aren’t looking to get you. There isn’t actually a patriarchy plotting to keep women down. On the contrary, the world is full of human beings ruthlessly pursuing their own interests and unless they’re given a reason to, they don’t care enough about you, me, or somebody with a victim complex to put time and energy into keeping us down.
Still, even victims need to feel like the heroes of their own stories in their minds, so they invent oppressors. This is why places like Twitter are full of angry failures railing against things other people are supposedly thinking or doing that have no basis in reality. At the end of the day, isn’t life already hard enough without creating millions of imaginary enemies in your mind that are conspiring to keep you down?
3) It traps you in a cycle of failure: Victim culture is essentially one big oppression Olympics. It encourages you to actually COMPETE WITH EACH other to be the biggest victim.
“Maybe a CIS, white woman like you shouldn’t be talking about oppression. What do you know about it compared to someone gay like me?”
“It must be so hard (snicker) being gay for a WHITE MAN like you. Try being Latino in America sometime, buddy!”
“Try being a black trans woman if you think that’s tough! Did I mention I was misgendered this morning? But, no, no, tell me how bad you have it!”
This may not be exactly the way the conversation goes, but this dynamic plays out millions of times per day in the real world and on social media these days. It puts people under never-ending pressure to find a way to claim to be the most oppressed, the most put-upon, the most victimized person – and you know what? You get what you look for in life. I promise you, if you try to spot as many red cars as possible on your way to work tomorrow morning, you know what’s going to happen? You’re going to see a lot more red cars than normal. Know what you’re not going to remember after the trip is over? How many blue cars you passed because that’s not what you’re looking for.
If you spend your whole life obsessively trying to find ways to make people pity you, you will get really good at finding them, but you know what you won’t find? Success, happiness, and reasons to succeed.
4) It reduces the quality of your life: Do you know who winners tend to hang around with? Other winners, people that can make them better, and people that support their goals. Do you know who victims tend to hang out with? Other victims, people that can affirm their skewed view of the world, and people that are willing to treat them like victims. One path leads up and one path leads down. It’s not hard to see which one it is.
On top of that, what type of words and emotions do people associate with the word “victim?” Unfair? Outraged? Angry? Whiny? Complaining? Weak? Sad? Pity? Losing? Powerless? Smart people want as little of those feelings, emotions, and experiences in their lives as possible. The more a person immerses themselves in that stew of negativity, the worse their life becomes. Ultimately, your life is going to be an example one way or the other. You can be someone who rises above the challenges you have or be just another unhappy victim that leaves people saying, “Wow, I sure don’t want to spend my whole life feeling sorry for myself like that guy.” Which do you want to be?
5) It leads to you waiting for others to fix your problems: I don’t know who needs to hear this, but no one is coming to save you. The politicians mostly care about getting reelected and almost everyone claiming they care so much about (insert the issue of your choice here) is doing it for money, attention, and influence. In other words, the people running Black Lives Matter may have been buying mansions, but the black Americans waiting for them to fix their problems got their local grocery stores burned down and a higher crime rate.
Granted, there are exceptions to the rule that are absolutely sincere, but is their agenda, your agenda? Is their timetable your timetable? How much of your life are you willing to give up waiting for some guy on a white horse to show up and do what you want him to do? How many times are you willing to be disappointed? This is the life of a victim. “Oh, who’s going to save me? Who’s going to create my safe space?” The honest answer is, “probably no one.”
If you want to be happy, if you want to be successful, if you want the kind of life you dream of, you’re going to have to do it yourself or there’s 99.999% it’s never going to happen and even if it does, you’ll just be whining about something else. That’s how people with a victimhood mentality think. Until you ask more of yourself, you will never get more out of life.
6) It can turn you into a bad person: The biggest bullies in modern America almost inevitably either claim to be victims or act on behalf of victims. Victimhood culture has created armies of angry, cruel, hateful people screaming at strangers online and accusing them of being angry, cruel, and hateful. No matter how bitter, vile, or over-the-top their attacks are, according to them the people they’re attacking always have it coming. For what exactly? Having a different opinion? Supporting a political party they don’t like? Being a different race?
Embracing a victim mentality falsely enables people to still feel like a good person even though they’re lashing out at people who didn’t even know they exist, much less “victimize” them. In other words, embracing victimhood culture has a way of eventually turning you into one of the bad guys.