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Breaking The Chains – 9 Telltale Signs You’re Trapped In A Victim Mentality

Resilience was paramount for Mechelle in overcoming her chaotic childhood and ultimately breaking the cycle of abuse in her family.

Executive Contributor Mechelle Webb

Let’s learn more about this mindset and how to overcome it. The term “victim mentality” refers to the unreasonable belief that you’re always a victim in almost all interactions and situations. When someone approaches life with this perspective, they believe that bad things will always happen to them, that others are to blame, and that there’s nothing they can do to change it. There’s a feeling of no control or helplessness (Merriam-Webster, 2023).

Woman standing alone at dark alley

It’s natural to feel exploited or abused after you’ve been treated unjustly or someone has hurt you. But with a victim mentality, you’re unable to move past it. It’s important to note that this isn’t a temporary feeling. Feeling like a victim becomes part of who you are (Gabay et al., 2020).


Recognizing the red flags: Signs of a victim mentality


  1. Need for recognition: People with a victim mentality need others to recognize and empathize with their victimhood. (Gaby et al., 2020).

  2. Rumination: A sign of victim mentality is excessive thinking about injustices they’ve endured and the pain it’s caused them. When they’re engaged in this thought pattern, the focus is on the causes of problems and their distress rather than possible solutions (Gabay et al., 2020, Gollwitzer et al., 2015).

  3. Blaming others: With a victim mentality, there’s a belief that everything bad in their life results from others’ actions. The tendency is never to take responsibility for anything negative in their life. It’s always someone else’s fault.

  4. Moral elitism: Moral elitism refers to the belief that they are morally superior to everyone else. This may be used to control others by accusing them of being immoral, unfair, or selfish while claiming that they are highly ethical. Researchers suggest this could be a defense mechanism against emotional pain (Gabay et al., 2020).

  5. Unwilling to forgive: People with a victim mentality are less willing to forgive others, especially if the offender didn’t take the “first step” to make amends. This is related to moral elitism and a tendency to seek revenge (Gabay et al., 2020).

  6. Sense of entitlement: An increased sense of entitlement may come from the belief that they are always treated unfairly and, therefore, deserve special treatment and compensation for their suffering (Gabay et al., 2020).

  7. Lack of empathy: People with a victim mentality tend to focus on their suffering so much that they can’t see the suffering of others (Gaby et al., 2020).

  8. Lack of trust: Another sign of victim mentality is assuming others have malicious intent. For example, if someone accidentally bumps into them, they’ll assume it was intentional, and that person doesn’t like them.

  9. Helplessness and passivity: People with a victim mentality feel powerless to change their circumstances and display a passive attitude toward their lives. When someone offers advice or solutions, they always find reasons why the suggestions won’t work.


How to overcome victim mentality


  1. Recognize: It can be hard to see when a thinking pattern becomes ingrained. It just feels like the way things are. So, the first step is to self-reflect and identify the negative thinking pattern. (We can’t change something unless we see it.) Things to look at include the signs and behaviors listed above.

  2. Practice mindfulness and awareness: Take time to contemplate your emotions, behavior, and thoughts instead of reacting impulsively to people and situations. Observing your inner experiences without judgment can help you recognize victim thinking patterns.

  3. Challenge negative thought patterns: For example, do bad things always happen to you? Is it true that nothing can be done to change things? In addition, if you suffered past trauma, it may help to focus on the fact that you are no longer in a threatening situation. Self-protective behavior is no longer needed.

  4. Practice gratitude: Science shows it’s effective in improving mental health and well-being (Boggiss et al., 2020). Psychologists suggest a daily practice of writing down several things that you’re thankful for. This helps us see that we’re not always victims and gives us a more positive outlook.

  5. Change your environment: Spend more time around supportive and positive-minded people. The tendency toward a victim mindset is partially influenced by our environment, which we have some control over.

  6. Help someone else: Not only will this get the focus off yourself, but it can also make you feel more empowered, showing that you can change things and make a difference.


In summary


Unfortunately, most of us will experience some sort of mistreatment at one time or another. And it’s pretty much impossible to avoid going through difficult situations. It can be hard to recover from these things, and it’s tempting to sink into a vortex of self-pity.


However, falling into a victim mentality usually makes things worse, and it can strain relationships or lead to more serious emotional issues like depression. It can also lead to self-protective behavior, preventing us from taking risks and having new experiences.


Taking proactive steps can help. Both a victim mentality and a survivor mentality can be self-perpetuating. When we take actions to improve our situation (even small ones) and then see a positive result, we feel empowered and are motivated to do it again.


Mechelle Webb, Resilience Coach

Resilience was paramount for Mechelle in overcoming her chaotic childhood and ultimately breaking the cycle of abuse in her family.

Now, she is on a mission to empower individuals worldwide to unlock their resilience to overcome challenges and achieve their version of success. Combining decades of personal experience utilizing resilience with her professional training, she is uniquely qualified to help clients unlock their resilience and achieve success.



  •  Boggiss, A. L., Consedine, N. S., Brenton-Peters, J. M., Hofman, P. L., & Serlachius, A. S. (2020). A systematic review of gratitude interventions: Effects on physical health and health behaviors. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 135, 110165

  • Gabay, R., Hameiri, B., Rubel-Lifschitz, T., & Nadler, A. (2020). The tendency for interpersonal victimhood: The personality construct and its consequences. Personality and Individual Differences, 165, 110134.

  • Gollwitzer, M., Süssenbach, P., & Hannuschke, M. (2015). Victimization experiences and the stabilization of victim sensitivity. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 439.

  • Merriam-Webster. (2023). Victim mentality definition & meaning. Merriam-Webster.



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