When I first began working in the self-help industry in earnest, I was, as most new to the industry are, overcome with a desire to help others. The pride I got when hearing I'd helped someone turn around his station in life with women, or turn around his life in general, was great. It's still wonderful to hear, but back then it was amazing.
It took me a while to recognize it, but there was another side of the coin to self-help too; it's the side I mentioned in "How to Master Anything" when talking about the "complainers" (as contrasted to the "fixers"), and it was the people you'd run into that you couldn't help. These were the ones who seemed like they wanted help, and they were there asking for it, but you just couldn't break through.
Eventually I did some research on it, and found out there was a distinct psychological term for this: it's called "victim mentality."
And it isn't the people you think who have it. It isn't some poor pathetic schmuck sitting around in his room moping about why life has to be so hard. Sure, that guy's got it too, but there are a lot of other people who have it:
- Models and actresses
- Jocks and playboys
... I've met people in almost every walk of life with victim mentalities. It's surprising when you encounter it, and you see it to different degrees... but it's there.
For me, recognizing my own victim mentality a long time ago was key to getting my life moving again in the right direction. And at the same time, I spent a decade in "neutral" because of my own refusal to see it and fight it, and I've met scores of people along the way similarly bogged down by this.
If you want to break free of it - if you really want the kind of life you want, with the kinds of things you want in it - this is another one of those situations where you'll find that the answer doesn't lie in the world changing to suit you... but rather, this answer lies within.
In yesterday's post on gym pickup, IceCold comments:
“This is a very good article, thank goodness I didn't do those don'ts! Chase I have to get something off my chest that's been borthering me. My life is summed up pretty much of me getting girls but not having as many sex partners as I want. Can you explain what's up with what's going on? I feel like I have bad luck or a bad vibe Im a good person it's just that I can't get rid of this dark cloud.
It's basically like if it's not going wrong it will. Like I can have a girl so into me but something out of nowhere messes things up, like she just acts like an asshole or she says one thing and does another. Another is the girls I do click with happen to be crazy girls, I cant stop from picking these bad apples. It just really kills me inside that I have bad luck happen to me weither I sleep with a girl or not.
Chase I'll be honest on what I need help with. My main problem is this black cloud of bad luck or a bad vibe girls think I might have. I say it's bad luck because I honesty believe in myself that i should have way more sex partners than what I have now because i put in alot of work on my self, I got fashion, game, looks, personality, how can i get intimate with girls and not deal with rejection or problem after problem. It's driving me crazy and I want to give up but I won't, my ego won't let me. Chase how can I get rid of these problems with bad luck/dry spell? And get to sleeping with more women ASAP? Thank you Chase.”
What IceCold's feeling here - the source of sentiments like "My bad luck is holding me back" and "I SHOULD be getting better results" - are actually strains of victim mentality climbing in and strangling his abilities to bring the kind of change (and women) he wants into his life. He's fighting against it, and he's trying to improve himself regardless - both good and encouraging signs - but it's still there, preying on him in moments of weakness, and sapping his strength when he least expects it.
The Wikipedia entry on victim mentality states that the phenomenon can show itself through the following key features:
Blaming others for a situation that one has created oneself or significantly contributed to. Failing or being unwilling to take responsibility for one's own actions or actions to which one has contributed.
Ascribing non-existent negative intentions to other people (similar to paranoia).
Believing that other people are generally or fundamentally luckier and happier ("Why me?").
Gaining short-term pleasure from feeling sorry for oneself or eliciting pity from others. Eliciting sympathy by telling exaggerated stories about bad deeds of other people (e.g. during gossip).
One of the most frustrating aspects for others to encounter, especially when you're trying to help the person with a victim mentality overcome whatever obstacles they're struggling with, are the blaming aspects and the luck aspects. It is impossible to EVER solve a problem that you place outside your own control.
The instant it's other people's faults, or it's because of "luck," you are helpless and adrift (and, you're annoying the heck out of your friends who want to see you succeed).
