I’ve always loved the phrase, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Kelly Clarkson made me love it even more, especially hearing it sung passionately, if out of tune, by a 3 year old Danica (in a tutu and nothing else).
I am proud to say that I’ve survived a few situations that have come close to killing me, but ultimately I have lived through, and I am most certainly a stronger person as a result. But we have to be careful of not using things that have happened to us in the past as excuses for how we are in the present.
The victim mindset seems to be more common now than ever, where everyone has a story to tell about how tough things have been for them.
I was watching First Dates Hotel the other night (one of my guilty pleasures), and there was a young girl and guy, getting to know each other over a meal. Whilst the young man was trying to find the courage to share something traumatic that he had experienced in his life, the girl was being very sympathetic, and was telling him that he didn’t need to say it if he didn’t want to, and that there was no pressure. She then went on to tell him, that she too had experienced trauma in her life, presumably to make him feel less alone, and she explained that she had been bullied in school.
When she elaborated on the bullying, it turned out that girls had ignored her, and called her names, like “fat” and “ugly”.
The young man then opened up and told her that his mother had been murdered by a family friend.
Now when I listened to the young girl talking about what she had experienced, I found myself thinking: “But that is just high school! All girls get treated like that at some point or other. That’s not what I would call bullying.” I acknowledge that it must have been a miserable time for the girl, but it’s hardly as traumatic as having your mother murdered!
But I am afraid we are living in a society where people, young and old, are celebrated for being a victim of something. The danger of this is that the victim mindset creates a vicious circle of blaming somebody or something else for negative experiences a person may have had. Whenever you are pointing the finger, you are renouncing responsibility and this leaves you vulnerable. The more you retell your story where you are the victim, the more you keep yourself in that perpetual state of reliving the negative feelings you had at the time. This in turn, keeps you feeling like the world is out to get you.
In 1998 when I was hit by an 18 wheeler whilst out on a horse, I came very close to being killed. It was a defining point in my life, without a doubt, but I didn’t want to live the rest of my life feeling, “poor me” for what I’d been through. Once I was literally back on my feet again, I decided when I told people about my accident, I would say that it was both the worst and the best thing that could have happened to me. To this day, I still say exactly the same thing, and by doing so I have very easily turned something that could have made me a victim forever, into something that helped shape me into the person I am today.
On a less dramatic level, you know those mornings when you’ve woken up feeling like death for whatever reason? Have you noticed how on the times you’ve decided to soldier on and go to work, or push through the discomfort to get on with your day regardless, that you’ve actually felt better as you’ve gone on, and even looked back later on in the day to think, “I can’t believe I nearly stayed in bed today!” Then compare that to the days when you’ve admitted defeat and have rung in sick, and stayed in bed. If you’re anything like me, you’ll notice that the minute you decide that you’re not well enough to get out of bed, your mind (and body) start telling you that you feel so much worse! It’s as though the universe puts everything in place to prove you right – whatever you may decide.
The next time you begin telling someone your story, check in with yourself to see whether you are telling it from a victim’s perspective, and if you are, try and find something in there where you can make the moral of your story: it didn’t kill me, it made me stronger. By rewriting the ending, you might just find you can free yourself from that victim mentality, and rise up, rather than allowing yourself to get dragged down.