Don’t Live Like a Victim

Don’t live like a victim.

Even in the most fortunate life, some bad things will happen. To you. To me. To everyone.

Sometimes, it’s because of what other people do. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of luck. And sometimes, it’s because of what we do.

From those facts, people jump to opposite conclusions that are both incorrect. They believe that either:

  • We have total control over our lives. If we think positive and work hard, we’ll inevitably succeed.
  • Or we have no control over our lives, so nothing we do makes any difference. External forces (other people, society, “the system,” etc.) will always thwart us.

The first belief sometimes pays off. Hard work and positive thinking can take us a long way — if we’re lucky.

But if we’re not lucky, we can “do everything right” and still fail. In that case, the first belief leads to the second.

From believing that we control everything, we go to the other extreme and believe that we control nothing.

And that is living like a victim: just sitting on the ground, whimpering, waiting for the cruel world to hit us again.

Don’t do that. It’s not a good way to live.

Sure, there are things in our lives that we can’t control. But there are also things that we can control.

Hard work and positive thinking don’t guarantee success, but they make it more likely.

And even failure can be our friend if it inspires us to analyze what went wrong. If the problem was something we can control, then next time we can prevent it.

The bottom line is the same as always:

  • Do your best, but be realistic. You won’t always win.
  • Even when you lose, stay positive and constructive.
  • Always look for ways to do better.
  • Don’t live like a victim.

Check out my book Why Sane People Believe Crazy Things: How Belief Can Help or Hurt Social Peace. Kirkus Reviews called it an “impressively nuanced analysis.”

About N.S. Palmer

N.S. Palmer is an American mathematician.
This entry was posted in Human Relations, Life, Psychology and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Don’t Live Like a Victim

  1. J P says:

    I wonder if it is easier or harder for a person of religious belief to maintain a healthy balance between the two extremes you write of. As one who has bounced between the two extremes more than I probably should have, I wonder which is the greater danger.

    Victimhood encourages a life of failure and unhappiness while the “I am captain of my ship” mentality encourages pride and hubris that is a problem for more than one faith.


    • N.S. Palmer says:

      The human mind likes extreme positions because they’re simple. We need to remember that weakness, so we can be on guard against it. As for pride, I think it depends. We should be proud when we do something good and do it particularly well. To me, humility doesn’t mean thinking less of ourselves. It means giving fair recognition to the abilities and accomplishments of others, a duty that “proud” people often neglect.


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