Yet, victim mentality is today perhaps more prevalent than ever. I'd even wager that MOST people have it - that's right, a majority of humans on Earth live life with a victim mentality. They are adrift at sea, buffeted by the winds of fortune, taken only down the courses life directs them upon. At times they struggle to regain hold of the rudder, only to relinquish control once again to "others" and "fate."
Victim mentality was THE crippling mental trait I possessed when
back in the throes of depression, and
I dare say it's the first step on a straight shot into that bleak,
empty place. It leads to helplessness, giving up, alienation from
friends and loved ones and mentors and advisors, who get sick of being
blamed and get tired of watching their advice go unheeded and
ignored... and eventually, ultimately, it leads the possessor of this
enervating mental attitude to defeat.
if it's so bad, WHY do so many people HAVE it?
Whenever I encounter something strange, some evolutionary blip that seems at first glance to defy the rules of natural selection, I always stop and ask myself, "Why has this been selected for?"
Victim mentality is something that is so wildly prevalent in human society that I'm convinced it must be selected for. But to wrap your mind around how that can be, you've got to venture a bit into the confusing side of human sociology.
Winners and Losers
In "How to Be a Dominant Man: What You Didn't Know About the Winner Effect," we examined the research on the testosterone spikes a man receives following even the most trivial of victories, and the testosterone troughs he gets following even the teeniest of losses. And after that, we looked at how these winners' testosterone spikes build upon one another, leading to greater and greater victories, while losses too build on one another, leading to a feeling of being "trapped losing."
I believe victim mentality is deeply tied to this phenomenon, and that it hews closely to an important evolutionary mechanism: keeping people reproducing.
How's that work? Let's look at a few examples.
Imagine you're extraordinarily confident that you're going to start a hot dog stand and sell 250 hot dogs a day and be rich in no time. The plan is, you'll run your hot dog stand for four months, save up enough cash to buy another hot dog stand and hire a guy to run it, and then in another three months you'll have another hot dog stand, and 1 1/2 months after that, with the profits from the first three, you'll be able to open a fourth hot dog stand, and before you know it, the whole of Planet Earth will be eating your hot dogs!
Now, at first, you're nervous, because you don't really know anything about hot dogs or running a hot dog stand. But it seems simple enough; the instructions for how to cook the dogs are right there in the manual, and you've got all the ingredients you need to get started.
So, you head out, Day #1, and find a great spot in a high traffic area to start hawking hot dogs. The sun is out, the day is bright, birds are chirping, and people are walking by in droves.
You wait. People walk by. You wait some more. More people walking. Then - somebody stops! Oh, but he doesn't buy.
You wait some more. Wait... waaaiitt. Then, at last! A customer. A woman on her way back to work who didn't have time for a proper meal - she buys a hot dog. It's working!
You continue on this way for the rest of the day, a full 8 hours. Then, you close up shop: 37 hot dogs sold. Wow, that's underwhelming.
But, you resolve to keep testing things out - you're certain that if you can get it right, you'll be a hot dog millionaire.
So, you change your:
... all multiple times. You never break more than 72 hot dogs sold, even in the best of weather. You're hardly covering your costs.
You go on Internet hot dog forums and read everything you can. You read up on advertising... the best place in your city to sell hot dogs... the ideal price point.
Nothing. Nada. Zip.
And here's where the two stories diverge:
The man prone to victim mentality starts to blame the people, blame the stand, blame anything he can; "I'm doing everything I should be, and it isn't working!" he cries. Eventually, knowing that he's in the right and everyone else is in the wrong he throws the towel in and walks away.
The man not prone to victim mentality continues to point the blame squarely at himself: "Clearly I'm missing something here; I'm not doing something right. Others have made this work, and I'm confident if I keep hacking away at it, I'll figure it out."
But will he? Will the guy without victim mentality figure it out?
... or will he eventually go bankrupt, have to sell his hot dog cart, and realize only too late that hot dogs simply weren't the right calling for him?
