If you believe you’re a victim, you’ll never be content. Ramblings of a recovering miserable dick.
Life Sucks, and Then you Die
I’m sure everyone has heard some variation of that saying. Its one that sticks with a lot of people, particularly those with an affinity for gallows humor, and those who may have dealt with their fair share of strife in their lives.
A lot of people hate that saying and attitude though, and I understand where they’re coming from. It certainly has a negative, pessimistic, glass-half-empty sentiment behind it. For those who aren’t a fan of the saying, life is often viewed as a gift. Its something to be cherished, something to be thankful for. Essentially, saying that life is a series of disappointments leading to everyone’s eventual grave doesn’t exactly come off as being very appreciative of the life we’re living.
However, as is my opinion with most issues, I believe there’s a middle ground. I do believe that in many ways, “life sucks, and then you die” is a relatively accurate term for the human experience. For me, that’s not saying that life isn’t beautiful, and that we shouldn’t be thankful for being alive and having consciousness.
Life is a series of disappointments, but littered amongst those disappointments can also be triumphs and happy moments, full of beauty, fulfillment, and love. It can be all of those things if we’re willing not only to work hard enough for them, but to be present enough to recognize them when they’re right in front of us.
Life may be disappointing, but if a person can’t learn to cope with and overcome that disappointment, they will be in an endless state of misery and discontent.
They will forever be the victim.
Here’s something to ponder: The odds of a planet sustaining any sort of life are infinitesimal as it is, but we just so happened not only to end up on earth, but to have the gift of self-awareness, the capacity to love and to hate, the intelligence to build and advance incredibly complex societies, and the ability to ponder our own morality. Not only that, but we live on a planet that has everything we could ever need to live and thrive for thousands of years, as long as we can figure out how to conserve and allocate our resources responsibly.
Sure, there are a ton of terrible things about humans as well. But nonetheless, we are pretty damn lucky to be here at all.
In my opinion, that’s something to cherish.
Preface: 1) I’m not a Doctor, 2) Victimization is Real
Now, before I dive into this, I want to preface this discussion with two different items.
First off, I am not a therapist, psychologist, neuroscientist, or anything of the sort. I am a human, who’s had human experiences, and in no way should the things I talk about in this article be taken as any form of medical treatment. If you are dealing with a mental illness I urge you to seek help.
I am a huge proponent of psychotherapy, and while there are still plenty of people who hold outdated opinions and stereotypes against it and those who utilize it, frankly, fuck them.
Anyone who judges you for trying to better yourself might not have your best interests at heart anyways, or at the very least may be projecting their own insecurities and biases onto you, and maybe you should consider not being around that person as much anymore if that’s how they make you feel for trying to live a better life.
Here’s the second part of my preface: There are millions of people around the world who have been horribly victimized. It’s a sad fact of the human experience. The vast majority of people at one time or another have been the victim of something bad in some situation. Some as small as getting cut off in traffic, some as devastating as being sexually assaulted or violently attacked. In no way is this a discussion on blaming the victim for what has happened to them.
The fact is that bad stuff happens to good people. While I do believe in the concept of karma to some degree, I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason in the sense of a higher power testing our faith, or some other cosmic narrative.
I believe many things happen based on our choices, experiences, and how we treat others, but I also believe that oftentimes bad things happen to good people for utterly no rhyme or reason. Sometimes someone is in the wrong place at the wrong time, or is born into the wrong family or neighborhood, and is horribly victimized. Its not fair, and its not right, but its an unfortunate facet of the human experience.
This discussion is about the trap of victimhood, and how allowing the feeling of being a victim to become fundamental to one’s identity is so terribly damaging to a person, and how when one is trapped in the quicksand of victimhood it can be truly impossible to ever find contentment. As long as your personal identity is wrapped up in being the victim, contentment may not be attainable at all.
That may be a depressing sentiment, but it can also be a liberating one, because for most people, no matter how down we may be, we all still have some modicum of hope. We do want to be happy and want to get better. So, if contentment cant coexist with identifying as a victim, and we all know we want to be happy and content, then why not try to get better? What do we have to lose?
It’s kind of like the fact that someday, every one of us will be dead.
Scary? Sure. Liberating? Absolutely.
One of my biggest mentor’s, Nate Green, talks about this a lot. We’re all going to die someday, so why not make the most of the short time we have? Why not take chances on love, fulfillment, and happiness? Why let the little, insignificant stuff ruin our day, week, month, or year? None of the little shit matters in the end.
