What Is a Victim Mentality?

We all have our ups and downs in life. Bad things might happen to you or people you know on a daily basis. But there are some people who claim it is never their fault. They argue that they have no control over the tough situations and problems they encounter. It is simply always happening to them. 

People who constantly blame other people or situations for the events in their lives have a victim mentality

What Does a Victim Mentality Mean?

"It’s not my fault." Someone who has a victim mentality claims everything that happens to them is the fault of others. It might be the fault of their partner, family, co-worker, or friend. They constantly complain about the bad things that happen in their lives. They don’t take any responsibility, asserting that the circumstances aren’t in their control.

It’s not a martyr complex. Victim mentality can sometimes be confused with a martyr complex. They are two similar behaviors, but there are some differences. Victims take things personally. Even if a comment or statement wasn’t directed at them, they will still absorb it as if it was. "What did I do to deserve this?" is a common question for them.

On the other hand, a person with a martyr complex will often go out of their way to take on extra tasks for other people, even if they don’t want to. They sacrifice themselves for others yet often feel resentful after the fact. 

No coping mechanisms. People who have a victim mentality have usually suffered through trauma or hard times, but haven’t developed a proper way to cope. As a result, they develop a negative view of life. Because they don’t think anything is their fault, they have little or no sense of responsibility for their life. It just happens to them. 

If someone tries to help or offer solutions, they’re often prepared with a list of reasons why that will not work. People who try to help are often left frustrated and confused. 

Why Be a Victim?

What’s so attractive about being a victim? There are some benefits to playing the victim role.

No accountability. Being accountable for your life means you’re in the driver’s seat. You take responsibility. That can be scary to someone who has a victim mentality. You would have to admit life isn’t just the result of the actions of others. Taking responsibility bursts the protective bubble of victimhood. 

Secondary gain. Some people’s problems continue because of the secondary benefits. Sympathy, attention, and access to medication or funds are common examples of secondary gain. Someone with a victim mentality might not even realize they are getting these benefits, and often feel truly distressed. 

Satisfies unconscious needs. People with a victim mentality, especially when it comes from past trauma, unconsciously seek validation and help from others. They play the “poor me” card consistently. This can generate sympathy and help from others. 

Avoid taking risks. Projecting blame on others is a key part of the victim mentality. It’s a way to avoid being truly vulnerable and taking risks.   

Signs You Have a Victim Mentality

It’s normal to be unsatisfied in some parts of your life. But it’s important to look at the bigger picture. If you notice similar patterns across different areas of your life, you might have a victim mentality. 

The first step to solving a problem is to identify and acknowledge it. Look for these signs in yourself to see if you might have adopted a victim mentality: 

  • ‌You blame others for the way your life is
  • ‌You truly think life is against you 
  • ‌You have trouble coping with problems in your life and feel powerless against them 
  • ‌You feel stuck in life and approach things with a negative attitude 
  • ‌You feel attacked when someone tries to offer helpful feedback 
  • ‌Feeling bad for yourself gives you relief or pleasure
  • ‌You attract people who blame others and complain about their life 
  • ‌It’s difficult for you to examine yourself and make changes

How to Stop Being the Victim

Victim mentality is learned behavior. 

In other words, it’s not something you’re born with. It's something you learn in a social environment. It could be learned from family members or the result of trauma. However, you have the power to overcome it. Take the first steps in the following ways. 

Take responsibility. You are the only one who controls your actions. You might not be able to control others, but you control how you react to them. You control who you spend your time with, and where. Realize your potential and get in the driver’s seat of your life. 

Self-care and compassion. Victim mentalities are subconsciously adopted as a way to cope, often from past trauma. Be compassionate to yourself in your recovery. Practice self-care and self-love. Journaling can be a helpful tool to work through your feelings. 

Start saying no. You can say no to something you don’t want to do. It’s okay. Even if other people feel you are letting them down, take care of your energy and prioritize yourself.  

Educate yourself. Read books about the victim mentality and how it affects your life. Consider seeking therapy. The more you educate yourself on the topic, the more likely you are to stay on track with your recovery and avoid going back to your old way of thinking. 

WebMD Medical Reference



‌AmericanAddictionCenters: “Overcoming the Victim Mentality.”

‌INSEAD: “Are you a Victim of the Victim Syndrome?”

Journal of behavioral decision making: “The Martyrdom Effect: When Pain and Effort Increase Prosocial Contributions.” 

‌Parncutt: “Victim Mentality, Self-Efficacy, and Politics.”

‌UNIVERSITY OF THE PEOPLE: “How to Stop Being a Victim.”‌

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