Victim or survivor? Know this choice will decide your future

Whether you see yourself as a victim or survivor is one of the most important choices you’ll ever make.

Every person on earth has bad things happen to them. The people who recover and go on to live happy, productive lives see themselves as survivors. Those who retreat from conflict and see themselves as victims limit their choices, and in turn, limit their happiness.

This is a very hard message for me to write to you. For many years  I was one of those singles who saw himself as a victim. It had a profound negative effect on me. I do not want you to make this same mistake.

What I’m about to tell you is painful, but let it serve as a lesson. Avoid what I did and you’ll bounce back from setbacks faster. You’ll also be more eager to go after the things you want, with less fear of failure.

Letting the past control your future

It’s a common thing for people to let their past control their future. Early in life, I focused on my failures instead of my successes. Naturally failures are traumatic. They make you fearful. The heartache from a failure can stick with you longer than the joy from success.

Because I was learning about life in my 20s and 30s, I had more failures than successes. Much of life is trial and error, but I focused on the errors. I replayed every one, over and over, as we singles are prone to do. Each time I did that, the pain or embarrassment came back.

I made too much of my failures, instead of seeing them as learning experiences.

Then I did something really dumb. I decided I was a bad luck person. I thought because bad things had happened to me in the past that bad things would continue to happen in the future. Say what? Yeah, I know it sounds dumb looking back on it, but a surprising number of singles do the same thing. They believe their past can predict their future. Even worse, some of us think our past controls our future.

The twisted logic goes like this: I’ve had a tendency to fail in the past, therefore I will continue to fail in the future. One of the worst mistakes we can make in life is to see ourselves as failures, instead of seeing failure as something we do

Victim or survivor: My wrong choice

Besides seeing myself as a failure, I also started to see myself as a victim. It seemed as if bad things happened to me through no fault of my own. Romances broke up. I got cancer at age 25. I got laid off from my job at 34. What was happening? Why couldn’t I achieve the success I wanted? I seemed to be stuck in a rut and couldn’t get out.

After I got laid off from that job due to a companywide reduction in force -- not from anything I had done wrong -- I was pretty depressed, as you can imagine. I interviewed for other jobs, jobs that seemed like a perfect fit for my skills, but never got a callback.

Finally, frustrated with being turned down once again, I called the interviewer on the phone and asked her to be blunt with me. I told her to give me all the reasons why they didn’t hire me. What she said shocked me.

She said I came into the interview with a defeatist attitude. She repeated several pessimistic comments I had made about myself, things I hadn’t even realized I said. She was absolutely honest and absolutely right.

I saw myself as a victim.

That was very hard to take, but it was some of the most valuable information I had ever heard. Over the years, I had slipped into that victim mindset without even realizing it. I was unenthusiastic about life because of all the knocks I had taken. Instead of bouncing back, I had let them drive me into discouragement.

This was an awakening. It was also a turning point in my life.

I stopped being my own worst enemy

When faced with the choice of victim or survivor, I made the wrong pick. It kept me back for years. Thanks to that compassionate Human Resources person, I saw how I had been sabotaging my life. I knew I had to change. I knew I had to stop beating up on myself and start acting like the kind of person I wanted to be.

I resolved to be different. My new attitude soon landed me a new job. It wasn’t long before I had a new girlfriend who, and I found this hard to believe, actually asked me out first. Ha!

Occasionally bad things would happen to me again, but I was different now. I was a survivor instead of a victim. I took my lumps, picked up the pieces and moved on.

Over time, something else happened. I began to understand God’s great love for me. In the past I had thought he might be punishing me for some unknown reason. Now I realized bad things do happen to good people. I still don’t understand why that is, but it’s a sinful world we live in and things don’t always go like they should.

The lesson in this for you

I don’t know where you are in your life right now. Are you going through the victim or survivor crisis? Maybe this article will hit you as that Human Resources manager’s comments hit me.

I’m not being critical. I’m not blaming you. This is a pattern millions of singles fall into. We mislabel ourselves and let it affect our outlook on life. Sometimes it comes out as bitterness, sometimes as hopelessness, as it did with me.

Change is hard. Everybody enjoys sympathy. I enjoyed complaining about my miserable life and the pity I got from friends and relatives. But I was being a victim, losing my fighting spirit. If there’s one thing a single person needs to be, it’s a fighter.

If you’ve read this far and recognized yourself in my story, you can do one of two things. You can either get angry at me, send me a nasty email telling me off (as a single person did about two weeks ago). 

Or, you can do what I did. You can, with God’s help, turn your life around. You can realize your past doesn’t determine your future. You can succeed, no matter how many times you have failed before. You can start letting setbacks roll off you like water off a duck. 

You can be a survivor. If I can do it, you can too. If you make up your mind, you can do great things with your life.

Return to top of victim or survivor.