Let me start off with getting a few things out of the way:
- I’m obviously not talking about situations of violence, abuse, oppression, bullying, or anything of that nature when I use the term victim.
- I’ve had a few conversations with people in the last month or so which touched on this topic. To those people: this is not passive aggressively targeted at you or your current predicament. I promise this is about me. This post has been on my mind for a while now as I’ve been reflecting on the ways I’ve grown these last few years. It is being written to remind myself of what I’ve learned, since this is an area I still struggle with.
- I won’t get too specific with personal examples. The reason is my best examples come from times when I chose to suffer instead of confront people or change situations and it wouldn’t be fair to the people involved in those examples to publicly share those details when I didn’t have the guts to tell them to their face at the time.
Now, let’s get to it!
Sometimes we find ourselves in circumstances where we are being asked too much of, being manipulated or taken advantage of (sometimes intentionally and other times unintentionally), or being emotionally hurt or stressed. Sometimes we get put in situations that have much room for improvement.
I’ve definitely been there. Multiple times.
And you know what I did about it? JACK SQUAT.
Other than complain and brood and feel sorry for myself, I mean.
Even after, when it applied, I recognized I was being manipulated.
I would wait around for the other person/people involved to realize what they were doing was unfair or stupid or hurtful and get angry when they didn’t. I would expect them to change, all the while venting to others about what was going on or silently ruminating on it. I would let it eat me up.
Why didn’t I say something?
My reasons were usually one or a mix of the following:
I was afraid of confrontation. Confrontation is scary and quite frankly doesn’t always go well. Not everyone handles being confronted fairly or nicely–some people can react angrily, dismissively, or in a way that makes us feel small. Confrontation can permanently change a relationship and cause tension that carries out into the future. I, personally, sometimes end up crying for no reason which is humiliating.
I didn’t think speaking up would change anything. Having your opinion dismissed isn’t unheard of. Or, where some people lash out whenever confronted, others know exactly the right thing to say…and then, this continue on in exactly the same way they had been. What then? I would think.
Deep down I was insecure my perspective, opinion, or emotion wasn’t valid. I feared I was being overly sensitive, entitled, or selfish. In situations where I had no prior experience for comparison, I doubted my conclusion of the way things should be. (If this is where you are, I encourage you to seek out those in your life who who won’t blindly defend you and aren’t afraid to piss you off. Ask them what they think. Or, do some research online about what standard, healthy boundaries look like in situations like yours.)
So, I would think and act as if confrontation wasn’t an option.
For a while I found myself in a situation where I was being asked too much of and emotionally manipulated (not intentionally, or at least I hope not) to the point that speaking up didn’t cross my mind and whenever my husband would propose I do so, the thought of it seemed ludicrously selfish.
I was losing my mind.
I would rant about the situation to my husband, friends, and family. I internally would blame the other people involved for my stress. I would be livid they didn’t see the unreasonableness of the situation. And this continued on even after I realized there was manipulation going on.
Eventually my husband started giving me tough love. I’m deeply grateful he did even though I argued with him about it at the time, because without his honesty I’m not sure I would have learned any of the stuff I’m going to share. With his help I began to open my eyes to some hard truths…
I was viewing my situation as if my hands were tied, as if I were completely at the mercy of others, when in reality I was making the choice to be a victim over and over again.
See, by choosing not to try to change the circumstances, I was by default choosing those circumstances.
To leave the present example for a bit and expand on my entire life, I have made many a bad decision by the previously mentioned default. I have chosen to give more time and energy to others than I could realistically spare. I have chosen lifestyles that were in the long-term bad for my mental health. I have chosen to let myself be talked to in ways that made me feel small, angry, or hurt. I have chosen at my own expense to make up for other people’s lack of effort, empathy, or understanding. (Just to name a few!)
And the thing is, when I chose those shitty circumstances because I’d rather avoid confrontation or a step in another direction, I was forfeiting my right to complain about my situation.
Only after exhausting all the options available to make a difference do you earn the pass to grumble about where you are.
It can be a tough pill to swallow.
Yes, confrontation is scary. It can go wrong. It can end up changing nothing even after you’ve mustered up the courage to go through with it. Unfortunately, choosing to not do anything absolutely guarantees nothing will change.
And chances are if enough time passes with nothing changing, you will blow up, burn out, give up, or walk away. Which, if other people are involved, isn’t fair.
It’s unfair to never give the other person/people a chance to change–even if you think they won’t take that chance. You left the high ground when you chose to suffer in silence. You were a coward, or at best lazy! You don’t get to walk away with a self-righteous bitterness. The ball was in your court and you decided to keep it there.
If you had left the ball in their court, if you had let your position or boundaries be known firmly and respectively, and things remained the same, that’s a totally different story. You get to leave with your head held high.
(If you’re in something real toxic, I am by no means encouraging you to try to work it out though. Get out.)
Now, I don’t say all of this to rid the other person or entity involved of responsibility. Everyone is accountable for how they interact with the world and use any power they have. However, we cannot lose sight of our own personal responsibility for how we let ourselves be treated and how much we take on or put up with. We have some–typically more than we care to admit–degree of agency when it comes to these things.
It’s up to us if we will use that agency.
So finally, to reiterate, if you are in a relationship of some sort, a job, a social/family situation, etc. that is toxic and otherwise bad for you and it is possible and safe for you to make your thoughts known or to leave and you choose not to, you are choosing that relationship, job, situation. You are choosing to be the victim.
And the only way to stop being the victim is to be brave and do everything you can to change it, or at the very least to embrace the situation as is without complaint.
What will you choose?
By the way, if you were wondering about what I did in the example I’ve been using, I chose to suffer in silence like a little coward and then run away when I was all burned up. It’s a big regret of mine. I’ve let it teach me though. Since then, I’ve attempted to avoid repeating history by working on my backbone and trying to live by the words I’ve shared today.
Comment –> Tell me about a time in your life when you’ve chosen to confront someone or to try to change a situation even though it was scary and what the results were AND/OR about a time you’ve chosen to be the victim and what you wish you would have done.
Share –> If you liked this post or think someone you know might, give it a share!
Catch up –> My last post is called brain drain. Give it a read!