The expression ‘mantle of victimhood’ refers to a person who sees themselves as a victim in a way that is over the top for the situation they are in. Someone who often feels sorry for themselves in all situations and finds excuses to avoid getting their life together such as blaming everyone else or circumstances generally. You may recognise yourself or someone around you who wallows in their misfortunes and never gets to grips with everything they constantly moan about. Let’s be honest – such people can drive anybody on earth insane. But how do you actually cast off the mantle of victimhood if it almost sits on your body like an extra skin?

Let’s look at a few examples:

‘It’s impossible for me to get going with regular exercise when my husband works nights. Not worth me even thinking about it. If it weren’t for his wretched job robbing me of every opportunity to have some me time …’

‘Oh great, now the washing machine’s broken as well. Why does everything always have to happen to me?! I’m obviously fed up and need the comfort of a chocolate biscuit …’

‘That I should have to do that job every day, slaving away for a lousy salary. What d’you mean “change career”? Study? How could I possibly do that? With my finances and three children! No, it’s just a case of ‘keeping on keeping on’ and living for the weekend when I can dive into a goody bag and get stuck into a bottle of wine to drown my sorrows.’

If we look at the examples above, we soon realise that there is no problem-solving to be seen anywhere in the person’s approach – ONLY a negative attitude and a complete lack of taking responsibility for their life situation. Of course, we need to be able to have a moan sometimes and think that it’s all a ‘shambles’, BUT in the end, responsibility for changing your life situation always lies with YOU. No matter what your circumstances are. Once again, we get back to that well-known word …

Acceptance – this is what my life is like, and I have to accept it, BUT not in the sense of capitulating and giving up. Rather, I have to start from my current circumstances and make a plan as to what I want to change. Let’s look at our examples again from the perspective of a solution-focused approach.

 OK, your husband works nights so you can’t go out to the gym. What are your other options? Can you exercise at home? Get a sitter or come to a compromise with your partner whereby he finishes work early one night a week! Exercising once is better than nothing, and is the alternative of your husband stopping working better?

 Things break down, and there’s nothing to be done about that. The washing machine isn’t going to repair itself through your moaning, and you’re probably not going to feel better when you’ve eaten that chocolate biscuit out of sheer frustration either. It might comfort you momentarily, but what then? Then you’ll still have to think about how to get your dirty clothes clean. Accept the situation and buy a new machine. Take the opportunity to buy a more environmentally friendly model, or one that is easier to operate. Look on the bright side of the situation – what has happened has happened and can’t be changed.

 You don’t enjoy your job and have felt that way for a long time. It’s not just that you’re feeling a bit gloomy right now – you really think it’s a pain in the rear. What are your choices? Stop and accept the situation – stop moaning and make the best of the situation. Because that bitterness is only going to hurt one person in the end (as well as their family and friends who have to listen to them moaning), and that person is YOU. Being bitter is like eating poison and then waiting for your enemies – in this case the problem – to disappear. It’s not going to happen. Option two is to be proactive and look for other jobs. Practise compiling a CV and a personal letter, going for interviews and exploring the territory. What else can you think of? Can you take leave of absence and try out a few things? And then, as we said, you can study. Yes, it’s not great to be a student and live on a student loan, but in the end you have to weigh things up against one another. Stay where you are and have a horrible time or do something that will make you feel good.

‘But you don’t understand!’ says the person with the mantle of victimhood wrapped in several layers around their body. And then the excuses come pouring out of them. I’ve heard those words many times in my role as a CBT coach, and of course I do understand that things can be difficult, feel overwhelming, frustrating, impossible and scary, BUT that doesn’t change the fact that YOU have to decide whether you want to stay where you are, feeling sorry for yourself and living a life that goes on as it’s been up till now, or do you actually WANT to achieve change. To achieve change, we have to break habits and patterns and look at ourselves and our own behaviour objectively.

Behaviour analysis is a concept in CBT that is about analysing clients’ behaviour in different ways. And it is crucial for achieving change. You must dare to look at yourself and what you do without shame, self-reproach or finding excuses. You just have to take on board that what you’re doing is neither doing its job nor serving its purpose. In the same way as eating a chocolate biscuit won’t repair a washing machine, or your body get stronger because you moan about your husband’s night job. Again – what can you do instead? Try out other ways and means of breaking patterns – doing what you’ve always done is going to produce the same result as you’ve always got. Whatever it is.

Your takeaway should be three key expressions – acceptance – solution focus – behaviour analysis – and next time you find yourself creeping under your mantle of victimhood, you should go through the following:

  • Accept the situation and how things actually are
  • Find solutions instead of problems based on your circumstances
  • Look at your behaviour objectively, and see what takes you forward and what only takes you around the same old negative circles

There’s a good expression that says, ‘You can never achieve positive change with negative thoughts’, so cast off the mantle of victimhood and put on the winner’s jacket. Yes, you know how a boxer wears a dressing gown with a star on the back before he goes up into the ring. The aim should be to focus on ‘victory’ rather than defeat.