If you had told me a few years ago that I would someday become a personal life coach, I would have certainly told you that you were crazy.
I don’t even know if I really understood what a life coach was back then, other than having heard that Google gave them to their top execs as a perk or something.
Just a few years ago, I was a director of marketing and consumer insights working on one of America’s oldest brands, and I loved my job. I was a working mom, a wife – I was balancing a lot, and pretty well, I thought. I was by all regards an overachiever – looked really good from the outside – what I had, and what I had accomplished.
And then my world turned upside down. My husband took his life. I thought my life was over as I faced the complexities of picking up the pieces for myself and my family.
The reality is that I had a choice. I had to choose between falling apart and becoming a victim of my husband’s legacy or creating a new life for my daughters and me. Moreover, I eventually came to realize that there’s always a choice. In every situation, the reality is that we can control and choose our reaction. Even in the most dire of circumstances we have a choice, a choice to fall victim to our reality or to own that reality.
The easiest choice for me would have been to fall apart – and honestly, many days I just about did. But I quickly realized that no one was coming to save me. There was no prince coming to rescue me; there was no knight in shining armor on a white horse; there really was just me, and my kids…I was our savior or whatever I wanted to be, and it was all up to me.
I tell my story to demonstrate that even in the most extreme circumstances – circumstances that seem unimaginably unfair and overwhelming – we have a choice of how we want to show up. It is always within our control. I had a choice to be a victim in my reality or choose something different.
As I faced my choice and really looked in the mirror, I realized that I had been living as a victim for years, without realizing it. I had been living on autopilot: going through the motions of life, playing it safe, blaming others for my shortcomings, and not really being 100% accountable for myself or my actions.
We all play the victim sometimes, and often we don’t change until we get a wake-up call or something shakes us up. Truth is, you don’t have wait for the wake-up call to start really living and creating the life you want.
Victimhood can show up every day in little ways that we are not even aware of when we don’t take accountability. Every day we are faced with choices: at home, at work and in our relationships.
- Have you ever felt like you held yourself back out of fear of “looking bad” or “failing” or even sounding “too entitled” for something?
- Did you ever choose not to speak up for fear that you might sound “stupid”?
- Did you ever choose to pass on applying for a job or opportunity for fear that others didn’t see you as qualified for the role?
- Did you ever complain about someone else getting something you want, all the while you know you never explicitly asked for it, or made it known that you wanted it?
- Did you ever say “yes” to something you knew you didn’t want to do just because you didn’t want to let someone else down, and then complained about it to anyone who would listen…?
Of course you have. We all have, and I KNOW I did. All of these are examples of being a victim in your life.
We all do this.
By being a victim, we hold ourselves back unconsciously.
And why? For ease.
It feels safe and comfortable when there is no responsibility or expectations of us. We fear putting ourselves out there, owning it – failing, looking bad, letting others down, or feeling judged.
Playing victim keeps us from owning our responsibility. It keeps us stuck. It is much easier to blame circumstance or others for our situations.
So how do you get out of victimhood?
First, you need to name it.
Where is it showing up for you? If it is not obvious, look for the areas in your life that you complain about, feel stuck in, or even envy in someone else. These are the areas that you need to own more.
Now look at yourself in those situations, and ask yourself honestly how much responsibility you are taking on to fix these situations.
What part can you own to help resolve this situation to move forward? Ask yourself, what can I do to help this situation?
Then, commit to owning at least one action to engage in the resolution of this situation, without blame, excuses or complaints.
Now, be deliberate in your thought and action to follow through on your part. This will take patience, mindfulness and compassion for you, as you stretch and rise out of your victimhood state. The awareness alone can be liberating, to see that you really are making a choice – you have control.
You will begin to notice how quickly things start to shift in the right direction. And as you make changes, you will also notice that you are still challenged. Life has not all of sudden become perfect, and yes, you still make mistakes. You must remind yourself that while you may not be able to control the situation you find yourself in, you CAN always control how you choose to respond to that situation.
To be a victim or to own your reality: that is always your choice.