What matters is the life you lived while you were here, and the people who’s lives you affected in your wake of existence.
Or, maybe its not that complicated at all. Maybe its just making it your whole life without being eaten by a bear or run over by a bus, and to have the privilege of dying slowly of old age. Either way, once we realize how insignificant most of the stuff that bothers us in the short term is in relation to the long term, it liberates us to live a more enjoyable and fulfilling life.
The Victim Trap
So, let’s talk about victimhood. Let’s talk about the dangers of it. Let’s talk about how it’s completely possible to not be the victim anymore. And let’s talk about a few things that we might be able to do to slowly help ourselves climb out of the victim trap.
Once you allow the feeling of victimization to guide how you view yourself and how you view the world, most of the time, things like depression and anxiety will come creeping in, and once those two get their feet in the door, it can feel nearly impossible to get them back out, or at the very least, to coexist with them.
For a long time, from early adolescence well into adulthood, I held the victim’s mentality. To this day, I still find myself continually battling the thoughts of feeling like a victim, and feeling sorry for myself when things get hard, when things don’t seem fair, or things don’t go my way.
I’m not going to go into detail here, but I’ve had my fair share of bad stuff happen to me and those around me in my life, and as I’ve written about in the past, I’ve struggled with severe depression and anxiety off and on throughout adulthood. Through all of that, it’s very easy to develop a notion that some cosmic bully is just fucking with me, that I’m unlucky, and that there’s nothing I can do about all the bad stuff that happens. It’s easy to get mad and bitter, and to close myself off from others.
In the end, we often conflate our own importance in the bigger picture, and the fact is, there is no mass conspiracy to keep us haplessly miserable, and there is no cosmic bully poking a voodoo doll and watching us squirm. Life pretty much sucks for all of us to varying degrees (some of us far more than others, and the older I get the increasingly fortunate I feel for the life I’m living, even with my struggles), it really comes down to how we cope with the disappointment, and how we move forward.
Don’t be the Miserable Dick
This feeling that everyone is out to get you can make life not only miserable for yourself, but for those around you as well. When you think the world is out to get you, and there’s some cosmic plan to make sure you can’t be happy or content in life, you can start to become a very unpleasant person to be around.
A good example of this is Paul Rudd’s character in the movie Role Models. There’s a (hilarious) scene where Paul Rudd berates a barista for her insistence upon using the word “venti” instead of “large” when ordering a coffee, clearly a massive pet peeve for him.
Shortly after that, Rudd’s frustrated partner, played by Elizabeth Banks, tells Rudd that while she shares many of the same annoyances and pet peeves Rudd does, she isn’t going to allow small things like that to ruin her day. She goes on to say, “You have lost the ability to take any joy in life…You’re just a miserable dick, now. You’re mean to everybody!”
Of course, this is a comedy, a particularly hilarious one at that. However, there is a real nugget of wisdom in the scene. When I’m feeling particularly sorry for myself I’m much more likely to be mean, to be negative, to judge people around me for no truly legitimate reason, and to generally be a not-so-fun person to be around.
In the context of a comedy, Paul Rudd’s character in this movie is hilarious, but this person in real life is someone that usually ends up becoming more and more alone the more unpleasant they are to be around (which, spoiler alert, if you watch the movie, is exactly what happens with Rudd’s character leading up to the climax).
I’ve been this person before. Sometimes I’m still this person. Me being this person has repeatedly driven me into isolation, it was a driving factor in my greatest heartbreak, and has been one of many ugly vices that has not contributed positively to my quest for contentment.
While I love to people watch, talk shit (in a non-malicious way), and enjoy some questionably fucked up dark humor, there is a line where a funny commentary can become a sad, judgmental, and pessimistic outlook on life.
Identifying as a Victim is a Choice
In my opinion, based on my own experiences, viewing oneself as the victim is a choice. Being victimized is not a choice. I want to make sure that is very clear, because as I said earlier, in no way am I advocating for any form of victim blaming.
With that being said, while the feeling of being a victim may be deeply ingrained into one’s own self identity, molded and solidified over years and decades, identifying as such is still a choice we make every day.
My own sense of victimhood is deeply linked with my depression and anxiety, and if several years ago someone had told me that victimhood is a choice I likely would have said something like “Yeah, you must not understand how depression works”, or “Fuck off”, or maybe I would have assumed that I’ve probably just had a lot tougher life than that person, and there’s no way that person could ever understand the pain I was dealing with.
