Victim or Survivor- Do you Know the Difference?

Are you a victim or survivor?   Brokenness isn't a part of who you really are- it isn't your authentic self.  Whether we see ourselves as a victim or a survivor, this self-image has a direct bearing on how our life will progress.  

As a victim we become self-focused, we go inward and allow the suffering to grow.  We blame others for how we feel and believe people are trying to intentionally hurt us.  A victim, even years later, is still powerless.  Victimhood has dire consequences that must be out grown.

Just because you survived an incredible hurt or betrayal doesn’t mean that you are a survivor.  An overcomer embraces life and doesn’t hide from it due to fear.  Victims feel helpless, whereas survivors have reclaimed their power and taken back the control of their lives.  Through survivorship we take responsibility for our choices and our feelings and consciously decide that we are no longer a victim.  Survivorship is a choice to heal. 

I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it. ~ Maya Angelou


Going from Victim to Survivor

I was a victim of child sexual abuse and abandonment.  I wore my victimhood for about ten years. Mainly because I was only eleven when the abuse occurred and I didn’t know how to deal with the feelings of anger, despair, and horrendous fear. 

Despite being in therapy, I was not able to let go of playing the victim as I continued to live in the past.  As a victim I had little responsibilities other than school.  People felt sorry for me and were very careful not to upset me. Being left alone was what I thought I wanted.   

When I was in college, I had started to see that other people weren’t necessarily all bad.  I had made some friends and realized that I was creating some of the drama that was around me.  Then, I had someone tell me that I liked my victimhood more then I wanted to be a survivor! 

Wow – how dare they say that to me?  They have no idea what I have been through.  After my initial bout of anger that rose out of me, I listened to what they had to say.  To be a survivor, I had to give up the idea that I was a victim and learn from the experience. Here is how to let go of being a victim to becoming a survivor.

It's easy to fall into victim mode and feel like the world is against you. The truth is, people aren't against you: they're just for themselves. The only thing within your control is how you react and respond to the chaotic dance of life. ~ Kerli


Survivors Don’t Blame

Overcomers have to learn a new language that is devoid of blame.  It means that as a survivor, one has to take responsibility for the choices made since the abuse.  The choices that were made were ultimately the cause of the situation we are now in, not the mistreatment. 

Yes, I was abused.  Yes, it caused me to think negatively, but the choices I made were my responsibility, no one else’s.  By letting go of the blame, we also let go of the helplessness a victim feels.  Blaming others means that they are the ones in control of our life not us, therefore, we make the decision to be a survivor and take back the control of our lives.

Forgiveness is a way that one can release the blame.  My mother was an alcoholic, unable to love and care for me the way that I needed to be.  By looking through her eyes and trying to see her perspective, I was able to recognize that she did love me the best that she could.  This allowed me to forgive her, release the anger and resentment I had towards her, and move forward without blame. 

When you blame others, you give up your power to change. ~ Robert Anthony


Overcomers Reframe Their Stories

All suffering begins with the beliefs that go unchallenged and unexamined in our minds. The longer we allow these thoughts to affect our lives and emotions, the more we suffer.  We are the observer of the thoughts; we don’t need to believe that they are the truth; most often they aren’t.  In order to examine the thoughts, we need to look at them from a logical perspective verses an emotional one. 

Reframing the story of victimization is not lying about it or forgetting what happened. It is about looking at it from the lessons learned about you as a survivor. For example, I am a survivor of child sexual abuse and abandonment.  Yes, it was awful, but I know that I have great strength and compassion to help others overcome the fear in their lives.  That is my mission, despite being victimized; I made a conscious decision to be a survivor. 

What lessons have you learned from your victimization?  How have you become stronger?  What ways have you overcome circumstances that you found yourself in?  These types of questions can help you determine how you can reframe the story you tell into a one of survival instead of victimhood. 

Instead of saying, "I'm damaged, I'm broken, I have trust issues" say "I'm healing, I'm rediscovering myself, I'm starting over. ~ Horacio Jones


Survivors Live in the Present Moment

From the time of the abuse until I was about nineteen years old, I lived in relentless fear.  I was anxious about everything and everybody.  Anxiety is one of the ways fear disguises itself.  It is fear of the future.  It was so bad that I was having panic attacks and would hold my breath until I passed out, as a way to deal with the fear.  This wasn’t productive and made me feel more helpless and out of control.

Being fearful of the past or the future means we are not living in the present moment.  Being fully present means that there’s no place for depression, fear of the past, or anxiety because in the present we are safe. 

Right now, this exact minute, we are completely safe.  A tiger is not attacking, you are reading this article.  The past doesn’t have any bearing on this moment unless victimhood allows it.  The future has nothing to do with the present moment unless we allow our thoughts to go into the unknown.  We have the ability to control what we think; therefore there is no reason to fear neither the past nor the future.  Survivors make a conscious effort to live in the present moment. 

Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry — all forms of fear — are cause by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of non-forgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence. ~ Eckhart Tolle


Overcomers Look Outward

Playing the victim, we tend to be solely focused on ourselves.  Why did this happen to me?  Who is going to hurt me next?  Spending countless hours inside our heads reviewing the past or playing out future scenarios are other ways we our focused inward. 

Survivors make a change to focus outwardly and on others something you are passionate.  This can be difficult for victims because they don’t trust others.  But, survivors, overcome the mistrust and fear because true survival comes from making connections with others.   

One way we can enter into new relationships safely is to volunteer our time to an organization we believe in.  It is important that you like what you are doing so that you want to keep going. So, by volunteering at about you will get to meet people who have something in common with you.  This makes it easier for you to talk to them and learn about one another.

Another way to look outward is to start a gratitude journal.  This type of journaling is simply making a daily list of the things you are grateful for each day.  Some days it may be harder to find things to write about but if you pause, take a deep breath, you will see the tiny things around you that are amazing. 

The beautiful sunrise, the hug from a loved one, the restful night’s sleep; these are the everyday things that we take for granted.  These small things matter and make a difference, when we choose to look outward as a survivor instead of a victim. 

Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. ~ Melody Beattie


Choosing Survivorship Everyday

Choose to be a survivor.  Yes, it can be hard to make the change.  Staying in victimhood is a pain that we are comfortable with.  Stepping out of our comfort zone and trying on survivorship is new and can be intimidating, but the reward of being in control of our lives is incredible. 

Trauma creates change you don’t choose. Healing is about creating change you do choose. ~ Michelle Rosenthall​

Remember, you only have to start with making the choice for today.  By trying on survivorship, just one day at a time, begin to build up your new self-image and transform how you think by reframing the story.  Sometimes it can be difficult to give up victimhood. If you’re having difficulty choosing to be a survivor, think about working with me to help you through the process. 

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