You might have never heard about learned helplessness but you’ve probably heard about the victim mindset. These two things are related. In this article, we will talk about what learned helplessness is, and how to recognize if you have a victim mindset. You will also learn 7 solutions to break out from this detrimental mentality to achieve your goals and enjoy your life.
Learned Helplessness and Victim Mindset
Stress is a part of our life. If you want to achieve something in life, whether it is a good career or a profound relationship, you will experience some disappointments, maybe regrets, and maybe some pain on your way. Setbacks, trials, and failures are parts of life. We are human, we do hurt each other, often without even realizing it. We all have flaws and all of us make mistakes. This is a part of our life journey.
How you respond to these negative moments determines your final results. If you give up on yourself, then the chance of you being satisfied with your life is relatively small. If you keep going, then you will have lots of incredible stories that you can share with your grandchildren. You will have lots of amazing touching memories that you can share during a nice holiday dinner with your spouse, your friends, or your kids.
You cannot control everything that is happening in your life, but you can control how to respond to those things.
So, how do you know if you are falling into a victim mindset or you’ve developed learned helplessness?
First, let’s start by clarifying
The Difference Between Learned Helplessness and Victim Mindset
Learned helplessness is a strong belief, a strong feeling inside of you, on a deep level, that you are a weak and an unlucky person. This type of person truly believes that no matter what they do, they cannot change their situation. So, why bother?
The person strongly believes / that they cannot find a good job because they don’t have good education or because all the positions are already filled. A person believes that they cannot find a soulmate because they are not good enough or because they are too old, or they weigh an extra few pounds and believe that no one will love them. The person believes that life doesn’t treat them well and that people are selfish and often dishonest.
The difference between a victim’s mindset and learned helplessness is that a victim’s mindset is usually based on a specific traumatic event in childhood. For example, it can be sexual or physical abuse. Another example is a child who had to go through a loss of a parent or a divorce.
Now let’s talk about learned helplessness.
Learned helplessness is also based on negative upbringing, but in most cases, it relates to mental abuse. For years, from early childhood to adulthood, parents were telling their children that he or they cannot do anything on their own. When a child was doing something it was never good enough. The message that the child received sounds like this, “You are going to fail anyway. Don’t even try. You are not smart enough. You are slappy. You are embarrassing me.” A parent or parents criticize almost everything that the child has done.
Another scenario when a person develops learned helplessness is when parents place unrealistic expectations on them. Parents might not verbally criticize their child but the child knows that he is not good enough. They know what a parent wants but the expectations are too high. The tasks are not achievable. So, a child learns that no matter what they do, they cannot fulfill their parents’ expectations. The child becomes helpless. A boy or a girl sees disappointment in their parent’s eyes and believes that they are a failure.
A child is living in this mentality through their entire childhood. That is why it’s called learned helplessness. This is a fake belief that there is something wrong with me. I am weak. I am a failure. No matter what I do I cannot succeed. This belief becomes so strong and self-disappointment hurts so much that the person stops even trying to pursue their goals.
Often victim mindset and learned helplessness come together. For simplicity, let’s use these 2 terms as synonymouses. Let’s assume that they are the same thing and talk about how to recognize that you’ve developed learned helplessness or are falling into a victim’s mentality.
Six Signs of Learned Helplessness and Victim Mindset
#1. You don’t believe in yourself. You don’t acknowledge your own skills and positive qualities. You may call yourself average or below average. You don’t believe that you can be successful and, therefore, you don’t even try.
#2. You ask “why” a lot. Why does everything in MY life have to be so hard? Why did this happen to me? Why can’t people just leave me alone? Why is life unfair to me?
#3. You constantly criticize yourself. You feel that you don’t deserve good things because you are not good enough. You are not smart enough, not skinny enough, not pretty enough, not lucky enough. You are not enough in general.
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#4. You often feel angry. You are often resentful of other people’s suggestions or solutions. When you tell people about your problems, they may offer some solutions. Unfortunately, you reject them because they sound like they don’t really understand your situation. You feel that they don’t understand what you are going through and therefore, their ideas are not going to work.
#5. You feel jealous of other people’s successes. When a co-worker gets a bonus, you feel angry because the boss decided to give this bonus to them and not to you. Another example is when you and female friend hang out in the bar and she gets men’s attention and you don’t. This makes you angry. Why did they look at her and not notice you? You feel that people are stupid or blind because they don’t notice and value you.
#6. You feel shame. First, you might feel angry and then you feel ashamed for being angry. You don’t allow yourself to make mistakes. You don’t accept any of your failures. You are ashamed of every little thing that you do wrong.
Do any of these signs sound familiar to you?
If so, let’s talk about
How to Overcome Learned Helplessness and Stop Being a Victim
I am going to share 7 things, I should say 7 steps that you can take to stop treating yourself as a victim. If you want to see fast and stable results, do all 7 things. Do not think that you can do only 1 or 2. You’ve lived in this helpless mentality for years, this victim mindset has been embedded in your psyche. If you want to stop being a victim and become a confident person, do all 7 things.
- Create small goals every day.
