In episode 299, I received a question from a listener who’s been through a lot but now struggles to move forward from a pessimistic, victim mentality that has understandably arisen through their hardships. In this post, I dive into this in more detail and offer my thoughts on how to move forward.
I have a question for the podcast that I don’t believe you have covered yet and imagine I am not the only person it would pertain to. The question goes:
I have endured trauma, loss, unnecessary illness due to medical negligence, homophobia, and transphobia. Over the course of those hardships, I began to feel more and more like a victim, and pessimistic in general. I live with chronic suicidality and believe that this mentality is an incubator for these thoughts. What can I do to get out of this victim mentality and start believing in my own agency?
Thank you for everything you do.
Thank you for this question and thank you for trusting me with it. From what you wrote, it sounds like you are a trans person, you are queer, and you’ve had some serious medical hardships and mistreatment. I’m so sorry that you’ve had to go through what you have had to go through. It’s not fair. It sounds like you truly haven’t done anything wrong. That you have been seeking help or resources and this is what you’ve been left with. I want to provide whatever support I can here, but please recognize that my perspective is limited. I don’t know what it’s like to be trans. I don’t know what it’s like to be out as queer. I don’t know what it’s like to endure medical trauma. That said, I think that we need to be careful with the whole victim mentality thing.
When you look at the facts of your situation, it may simply be true that you’ve been dealt a shit hand and that you’ve been mistreated. That there wasn’t anything you did to deserve the hardship that you’ve been put through. Perhaps a bit of pessimism is a reasonable reaction and something that is necessary to keep you safe. I wish that your experience walking around in the world was as easy as mine is. But we have to be real about the fact that it’s not. It is safer for you to have a degree of suspicion about the world and people’s motives. That’s the adaptive part of anxiety. However, it still stands that you don’t want to take such as huge blow to your self-concept that you can’t enjoy your life or feel safe just within your own self. I think that this is going to be a process of recognizing that multiple things can be true at once. It can be true that you are a capable person, that you are resilient, that you can advocate and stand up for yourself AND that you have been victimized and you have legitimate issues that cropped up because of that.
Action will bring change
As with many things, I think your question of what you can do to start believing in your own agency will come from action. You can show yourself that you have agency and worth by DOING things that prove that you do. There may be specific areas in your life that you can think of that you feel limited in because of these feelings. You may ask yourself “what would I do here if I felt optimistic and that I had control over my life?” Paint yourself that picture and see what parts of that you can act upon, even if you don’t feel confident about it. The confidence comes from seeing how it works out. Also, the miracle question could be helpful here as well. It’s been a while since I’ve talked about it. It’s a therapeutic technique where you imagine that a miracle happened over night and the issue you are describing here suddenly disappeared. How would life be different? Walk through the day. Then you look to see what aspects you can integrate right now. What are you already close to? Start creating that reality.
It’s hard for me to say what specific activities and behaviors will be relevant here since it’s so personal, but taking that general approach may lead you to some important experiences and realizations. There’s also the issue of your environment. I wonder what sort of people you are surrounding yourself with. This can be really impactful. The people that we spend time with as well as the people we communicate with remotely, or even the influences that we invite online etc. have an impact on how you feel and what you do.vIf you are around exclusively people who are depressed and pessimistic, you likely are also going to be inclined to feel that way. If you are around people that are a little more realistic, lift you up, and support you – that’s probably going to lead to better outcomes.
Don’t be afraid to seek support
If you need additional support, I’d encourage you to obtain it. Recognizing that there is an issue and pulling in more resources is not going to reinforce a victim mentality. In fact, it does the opposite. You are trying to DO something. You are trying to take action and not be in denial about the issues you are experiencing. That’s important and strong. Support can be asking for more interaction with those you already have in your life, it could be attending support groups or events for people that you identify with, or it can also mean professional therapy. Any and all of those are valid. I don’t know a whole lot about your situation, but there is also always the case that there are bigger changes that need to be pursued here. Like there are certain places to live or places to work that are simply less accepting and safe than others. That’s a valid thing to consider. It isn’t giving up or being a victim if you recognize that you like in a toxic area and would like to pursue opportunities elsewhere. That’s just smart.
Aside from just changing your behavior and taking action, there is also a lot on the thoughts side that can be helpful as well. You can start working through a lot within the context of journaling. It may be helpful for you to keep track of things that show you are taking ownership of your life, not playing the victim, or are trusting in yourself. I would literally list three things each day, whether you do a full journaling session or not. It may be hard, but that’s kind of the point. You are trying to change what your mind pays attention to. You can also look at situations in your life that you have avoided or had mixed feelings about. Write it out on paper. Challenge yourself to recognize which aspects were simply being smart and having reasonable precautions for your safety and which aspects represent fear getting the best of you. You can always use this stuff as a prompt to discuss with someone else and get their opinions as well.
There are aspects of your life that will be difficult and that will be more or less persistent. However, you DO also have agency in your life and it’s not a hopeless situation. Just because the world has treated you terribly, that does not mean that your life will be terrible. You have some control over that. I hope that this gives you some things to think about.
You can listen to this on Episode 299 of the podcast!
Thank you for the great question!
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