Don’t drown in the seductive pull of self-pity

The current situation we’re in has genuine heroes and genuine victims—and millions of us are somewhere in between. The truth is, everyone is stressed. This stress creates its own whirlpool which drags the passive down to the depths.

In fact, stress ratchets up fastest if you surrender and decide you’re helpless. Just convince yourself there’s not much you can do about the situation, and see how much worse you feel.

Your stress level is often a result of your focus. Is life about complaining, pain, and sorrow? Or is it about gratitude and joy? Lately it’s been easy to make the basic mistake of acting like a victim.

“Humans have the capacity for pause between stimulus and response—to choose among alternative in responding. This is the taproot of individual freedom. Indeed, I would define mental health as the capacity to be aware of the gap between stimulus and response, together with the capacity to use this gap constructively.” —Viktor E. Frankl

The mistake you make in unfavorable circumstances is to consider yourself a victim of circumstances. To emphasize the unfairness of it all. Play “poor me.” Ignore any opportunities the changes might imply. Focus instead on what’s being lost, on any sacrifices you must make. Assume if you feel sorry enough for yourself, others will start feeling sorry for you as well.

You might even think that you be a better victim if you find somebody else to blame, someone you can accuse of causing your problems. If you can pull that off, you shift the accountability for your behavior and attitude away from yourself.

But here’s the problem with making this mistake: it’s very disempowering stuff you’re doing to yourself. It happens almost unconsciously. The irony is that you do it in your defense, and it ends up causing all kinds of personal damage.

Any time you act like a victim, you actually weaken yourself. You load yourself down with more self-induced stress. What’s more, you set yourself up as an even more likely candidate for future victimization.

Acting like a victim threatens your future. This is stress that perpetuates itself. You end up in a vicious circle, and you are the only one who can break yourself free. Stand proud, pick up the pieces, and start putting things back together.