If you are used to the idea that you can’t finish things or you can’t be successful, it is extremely important for you to make small steps. You have to reteach your mind that you CAN succeed.
Buy yourself a paper calendar and write 1-3 small goals every day.
For example, it can be things like call a doctor, call a friend, go to the gym, or buy groceries. Make sure that all your things are easy and doable. Do not write more than 3 goals a day. I would like to urge you to HAND-WRITE down your goals in a paper calendar and place a mark upon completion. The checkmark will be your visual signal to the brain saying “Yes. I did it”. Do it for at least 30 days. Every day write down 1 to 3 SMALL goals in your paper calendar.
- How to overcome learned helplessness and stop being a victim – Every day write 3-5 things what you did better today than yesterday.
Again, you have to teach your brain that you CAN be successful. The goal of this exercise is to overcome your self-limiting beliefs. It is very important to write your successes on paper. By writing them down, you are using your hand and your body. By writing down you are slowing your thinking process allowing the information to penetrate into a deeper conscious level. You are also using your visual senses. Your eyes will follow the letters on the paper making this exercise even more effective.
So, every day for the next 21 days, write 3-5 things that you did better today than yesterday. For example – today, I brushed my teeth better than yesterday. Today, I make a better ponytail than yesterday. Today, I woke up 15 minutes earlier. Today, I washed the dishes before going to sleep. If you focus on small things then you can easily come up with 3 to 5 things every day.
- How to overcome learned helplessness and stop being a victim – Start giving to others.
When you do nice and kind things to others, people will be grateful. You will hear nice words in return. People will thank you and thus will boost your self-esteem. Being in a victim mindset you are used to thinking negatively about yourself. By giving to others (even small things like holding the door or letting a person go in front, or even thanking the cashier in a supermarket) will lighten your day. You will see a spark in people’s eyes and hear words of appreciation.
Little by little you are going to embed a different blueprint in your mind that says “People are nice. People are grateful. I am being valued. I am being respected. I am being loved.”
This is about the balance of giving and receiving. Start testing the idea of giving first. Be the good one. Be the nice one. Just knowing that you are the person who does good for others ?? will make you feel good about yourself.
Your perception that life is unfair to you will switch the moment you feel satisfaction from seeing gratitude in people’s eyes and hearing words of admiration.
- How to overcome learned helplessness and stop being a victim – Stop comparing yourself with others.
If you catch yourself thinking that another person is doing better, re-phrase your thought. Instead of thinking “He is better than me”, say “He is good at XYZ…“
For example – instead of saying “She has a better job”, say “She knows how to find a good job”.
Instead of saying “She looks better than me”, say “She takes care of herself very well.”
Soon, you might catch yourself believing that you are surrounded by beautiful successful people. We have mirror neurons that force us to copy one another’s beliefs, habits, and thoughts. When you are thinking negatively about another person, you are rejecting them and their successes. But when you are saying positive things, like “She knows how to take care of herself”, you are activating your mirror neurons by sending a signal to your brain that says that it is good to take care of oneself. Now your brain has to come up with the necessary steps on how to implement these ideas in your life.
As a result, instead of being jealous or angry at your friend, you will ask her to share what she does to achieve what she has.
- How to overcome learned helplessness and stop being a victim – Make a gratitude journal.
This way instead of focusing on things that you don’t have you will force your brain to focus on things that you DO have. Every day write down at least one thing that you are grateful for. By doing this daily you will see that your list is getting bigger. Check out my video called “Gratitude Journaling” to learn more about this step.
- How to overcome learned helplessness and stop being a victim – Work on forgiveness.
This is not an easy one but a very important step towards freeing yourself from your past. Think about who are you resenting in your life?
Some people have a suppressed anger towards their parents. Some people might hold grudges about their ex-partners. You might have some pain towards your college classmate or an old neighbor who was rude to you. Or MAYBE, you need to forgive yourself for something that you did or didn’t do in your life.
We all have flaws. No one is perfect. We have out moods and emotions. We do stupid things sometimes. We can even hurt people that we love. And then we cannot forgive ourselves.
If you blame yourself often, criticize yourself often and catch yourself having negative self-talk, then you definitely should work on self-forgiveness. Journaling and doing guided meditations can really help you on this one.
By the way, in my Happiness Club I have a big section on guided mediations. Your special offer is waiting for you. Check the link here and in the video description.
- Speaking about forgiveness, tip #7 to break out of victim mindset is to find a mentor, a psychologist, or a life coach.
A therapist will help you to notice and acknowledge the triggers that are drawing you into victim mentality. A professional person will support you and challenge your detrimental beliefs about yourself. A therapist will help you to reprogram your belief system and heal your emotional trauma.
A specialist will help you to be aware of your patterns, understand why you have them and create a custom set of exercises to overcome your helplessness.
I highly recommend doing all 7 steps. Doing them with a therapist will expedite the result and make your healing journey smoother.
By the way, I do offer private sessions and I will be happy to help you.
Let me know in the comments which tips resonate with you the most and why? Now you know the 7 signs of learned helplessness and 7 ways to break out of them.
Once again, I invite you to join my Happiness Club where you can learn how to become a happy, confident, and successful person.
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