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3 Ways to Escape the Victim Mentality

3 Ways to Escape the Victim Mentality

There’s plenty of talk about the victim mindset that pervades our culture these days. Many people seem to crave being a victim, preferring it to taking on responsibility for their lives. But for those of us who do want to break free from this mentality, the feeling of being stuck in our lives, unable to change our situation for the better, and trapped in inertia is a powerful one. If you’ve ever felt this way, you know just how debilitating this can be. So how can we get out of the victim mentality?

It’s one thing to not want to be a victim, and it’s another thing to take back control of our lives. The latter requires sustained and intentional effort and can be quite the challenge. Luckily, there are small things we can do to create immediate change, dramatically improve our lives, and make progress toward long-term goals. Here are three things we can do now to escape the victim mindset.

1. Create Order Each Day

Creating order is a concept I’m borrowing from Jordan Peterson—who, in turn, borrows it from Taoism’s idea of the yin and yang, which respectively symbolize chaos and order. The idea of creating order is to find ways to take things that are chaotic and make something organized, structured, meaningful, or beautiful from them. For me, doing something simple that fit this bill each day was, at one point, a ticket toward gradually improving my life.

The key here is that creating order doesn’t have to be complicated or even conventionally productive. Things like pursuing a hobby or, for the creative types out there, doing something crafty or artsy can count. But checking items off a to-do list also counts. Examples might be making that appointment we’re dreading, dealing with a stressful phone call or email, clearing up the pile of bills from the kitchen counter, spending time to talk with a close friend or family member, doodling for five minutes, or going to the gym when we really don’t want to.

These are small things that can take as little as one minute, but over time, they can dramatically improve our quality of life. For one, they create momentum toward larger goals and challenges and show us that we can make change in our own lives by doing the simplest of tasks.

In itself, creating order also improves our lives. Having a cluttered house, a never-completed to-do list, or living in dread of a phone call create unneeded stress and distractions from whatever goals we’d rather be pursuing.

Finally, avoiding a task can make it seem all the more intimidating. By stalling, we’re telling ourselves that this task is something we really should be stressed over or scared of, even if it’s just scheduling a dentist appointment. But by confronting these daily problems, we tell ourselves that they’re nothing to worry about and that we are capable of facing things that scare us.

2. Change Up Your Routine

We all have the patterns we fall back on. Whether it’s sliding back into bad habits or even just feeling trapped in the monotony of every day, routine can feel like a prison rather than a helpful structure.

There may be non-negotiables in our routines like arriving to work at a certain time or getting eight hours of sleep, but around these non-negotiables, we can change things up. Maybe it’s taking a short walk on lunch break. Maybe it’s rearranging the living room furniture. Perhaps working at a different coffee shop, trying something new for lunch, or trying a new hobby sounds like an achievable change. Even the simplest thing like listening to a new playlist or radio station while driving can be a catalyst to snap out of a toxic routine.

Sometimes just the slightest variation provides some much-needed fresh air and perspective. That small difference is enough to see that we can make other changes in our lives toward better habits and toward working on long-term goals.

3. Dress for Success

This one may seem obvious or corny, but that doesn’t make it untrue. Studies show that how we dress affects how we think and behave. For instance, people who are dressed more formally perform better in negotiations and perform more abstract thinking, which is important for developing strategies and being creative.

In today’s world of athleisure, dressing down has become the norm. Many of us wear sweatpants, yoga pants, ripped jeans, and graphic T-shirts around the house or when we head out for errands. Wearing a suit is not practical for all of us (for starters, dry cleaning is expensive), but putting on a nicer pair of jeans or khakis with a polo, button-down, blouse, or plain long-sleeve shirt is just as easy and nearly as comfortable as sweats.

Dressing up puts us in the right mentality for success. It can help us feel prepared to take on the day. And this is exactly the mindset that’s an antidote to feeling like a victim.

In those moments where life seems out of our control or we feel stuck in a rut, remembering that we do have at least some control over our lives is crucial. Wanting to climb out of the grievance pit—to borrow a term from Intellectual Takeout’s former editor Annie Holmquist—is an important first step, and taking small, practical actions toward improving and changing our lives will lead us away from the victim mentality.

Image credit: Pixnio-Marko Milivojevic, CC0 1.0


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