There's a third option, of course: that someone not prone to victim mentality simply looks at where he's at, the progress he's made, and says, "I'm sure I'm not doing things right, but I have no idea what to do and judging by the progress I've been making I'm not going to figure it out in anything approximating a reasonable time span, so it's better for me to simply fold up this investment and walk away." But people don't think like that. Once someone's invested, he's invested, and the only thing that's going to get him out are emotions.
So, victim mentality kicks in and uses his emotions to get him out of a bad situation before it kills him.
In other words, victim mentality is evolutionarily adaptive.
There's another thing victim mentality does though, too: it asks people to save you.
And this must work, at least as far as evolution's concerned, at least some of the time. I personally have never been able to "save" anyone who needed saving (and not just advice), but then again, I'm less hands-on than most people - I try to help people become self-reliant and then let them go. Most people who save other people want to have them around forever - it's a codependency.
"I save you, and you stick around and be grateful, and I'll stick around and feel good about having saved you and given you a great life." That's how it works, very similar to what we talked about in the article on white knights.
The thing about victim mentality is, it's dependent on experience and success, which generally means the less experience you have and the less success, the easier it is to become afflicted in that field.
If you're an actor who's received five Oscar awards, you won't start feeling like much of a victim if you don't get a sixth. Whatever, you'll get it next time, you figure. But if you're a new actor, and this is your first nomination and you don't get the award, there's a much bigger chance you walk away saying, "That whole Oscar thing is probably rigged!"
And imagine the guy who's been nominated five times and lost all five times. For him, it's definitely rigged!
So what you'll often see in relationships are two people with different strains of victim mentality (a guy who knows he can do a job but just can't get promoted at work, for instance, dating a girl who doesn't really believe she can ever get a job outside the service industry), one of whom provides some degree of "white knighting" to the other (usually the male to the female - although, rarely, you'll see females white knighting males with more extreme victim mentalities than theirs).
But in the end, victim mentality gets tied to:
Lack of experience in a given arena
Lack of sufficient victories-to-losses in a given arena
And so long as those remain out-of-balance in favor against the individual, he or she stays trapped in a victim mentality.
But - as I found out long ago when I carved my way out of my own victim mentality - there is a way around this.
So how do you defeat defeatism?
Well, the first part is recognizing you have it in the first place.
It's really weird to think about when you're outside of victim mentality, but most people with victim mentality refuse to think of themselves as thinking of themselves as victims. It's not that they think they're victims, they'll assure you; it's that they are victims!
Victims of other people.
Victims of fate.
Victims of The System.
It's a different way of thinking.
Imagine you are tied up in a third world prison somewhere, being beaten, injured, and tortured. Are you a victim?
If you asked me, my answer would be NO! Why not? Because I'd be able to trace my entire path back to the decisions that *I* made that landed me in that prison being tortured. Somewhere along the line, I made some foolish decisions that seemed correct at the time, and that's why I'm now where I am, getting bamboo shoots shoved underneath my fingernails. It sucks, but it's MY FAULT.
Why do I think this way? Why do the people who are liberated from victim mentality think this way? Are they blaming themselves? Doesn't it make them feel worse?
To the contrary.
Blaming forces outside your control is what makes you feel worse. The INSTANT that you stand there and say, "It's his fault," or, "It's their fault," or, "I've got bad luck," or, "I've done everything I can and I should be getting something / I DESERVE something!" you have relinquished control over your life.
You're a victim. You're just some inanimate piece of driftwood others push around on the seas of life.
But wait, say the blameless... how could blaming myself for my own problems possibly make me feel better?
Let me show you.
Why It's All YOUR Fault (and Why That's Amazingly Good News)
Think back to that hot dog stand guy. What a terrible place to end up in, pouring all his time and money into getting a hot dog stand up and running, only to find his dreams of delicious dog domination dashed when far fewer people paid him for hot dogs than even the most dismal of his projections projected.
Whose fault was that?
Was it the fault of:
- The guy who made the hot dog stand?
- The guy who sold him the hot dog stand?
