Be a Survivor, Not a Victim

victimvillianOne of the worst things you can feed is a victim mentality, and let’s get right to it—sometimes horrendous, heartbreaking things happen to kind and beautiful people. Maybe you grew up in an unsafe environment and spent most of your childhood trying to be invisible or indispensable. Maybe you saw things and experienced things no one ever should. Maybe you grew up and had a terrifying interaction that turned everything you thought you knew inside out, and maybe you’ve endured a loss that feels impossible to comprehend. These things are all possible. I hope none of them have happened to you, but they’re all possible.

I say this to you with total compassion and empathy, I really truly get that life can break your heart sometimes, but it will never ever serve you to define yourself as a victim. Your much better option is to choose the role of survivor. Life is not fair. We all want to make it make sense, we want to create order out of chaos and uncertainty, but it can’t be done.

The pain in this life is real, and it’s not dosed out in equal amounts, so if you’re reading this and you’ve had to carry something that hurts so much it’s hard to breathe, I get it. Of course there are less dramatic events that might cause a person to feel that life isn’t fair, and that they have a rotten hand to play. Again and again, it comes down to what you’re going to feed. Of course if you’ve suffered losses you have to give yourself time and space to mourn and grieve, and how much time and how much space is completely personal, and something only you can move through.

I’m not talking about grieving, though. I’m talking about letting your losses and experiences harden you, so you move through the world bitterly. When we tell ourselves that things have happened that have “broken” us for example, when we define ourselves as broken, the implication is that we cannot be healed. When we clutch a story to our chest that explains and excuses why we are the way we are, we’re also letting ourselves off the hook for doing anything about it. You can’t control what’s happened, but you can certainly decide how you’re going to respond.

I see so many people who cling to their rage like a shield, who dig their heels in and demand that everyone acknowledge their version of reality. Who recite the list of ways they’ve been wronged. The thing is, it’s exhausting. It’s like a full-time job to be that enraged, you really can’t get much else done. It’s such a miserable state to be in, of course you want to numb out and check out, and look to external things or people to “make it better.” It’s not like bitterness tastes good.

Whatever has happened might shape you, but it doesn’t have to own you; at a certain point, at any point, you can decide to take ownership of your life. You can figure out what you might be able to change, and get to work changing it. This might be the way you interact with people, it may be the tone and message of your inner voice that needs work. Some things you won’t be able to change; other people would fall into that category. You can never change what someone else needs or wants or says or does, but you can always change the way you respond. You can decide to rise up; with every breath, there’s the potential to begin again.

If we’re pitying ourselves, we’re stuck in the past. We’re dragging the past along with us into our present, and holding it up for everyone to see, even our brand-new friends, and we’re demanding that other people reckon with our past, when that job is ours. If they want us, they have to accept this whole bunch of baggage we come with, but they don’t, and we don’t have to drag it along with us, either. A pity party isn’t very fun; you’ll probably have a tough time getting people to show up. Someone who looks their pain in the face and then deals with it (whether that means reaching out for support, or exploring healing modalities until they find something that works for them), that’s a person who’s ready to live. If you want to be free of your pain, you have to reckon with it. You don’t bow down and let it own you, you challenge it to a duel on a bright day, so you can bring all that darkness into the light and take a look at what you’re facing. Sometimes we think the face-off will do us in, but it’s the running that does it.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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