Here’s my hypothesis: our generation overwhelmingly suffers from victim mentality, and it’s holding us back from truly enjoying a successful future.
The formal definition of victim mentality is the acquired personality trait in which a person regards him or herself as a victim of the negative actions of others, and to think, speak and act as if that were the case. In other words, it’s to blame everyone else for what happens in your life. In psychology, it’s known as having an external locus of control.
In some way, it’s understandable. All our lives growing up, we were told that we would have a lot of cleaning up to do. We’ve witnessed natural disasters, political disasters, and corporate disasters. We’ve lived through an entire decade of turmoil, from 9/11 to the tech bubble to the global financial crisis and everything in between from global warming to the war in Iraq to ebola.
As a result, tuition rates have multiplied exponentially. Healthcare and insurance costs have risen. Unemployment rates are higher. Ocean levels are rising. The income gap is widening. Gender and race inequality is still prevalent. Life looks like it’s stacked ever against our favor, and woe is us…right?
During my time at college, I noticed many of my peers held this exact view. They believed that government, corporations, and institutions were out to get them and oppress them in various ways. They would say, “Well, the world is unfair, so what can you expect when everyone discriminates against you?”
In fact, people actively searched for ways in which they were victimized while decrying anyone else’s privilege. There almost seemed to be a gross pleasure of students portraying themselves as victims, as it was something that garnered attention and sympathy. It was a self-defeating undercurrent of the social and classroom life, and it was contagious.
I know, because I got wrapped up in it. When my job search wasn’t going well, I blamed the economy and derided the financial sector for causing the meltdown. But for all my excuses and claims of injustice, what did I achieve? Nothing, really, except wasted time and energy that I could have used to redouble my recruiting efforts.
The problem with living life through the lens of a victim is that you will forever be the biggest obstacle to your own success. You will attract negativity to your life by surrounding yourself with those who share similar beliefs and views on the world. You will be a magnet for everything you despise, because you will always be on the lookout for instances of unfairness and injustice. Indeed, studies have shown that people with an external locus of control tend to be more stressed and susceptible to depression compared to those with an internal locus, and even face lower career satisfaction and work performance.
A lot of Millennials are out there trying to fight “them,” where “them” is a corporation, an institution or an association creating some kind of oppression. The issue is once you create this dichotomy of “us” versus “them,” you immediately become a “them.” The more you stamp your feet and shout ideologies out, the more you’re hammering them into your mind, and soon enough you lose touch with who you really are.
The way to avoid this is to consider the following idea: you are not entitled to have an opinion on a subject unless you can state the arguments against your position better than the people who support it.
Yes, the world is out of balance and life is unfair, but this isn’t an excuse to feign helplessness and hold up the victim card at every opportunity. More than ever, it falls on us as individuals to create our own future. Don’t wait for the system to change or an invisible hand to pull you out of despair. It’s up to you, me, and everyone around us to do what’s best for ourselves first – to eradicate the victim mentality and focus on the things within our control. Then, will we be in a much more favorable position to turn around and help others.
Nothing is more important than the cultivation of yourself. Gandhi said it best when he said, “if we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him…We need not wait to see what others do.”
You’re only a victim if you think like one. So think wisely, my fellow Millennials.