- The guy who first invented the hot dog (for not making it a more desirable product)?
- The people who passed by his stand without buying?
- The people who bought, for not raving about him to their friends?
- The weather, for not being better?
- Fortune, for not smiling upon him?
- The city, for not making itself a more hot dog-friendly environment?
Who's to blame? Someone's got to be to blame!
The truth is... he is.
Is there a way he could have been successful at selling hot dogs? Is it conceivable that somewhere, someone in the world is selling 250 hot dogs a day and making money?
Sure. Plenty of people are. But did our hero:
Talk to any of those people?
Do a trial run before he opened his hot dog stand?
Work for a hot dog stand company for a while to really get to know the business first before putting his own time and money into it?
Research the best places in the city to open a hot dog stand and sell lots of dogs before laying out the money and opening his stand?
Learn about marketing and advertising and how to create the most attractive-looking hot dog stand to potential buyers he possibly could?
Launch any kind of re-marketing campaign to encourage hot dog buyers to tell their friends about his stand?
Do anything special to stand out from all the other hot dog stands and make his stand not just a convenience, but a destination?
Doubtful. He just did the bare minimum and hoped for a miracle.
Who's to blame here?
Nobody twisted this man's arm and forced him to start a hot dog stand. There isn't a giant conspiracy waged against him by the inhabitants of his town to deny him his dream. He's simply a "victim" of the reality that he wants something from them he hasn't convinced them to give him (sales revenues).
So he can either blame them for not "seeing the light" (which is ridiculous; I'll show you why below), or he can blame himself for not sitting down and figuring out what they actually want in order to sell it to them, and then giving that to them.
Why's it ridiculous to get upset at people for not seeing how wonderful you are, or how great what you have to offer is?
Imagine you're watching a television commercial for some new type of beans. Now let's say you don't eat beans that often, and don't really get excited about beans.
Imagine the bean commercial flops, and the advertiser gets fired by the bean company. One day, he shows up at your house, furious and distraught.
"I did the best I could to give you a great commercial!" he cries. "It had everything you could possibly want in a beans commercial - beautiful women, hilarious fart jokes, and delicious beans... why didn't you buy my beans??!! WHY???!!!"
You'd think the guy was mental, wouldn't you? This guy's NUTS! Not only that, but he doesn't "get it" at all... begging you to give him what he wants isn't how he gets what he wants; actually doing a good job and providing something that you WANT is how he gets what he wants!
He wants a certain kind of value from you (in this case, your money), and therefore must provide something that you value back (in this case, something you'd be willing to pay for). And it can't be what HE thinks you should value... it has to be what YOU, SUBJECTIVELY value.
I can tell you I'll give you my new car for your new house all I want, but if you don't think that's a fair trade, it doesn't matter how upset about it I get or how much I tell you you're not being fair or reasonable... subjectively, to me, maybe I think my car is so amazing that of course this is a fair trade, but subjectively to you, the trade is totally unreasonable.
And when it comes to dealing with other people, that's the rub:
It's not just what you want. It's what THEY want too.
And getting a victim mentality and being upset because they won't
give you what you want simply means you're being selfish and childish
and refusing to figure out
what they want and give it to them.
Time to man up and turn things around.
Punching Out Victim Mentality
If you read that article on depression I linked to earlier, you'll note how one of the things I mention changing in myself was my attitude; I was defeatist and fatalistic, and I figured for a long time that I had a RIGHT to be this way.
Until I realized I'd hit rock bottom, and that my life WASN'T getting any better. Until I decided, screw it, I might as well try breaking this attitude and coming at things from a totally different angle.
And suddenly, everything I wanted out of life began... just happening.
It wasn't that I got lucky. In fact, if you looked at my life, you'd probably tell me I'm incredibly unlucky. I've had so many things outside my control go against my way, and I almost NEVER get lucky breaks. The only time I see success is after I grind and grind and grind away through failure after failure after failure and FINALLY figure out the missing piece to make something work.
