Playing the Victim
Jul 8, 2019

Be honest. Did the title of today’s blog post make you feel a little uncomfortable? Were you curious to see what I’m on about? It’s certainly creating a little discomfort for me as I write about it, and that’s because I’ve been an expert on playing the victim for quite some time. Yep, I just owned that. It’s likely you are, too (although you might not know it yet). Stay with me. 

It’s something I think we could all pay more attention to. We all do it from time to time, and some more than others. A pity party every now and then can totally be warranted (your boy/girlfriend just broke up with you, so you offload to your friend about them and drown yourself in ice cream and Netflix), but when playing the victim starts to disempower you, wreak havoc in your relationships and on your view of life, that’s when you need a reality check. Hello and welcome, if that’s you!

What do you mean, “playing the victim”?

Playing the victim (or self-victimisation) is a term given to someone who uses the story of being a victim of a situation in order to justify their behaviour, get attention, to cope, or to manipulate others (not to be confused with an actual victim of an event). Yikes, that doesn’t sound very nice, does it? No one wants that as a label! Yet, I would be so bold to say that we’ve all been there,  whether we realised that’s what we were doing or not. Here’s a basic example: say you had a terrible day, snapped at your friend or dog or partner, and when questioned, blamed it on your bad day. Here’s a more complex example: say you were at school, and a teacher had stern words with you. You then took the view that the teacher didn’t like you. You then looked for every potential opportunity to prove that theory right, swiftly followed up by a “See? She hates me”. Recognise anything yet?

My experience in playing the victim

Oh, I have many. I’ve been doing the work on this for years, so it’s easy to look back and see where I was getting tripped up. Sometimes it’s not so easy when you’re in the thick of it! Here’s a little story from one of my experiences. 

A long time ago, I had a friend who I thought was great fun, but every now and then, the things he said or how he behaved towards me made me feel really sad and useless. Maybe you’ve been in one of those friendships, too. It kept happening, and I kept feeling worse. What did I do about it? Absolutely nothing. Instead, I moaned to others about it, wrapped in the story that I was such a good friend that I couldn’t do anything to change things or tell him that he was hurting me. I felt negative, resentful, and powerless. I even started to believe some of the things he said about me that were unkind! This is of course the total opposite to how I help others to feel with teaching, coaching and mentoring, and I felt uncomfortable secretly knowing my part in this. I was hooked on the addictive anger surge I’d get when talking about it, and justifying my upset to others. It’s not my fault he behaves like this, what can I do about it? Yuck! I knew I had to change things, and I recognised the pattern, but this just seemed SO BIG and SO JUSTIFIED. Finally, I stepped back and realised that the only one making me a victim… was me. And I’d rather take back my power than play out the story that I’d let someone else take it from me. 

How do we break out of the “playing the victim” cycle?

It’s all about awareness and honesty. Yes, you have to be honest with yourself that you are throwing a pity party, and using something that’s happened or happening to justify your behaviour or lack of positive action. Here’s a few tips:

  • Take a step back and honestly reflect on what part you are playing in the situation. How have you contributed? Is there something you could do differently to create a better outcome or situation?
  • Here’s two little signposts that might help you identify when you’re next stuck in victim-hood. When I catch myself saying “Yeah, but…” in response to someone offering a solution to my moaning, I usually know that I’m stuck in that victim thought pattern again. Another: ask yourself, can I insert “poor me” in here? For example, poor me, nobody invited me to the party, I must be lame to hang out with. This is a pretty good tell! 
  • Avoid venting to others and dumping your pity party on them. The attention from others attending your pity party fuels the flames, and will get you nowhere fast

None of these are easy, but they are all super worth it!

Just like we do when practicing mindfulness (which helps to regulate our emotions), when you notice yourself playing the victim, acknowledge it and accept it; this is the first step to making a change. It doesn’t feel particularly enjoyable to realise you’re playing the victim. In fact, you might find all the excuses why that’s not true (that’s playing the victim again though, by the way). But it’s the road back to empowerment, and taking ownership of your actions. And that feels super awesome, even if a little uncomfortable at the same time.

With personal experience, and experience helping others out of this mind trap, if you need a cheerleader or sign-post-maker for self-vicitimisation, I would love to work with you. Empowerment is key on the path to intelligent rebellion, leading to the land where you finally reconnect with the utterly magnificent inner you. And that’s not going to happen if you won’t stand in your power, accept responsibility and own your behaviour! Trust me, I know! 

Did this resonate with you? 

Get in touch now or share this (with love) with someone who needs it. 

Lots of love and in empowerment x


This gorgeous photo is by Sasha Freemind on Unsplash


Bec is the human behind Rebel Starseeds. She loves being outside, avocados and anything to do with the ocean. She also likes to write a lot, especially about things to do with wellbeing for girls + womxn, in the hope that she can find help others empowerment and joy from within themselves with a little reconnection, rewilding and rebelling (where necessary!)

About the author.