Thursday, September 18, 2008

Today's guest poster writes at the fabulous All or Nothing. Her dog is adorable and her Project Runway recaps are not to be missed. We agree that Stella should've reconsidered those candy cane leggings.

Okay, here's a little something I've been wanting to talk about for a while, but haven't had the nerve to do it on my site. But now! I've been given this fabulous opportunity from my girl, velocibadgergirl. And I'm not going to waste it. So without further ado, here we go:

Victim's Mentality

Can I just tell you how much I dislike this state of mind? Actually, let's start over. Regardless of my opinion on the subject, can I just say how completely crippling it is to the basic human state to walk around in a constant fog of feeling victimized?

I mean, it's easy to see how it happens. Shit happens, you know? Times get tough, when it rains it pours, and if it's not one thing, it's another. I know. Believe me, I know. Lest you think my road has been easy and paved in Dove dark chocolate squares and long naps, allow me to give you a brief rundown:

I bought a store in 2005 - the purchase price was based on the financials provided by the previous owner to me, my lawyer, and my accountant. Those financials turned out to be LIES. Big, fat lies. I was in a lawsuit for over a year, all the while slowly going out of business at my brand new store. At the same time, I was working on my first year of marriage, and building a house with my husband. And when I say "building", I don't mean we were paying someone to build it. We were BUILDING IT. As in, gathering bricks from other, torn down houses to build ours, laying/sanding/staining floors, painting inside and out, wiring the house, putting up sheetrock - you get the picture. We didn't have a builder. WE were the builder. And! During this same time, my husband lost his job, the one we moved for, and the one we were making all our decisions (read: purchasing a store and building a house) based upon. So, to recap: I was in a lawsuit to try and recoup enough money to keep the store I couldn't pay for, my husband and I were building a house ourselves that we couldn't afford, and my husband had lost the job we moved for. Awesome!

However! To chalk up all those circumstances, regardless of how unfair they seemed, and turn myself into a victim - well, it's detrimental at best, just plain wrong at worst. Let's think about it: what do I accomplish by looking around, at my life seemingly crumbling as I watch, and saying "Well, hell. I guess there's nothing I can do. I tried my best, I made decisions based on the information I was given, and nothing worked. I'm doomed. The world obviously is against me, and it's just not in the cards for me to succeed. Might as well get me a big ol' case of beer, a couple of lawnchairs, and sit here in my half-built house and drink my sorrows away". I mean, what do I really accomplish with that attitude? Other than a good buzz, of course, which I am TOTALLY not devaluing.

It's just super pointless. And listen, I'm not suggesting a Pollyanna-ish outlook on the world. I'm not saying "look at all the things you do have! I mean, you have your health! Or, you have good finances! Or, you have good friends! Or, at least you live somewhere you like!" There's ALWAYS something you can look at that's not so bad; something in your life you like, whether that be that you have a great family support system to fall back on, or just that you've always thought you have great abs and this poverty-induced diet is only making them nicer. So I'm NOT saying that focusing on what's good takes away what's bad. I think the only people who say that are people who haven't actually GONE THROUGH anything bad, because anyone who is smack in the middle of some horrific circumstance knows that rose-colored glasses can only take you so far.

But what I AM saying is this: when you're down, when life has dealt you what looks from all sides to be an incredibly bad hand, you CANNOT just throw your hands up and say that you're done. You can't give up and give in to the mindset of a victim. I mean, you CAN...but it's only going to make things worse. Because Victim's Mentality is like rolling a rock off a precipice. It only picks up speed and gets harder and harder to stop. Just like lots of things that are bad for you, Victim's Mentality FEELS good at first; feels like a balm on a painful sore. It's NOT your fault! It's SOMEONE ELSE'S fault! There's nothing you can do, so you might as well give up and wait for someone else to do it. Ahhh! It's like a fresh breath of air, after months and years of self-condemnation, stress, and worry. But it's a dangerous slope you're walking, and pretty soon the relief turns bitter. WHY did you get dealt such a bad hand? Why do other people have it so much better than you? Why isn't anyone stepping in to fix your situation? You start resenting friends and family who seem to have it all together. The feeling of bad luck - of unfairness and injustice - consumes you. Soon, you can't think of anything BUT your misfortune, and how completely ridiculous it is that YOU have to deal with all this crap, while everyone else moves around untouched by tragedy.

Do you see how it happens?

Of course things spiral pretty quickly into the trap of deceiving yourself - I mean, just about EVERYONE has to deal with tragedy at some point, so to sit in your Sob Seat and look at the rest of the world and consider them all to be luckier than you - it's categorically untrue. And, more than anything, it's SO unhealthy. Nothing can stunt your emotional growth more than lapsing into Victim's Mentality. You will alienate your friends, because they won't know how to deal with your constant state of unhappiness, and you'll be resenting them for their "good fortune" anyway. The whole world will go from beautiful and interesting to evil and scary and Against You.

You won't want to venture into any new endeavors, because the memory of "what happened last time" will haunt you and the fear will prevent you from moving forward. Not to mention you'll be miserable, and miserable to be around. You get the point.

So how do you keep yourself from falling prey to the dreaded Victim's Mentality? I don't think there's a surefire way that works every time, for everyone. But I do think there are a few good things to keep in mind; things that help maintain balance in an otherwise precarious situation.

1) Go ahead and accept that things are bad right now. Take a summary of the situation, write down exactly what happened, how it happened, and figure out what your worst case scenario would be. This is a good exercise to keep your brain from going crazy, imagining worse and worse things that "could" happen. Go ahead and realize exactly what COULD happen, write it down, realize it, and don't give credence to those 2:30am fears that leave you in a cold sweat. You already KNOW what's going on. You're not living in denial. This helps more than you realize.

2) Take some steps to improve the situation. I know this may seem impossible at the time - hell, if you could take steps, maybe you wouldn't BE in the horrible situation. But there's always SOMETHING you can do. Some cost you can get rid of, some relationship you can work on, somebody who is worse off than you (believe it or not!) who could use a card, or a visit, or a cooked meal. Taking action, however small it feels at the time, is immeasurably better than sitting stagnant, stewing in a situation that *feels* out of control.

3) Realize that whatever you're going through right now WILL end, at some point. Most bad circumstances, just by merit of their extremeness, cannot sustain the Bad for TOO long. It may feel like forever, but it won't be. Think back on what you were doing at this exact time a year ago - chances are it is different than what you are doing right now. Things change more quickly than you realize, especially when you're bogged down in a crappy situation. I read something once that advised viewing "failures" as stepping stones that lead us one step closer to what we are ultimately supposed to be doing. I know that sounds awfully trite, but it IS true.
Like I said, there's no magic bullet that can "fix it!" just like that. But like so many other things in life, how you choose to FEEL about a situation can largely determine your quality of life while going through the situation. If you can find the strength to pull yourself out of the cloying grasp of Victim's Mentality, I promise - things will be much, MUCH better.

-- Elise Carter

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