I often tell friends that for me, my way of becoming successful is just smacking my head against brick walls often enough that eventually I start loosening the bricks on the other side of the wall. It's painful.
And then, finally, after immense amounts of suffering, doubt, and plain old fashioned really hard work, you get to the other side, and look back, and a bunch of people are staring at you through that hole you bashed through the wall with your hard head and saying, "Hey, how'd you get over there? You're so lucky!"
And I'm like, "You've got to be kidding me!"
The first step to being successful at anything is killing victim mentality. You've got to demolish it.
How do you know you've got it? Well do you ever:
Complain / think / talk about how hard you have it?
Blame other people for "doing things" to you?
Vent that something is "impossible" or "doesn't make sense" that OTHER people seem to have figured out and are doing well at (e.g., not shooting lasers out of their eyes or holding their breaths for an hour, but things like succeeding at selling hot dogs or getting phone numbers, stuff like that)?
Feel like you have no choice ("I HAVE to do this!" "I CAN'T do the things I want!")?
If you ever do ANY of those things... guess what... that's victim mentality.
Now, if you're like most people, you've probably got victim
mentality in some aspects of
your life (but not all). For instance, you might not be worried about
what happens to you with women ("Sally didn't call me back; ah well, I
probably misplayed that one - I won't make the same mistake again") but
you might have it with friends ("John NEVER invites me to his parties!
I can't ever get what I want with friends").
You beat victim mentality by adopting a mindset on EVERYTHING that runs through the following process:
That specific behavior did not work. People with victim mentality don't break things down into specifics; they take every rejection as one big giant PERSONAL rejection of the whole package. "I'm a complete person, so if you reject me, you're rejecting all of me!" goes the thinking. But this is incorrect.
You need to target specific behaviors and actions and pinpoint those for tweaking. "I texted John about the party; John did not respond. Therefore, something is either wrong with my text and how I asked John about the party, or with how I was when I met John; I didn't strike him as the kind of guy he'd want at his party. I should work on both of these."
By breaking things down to specifics, you can start getting around the mental block of, "Things never go my way! The world is so cruel," and start targeting what you need to work on to generate different results.
What things can I change about these items to generate different results? Say you're running a hot dog stand, and you want to sell 250 hot dogs a day, but you're only selling 37 to 72. Or, say your ultimate goal is to sleep with 4 new girls a month, but you've only managed to sleep with 3 new girls in the past year. Clearly, there's a LOT you need to do to bridge that gap, and you have no idea where to start. So, you begin by targeting a few things at a time, to start taking those single steps that must come at the beginning of every great journey.
"Okay," the hot dog guy says, "let me start with my sign. I bet if I paint it bright red, instead of gray, it stands out more against the gray of the city, and I bet if I get a professional logo designed that really makes people feel hungry and catches their attention I get more clients." So he tries these things, and then either works more on the sign or, if he's happy with the change that brought, he works on something else.
Or, "Okay, let me start with my approach. I'm not getting the kind of instant attraction I want off my approach, but my fundamentals are getting pretty tight so I don't think it's that - let me try out a new, sexier haircut and facial hair, and let me get a really cool-looking jacket to wear, and try to use pre-opening more."
This is how you tackle big gaps between where you are and where you want to be - by tearing off bite-sized chunks (usually starting with the things you think are most important), and working through them.
How am I doing now, vs. how was I doing before? Whenever you start getting frustrated about your progress, stop and compare yourself to where you were before you started. The main reason for this is reminding yourself that you are making progress, even if it isn't as quick as you'd like. This keeps you from getting discouraged, and helps encourage you that yes, you can make progress; and your next thought should be, well if I want faster progress, what do I need to do?
It's very important that you adopt the "How Can I?" mindset rather than the "I Can't" mindset.
"How Can I?" is an open-ended question to your mind that can be answered in limitless ways. Think:
- How can I meet more girls?
- How can I make women like me more?
- How can I get girls to come home with me?
- How can I create more sexual tension with women?
- How can I stop ending up in the friend zone?
- How can I make more friends?
