“Don’t be a victim.” You’ve probably heard this, before.

Victim stuff–yes, with a capital “V”–is very tricky. It’s tricky because it’s hard to acknowledge. No one wants to admit it when they’re acting like a Victim, the agent of their own suffering.

And then…enter reality. Everyone, at some point, acts like a Victim. We feel sorry for ourselves, have a list of things that “they” did “to” us, or we insist that we are helpless when in fact, we have options.

So if you’ve ever felt like you had a tough time letting go of anger with your mom, ex-spouse or partner, a crappy boss, a friendship that is no longer? Chances are that somewhere, you’re buying into a Victim mentality. Seeing that clearly is a huge gateway to forgiveness, releasing the past, and changing your life.

Whose House Are You Living In?

I held on to anger towards my mother for years. The story is not really very sordid–I was angry because when I was a kid, she’d been so angry, and that had an effect on me.

Over the course of therapy and a ton of self-help, I tried my hardest to just see that whatever mistakes she’d made, she was just like me: a human being, having a human experience. Nonetheless, the fact that I grew up experiencing periods of shame, rage, or blame overshadowed the good things that had happened, and I framed my personal Story about who I was from that place of “I’m the kid with the screwed up childhood.”

I had a whole identity system that stemmed from it (which I didn’t realize).

As much as I resented my past, I’d try to force myself to get over it.

Then my mother would say something, something she never intended to be a trigger, and I’d have a serious over-reaction to it because I hadn’t let go of the past. I was still a Victim of my past.

Maybe these words really resonate with you, so let me condense things a bit and cut to the chase–I waffled back and forth between these spaces for years and years. Years. But I just kept plugging away at it. I sort of designed “not being mad at my mother” as my issue that I brought to every single workshop and therapy session and coaching session I attended.

I began to understand my Victim Story, which was, in its simplest form, this: She messed me up.

But here’s the thing: I wasn’t living in her house, anymore.

I lived in my house, now. Who was in charge of my life? Me.

So you probably–like so many of us–have wounds from your childhood. Or you’ve got wounds from that marriage or that job or that experience that you went through.

The wounds are very real. I support healing them.

I also support staying present to what-is. What-is, for those of you who had crappy childhoods, is that you don’t live in that house, anymore. What-is, for those of you who survived the divorce, is that you aren’t married to that person, anymore.

Trauma takes time to heal. One of the steps towards healing it is doing what you can to acknowledge the choices that are available to you.

Limiting Stories

Deep breath: This is not about just flipping some cognitive switch.

It’s about getting–really getting–that just because you’ve “always been” the type of person who did XYZ, or just because you’ve had ABC experiences, doesn’t mean that that’s how life will always be.

In other words, you understand that a Victim story is a limiting Story. When people who have suffered unimaginable discrimination transcend that and refuse to be defined by their oppressors, those are the people who become our heroes.

I’m suggesting that it’s time to become your own hero.

It’s about getting–really getting–that you do in fact have choices. Not always easy choices. But you do have choices. That’s a piece of making any meaningful strides towards life change.

I choose who I am. I decide how I live. Experiences and people don’t define me. I do. My choices from the past needn’t define who I say I am, either.

You decide who you are–you say who you will be in this life. Not your past, or the crappy circumstances, or the people. You can acknowledge the pain of those experiences, without letting them define you.

That’s how you truly become nobody’s victim, not even your own. You’re a strong, courageous survivor. That makes all the difference.