Have you ever thought to yourself, “I feel so unappreciated around here! It’s like no one notices how much I do for everyone.” These thoughts are examples of what is called victim mentality, which we all experience at one time or another in our lives. If you are feeling like these thoughts might be something you experience frequently, there is good news. Since the victim mentality is caused by the thoughts we have and not by a trait we are born with, we actually have the power to do something about these thoughts and take responsibility for our feelings and actions.
But why is it so common for parents to feel like victims of their situations?
When we have this victim mentality, we can get stuck, frustrated and feel unappreciated. We believe that things are happening to us, and that we don’t have a choice in the matter. When your child is misbehaving, it’s easy to think that “this is not fair!” or “why is this happening to me?” and see other parents with better behaved children and think that they are just lucky. These kinds of thoughts keep us stuck in self-pity and cause us to feel powerless.
For example, my son loves using our couch cushions and blankets to make forts. I am happy that he is playing nicely and being creative, but the problem is that although he is strong enough to take the cushions off the couch, he is not strong enough to put them back on, so as a result, I am constantly putting our couch back together (a corner sofa, so it’s big) because he is too small to lift them up himself. I get so frustrated when he’s playing with them, and then I start to think how unfair it is that I have to clean up after him all the time.Why can’t he play with something else? Why can’t he just put the cushions back himself? AHHH!!
I have a client who’s daughter has been waking up in bad moods and starts screaming at her about not liking her hair or she’s so angry and why can’t she do her hair the right way, and she can’t find the right clothes and this goes on for 20 minutes. She tries everything to make her daughter happy, but nothing works. As a result, she feels beat up and defeated, and the day hasn’t even started yet.
Can you see how in these examples we are blaming our kids for our unhappiness?
I believe I have no choice but to pick up the cushions and my client believes that she needs to make her daughter happy, and it’s not fair!
Like everyone does at some point in their lives, both my client and I have fallen into the victim mentality, which is the true reason why we are angry and frustrated. We feel we don’t have a choice but to feel terrible, but is that really true? Or are we choosing to feel angry and frustrated? Do we really want to choose to feel that way?
Why then is it so easy to fall into the victim mentality as parents?
One reason is because we think we deserve to feel angry when our kids don’t behave the way we think they should.
We think we deserve to feel self-pity when our kids don’t appreciate what we do for them. And to make it worse, all of our friends and family will agree with us that we should be angry and frustrated with our kids! How dare they act this way!
Another client of mine, Megan, believes it’s important to keep her house clean at all times. She works herself to the bone trying to be the perfect mom and housewife, but her family constantly makes messes and doesn’t help clean up. As a result, she feels overworked and underappreciated. In addition, she feels she deserves to be resentful in this situation because no one is thinking of her feelings. She thinks that she is doing her “job” by pushing herself to these limits and that she has no choice in the matter but to clean up after everyone else, huffing and puffing about it the whole time.
All of these examples are situations where parents are letting their feelings just “happen” to them.
We have thoughts like “It’s not fair. Why me? Everyone else has it so much easier. Why am I always the one doing all the work?”
The reality is that it is never the people or situations outside of us that are causing us to feel a certain way. This is actually good news because that means we when we learn the power of taking full responsibility for our feelings, we can feel better. When we are in victim mentality, we give away our power to others, which feels terrible.
So how can we get out of this mentality? Remember, when we change our thoughts, our feelings change.
The key is to recognize that we ultimately have a choice in every situation.
In Megan’s case, no one is forcing her to clean her house. She is choosing to do that. She has other options: she could hire a housekeeper, ask her husband to help, or just let it be imperfectly messy sometimes. But the truth is she wants to clean her house. She enjoys having a clean house. Megan is doing exactly what she wants to do. When Megan realized this, and started taking responsibility for her choices, she felt empowered and even proud of her clean house.
When it comes to my situation with my son and the couch cushions, I have choices, too. I could prevent him from playing with the cushions, I could ask him to help me clean them up, or I could even leave them on the floor where he put them. No one is making me clean them up. I want to do it because I want a clean living room. Owning this choice feels so much better. I can then go about my day feeling less frustration.
This shift in thinking can be hard because it requires us to grow up and stop blaming others for how we feel.We get to decide how we feel and act regardless of what our kids do or spouse or anyone else does
The way that we can empower ourselves is by realizing that we never “have to” do anything.
We don’t even “have to” feed our kids or pay our mortgage, or clean our house. But we “want to” because we love our kids and care about having good credit and nice house. When Megan felt stuck because of her thought that “no one appreciates all I do for them and they don’t think about my feelings”, she is giving away all of her power to her kids.
So instead, if you start to have “I have to” thoughts:
- Stop and notice the choices you have.
- Decide what you want to do.
- Own your choice.
You will feel so much better when you are no longer a victim, but are an emotional adult and you’ll be amazed at how much more you can accomplish.