As someone who is painfully familiar with depression and anxiety, I do understand how it works, how when you’re in that hole and that black cloud is following you around, the hopelessness is everywhere.
Oftentimes, addictions of varying degrees form around one’s depression. Depression can lead a person to dark places, either in one’s own mind, or real life places filled with danger and risk.
You might bury yourself in a vice of varying extremes, vices like television, social media, drinking, self-harm, drugs, or sex, or some combination of those, in order to distract yourself from the emotional pain.
But that temporary rush, that blast of dopamine that your chosen self-medication gives you just turns you back around to square one. The cycle of addiction, whether it’s a physical addiction to a substance or a mental addiction to an experience, just drags you down that hole a little deeper each time.
Addiction is just one example of how the darkness of depression can effect a person. Depression takes many forms, and takes different people down many different paths.
In other words, climbing out of the trap of victimhood is complicated, and is in no way an easy task. It’s not as simple as waking up one day and deciding that you’re no longer going to be the victim anymore.
But, I also believe its possible to climb out of that trap, and the longer one allows themselves to be caught in that trap, the harder it will be to climb back out.
Try Something Different
So, here’s what I propose: Take one small step, today, to climb out.
I know this is a cliché question, but honestly ask yourself: What’s the worst that could happen?
I may feel like a miserable sack of shit at the moment, but if I tried one little thing today to no longer feel like I’m a victim, what is the worst that could happen?
Chances are, you’ll be hard pressed to think of much that’s worse than your current state of feeling like a sack of shit.
With that, here are some things you could try that might just start to change your perspective:
- Go out of your way, once a day, to help or compliment someone. In other words, try to make someone else’s day just a little better, or boost their self-confidence. The smallest of gestures can be just enough to remind a person that not everyone is out to get them, because they may be going through the same struggle you are.
- Actively listen to someone. Whether they’re talking about something they’re struggling with, or just telling you some stupid story about their dog that you couldn’t care less about, just give them an ear. Oftentimes when we are so wrapped up in our own misery, we forget, or stop caring, about the thoughts and feelings of those around us. Just plain listening to someone can not only make someone else feel important and heard, but can make you feel better, and helpful, in some way.
- This is one of my favorites that I wish I was more consistent about. Once a day, usually shortly before you go to bed, write down something you’re grateful for. It seems small, but expressing gratitude in a way you can physically reflect on later is incredibly valuable, and can organically foster a more positive outlook on life over time. It can be anything, big or small, but just physically write down one thing you are grateful for. It doesn’t have to be complex. Just one short sentence. Here are some examples from my own journal:
- I’m grateful for Mom and Dad.
- I’m grateful to have a roof over my head.
- I’m grateful for having access to and the means to buy quality foods.
- I’m grateful for Lacey always being willing to listen.
- I’m grateful for my capacity to feel empathy.
- Lastly, if you’re dealing with any of the things I’ve talked about in this article, maybe consider looking into therapy. I’m not telling anyone to run out and get a therapist, I’m just saying to maybe give the idea some consideration. Maybe hop on Google and read about it. Read about what forms of therapy exist, read about other people’s experiences, etc. Talk to someone who’s been in therapy before.
As someone who still deals with pretty much all of the things I’ve talked about in this article, I am in no way claiming that I know the secret to climbing out of the trap of victimhood.
However, I am improving. I feel that I’m on an upward trajectory not only with that, but with my depression and anxiety, and that I’m becoming a more resilient, more balanced individual, and I believe my conscious effort toward taking responsibility for my life, and not pigeonholing myself as a victim, has been one of the biggest positive steps forward in life that I’ve ever taken.
So, here’s to loving ourselves, and kicking ourselves in the ass when we need it. Life does suck, and we will die, but I’ll be goddamned if I’m going to let that keep me from having some fun along the way.
P.S. – I’m grateful for Peanut Butter flavored whiskey. *takes a sip of Skrewball*
If you or a loved one are considering suicide or self harm, here are some resources. Free and confidential crisis help is available 24/7:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- La Red Nacional de Prevención del Suicidio: 1-888-628-9454
- Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741741
- The Trevor Project Lifeline (LGBTQ Crisis and Suicide Hotline): 866-488-7386
- Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, Press 1
- Teen Line (Teen-to-Teen Help Hotline): 310-855-4673