- How can I get more comfortable around pretty girls?
If you actually thought about those questions as you went down them, you probably could feel the ideas surging up in your head.
"Well, I can meet more girls by getting a part-time job in the evenings working as a model talent scout! That would be fun! Or, I could start doing yoga... wow, I'll be the only guy there! Or salsa lessons... almost every time I go to those, it's 70% women."
"Get girls home with me... I can invite them to my apartment before we even go out! If they come pick me up there, it's only natural that they drop me back off... and if I have them bring something with them and drop it off at my place at the start of the date, they have to come upstairs to get it later! Or, I can have something really interesting in my apartment that I tell women about early on and invite them back to see later - my travel souvenir collection, or that really fun game that girls love that I have, or even a photo collection I tell women about. Better yet, I can just make sure I tell women in a far more confident, dominant, but nonchalant tone that we're going back to my place, and then lead strongly without a moment of hesitation. Women almost never say 'no' when they like you and you do it that way!"
Now contrast that with "I can't," the theme song of victim mentality:
- I can't meet more girls.
- I can't make women like me.
- I can't get girls to come home with me.
- I can't create sexual tension.
- I can't get out of the friend zone.
- I can't make friends.
- I can't get comfortable around pretty girls.
How much action does THAT mentality inspire?
You can just feel the ardor dropping out of your breast as you read down through that list. It's motivation death.
This is mainly down to policing your thoughts; it isn't just what you say, it's what you think. And if you let yourself think that you can't... well I can assure you, you will NOT be able to.
But if you get pissed off at "I can't..." like, really angry and embarrassed about how helpless that thought is making you, about how ridiculous it is that some simple negative thought cycles running in your brain are standing in the way of you achieving what other people are achieving with ease, then it's time to start standing up to those thought cycles - and replacing them with, "How can I?"
Stop giving up, and start figuring out.
Life as a Non-Victim
I spent a long time as a victim whose fate was determined by others. It's a lot of waiting - waiting for people to realize how great you are, waiting for people to recognize your talents or specialness, waiting to get what you're certain you deserve or should have. And it sucks, and you almost never get it.
Some people do. You see the people on Britain's Got Talent or American Idol who start crying when they win? Or the folks who hit the lottery who go nuts over their jackpots? Those are people who've been waiting to be recognized who finally made it big. "Finally! I've made it!" they think.
Usually those people fade back into obscurity though. The idols never go on to much success. The lottery victors squander their winnings, and drift back into poverty and debt.
Why does this happen? Is life unfair?
No. It's because these people retained the same victim mentality in success that they had in non-success, and kept waiting for life to keep giving them what they wanted. But life had other plans; life looked at them and said, "Are you crazy? How many lottery victories do you think I have to give out? Most people never get even ONE! You already got yours! If you're not going to use it RIGHT, why should I give you ANOTHER one?"
I've seen friends squander fortunes, watched them toss away incredible opportunities, seen them sacrifice friendships for short-term payouts, and then turn around and complain that life isn't fair because they didn't get more.
I've never had life throw fortunes at me, or toss incredible opportunities my way. I've had to tooth-and-claw it every step of the way. You cannot count on life giving you ANYTHING; you have got to go out, figure it out on your own, and make it happen.
And if you fail, it's because YOU failed - so go back out and try again.
And again, if need be.
And change something every time... even if it's just something small. Because if you smack your head against a brick wall enough times, and you tweak your angle of smacking enough, eventually you'll find the direction you need to pound the brick at that knocks it out the other side.
And then you'll get over there, and look back through the hole you carved, head ragged and bloody, and everyone sitting on the other side wishing they were on the side you're on will say, "How'd you get over there? God, you're lucky!"
And you'll say, "Excuse me? ... okay, time for you all to stand up, get over here, and start smacking your heads against the wall."
Victim mentality? You "can't?" It's "not fair?"
Psssh. Relish the challenge. When you can say, "It's not fair at all - and I won anyway," THEN you will have earned your respect - and no one will ever be able to take that from you.