How Can I?

Are you a victim or a creator? It’s important to know the difference. Why? Because victim thinking is a conditioned response, that once realized, can be transformed and liberated. Said differently, victim thinking may be habitual, but it doesn't have to be permanent. However, while playing the victim role, we remain stuck in a fixed mindset- believing others need to change so we can move forward. 

The fixed versus growth mindset is an empirically validated theory by Stanford psychologist, Carol Dweck. Her theory is that individuals with a fixed mindset believe their traits (such as talents, skills or intelligence) are set in stone – predetermined and unchanging. Those with a growth mindset believe their traits are malleable, and that their effort determines the outcome. In other words, a mindset is a way of thinking: I’m fixed or I’m malleable.

Victim thinking is a fixed mindset. Recall that victims believe they are not free to choose. Life’s circumstances create obstacles, facts, barriers, hardships, and adversities, that circumvent their true choice. Victims believe life is happening to them; and this perceived lack of choice makes victims angry. 

My client, who I’ll call LeAnn, is silently seething. She is angry at her ex-husband because he put her in the position of needing to generate income for her children. While married, she thrived in her role as nurturer. Now divorced, she must learn to be the primary caretaker and primary provider. In three words: LeAnn must grow. Damn It. And this growth is pissing her off.

She is angry, defensive, finger-pointing, and flying the flag of injustice. After all, HE was the one who broke the marriage contract. It’s his fault she is in this predicament. The reality is, fault or no fault, she needs to generate income, and blaming her ex-husband only keeps her stuck. LeAnn cannot move forward because she believes this hardship happened to her. She is powerless to pivot. And when she feels powerless, the primary question buried deep in the basement of her mind is – Can I? "Can I provide for my girls?" Then, shortly after the doubt, comes blame. "We’ll I wouldn’t be in this position if he hadn’t cheated."

Victim thinking crowds out growth thinking. When you’re a victim, you’re stuck waiting for everyone else to change so you can move forward.


In victim mindset, the primary question is, Can I?

Step-by-step, with creator thinking, LeAnn is making her way forward as a financial provider.  She is beginning to see the pattern in her victim thinking. Her physical discomfort (tight stomach, closed throat) and her emotions (anger, powerlessness), along with her behaviors (blame, justification, defense) are all indictors that victim thinking is present. When she feels this uncomfortable energy, she pauses and changes her question. She becomes curious.

Creator thinking crowds out victim thinking. When you’re a creator, you recognize that with hardship comes opportunity.


In creator mindset, the primary question is, How can I?

Awareness of your mindset can shift your thinking from victim to creator too. Just as shopping for groceries is the first step to cooking, self-awareness is the first step to personal transformation. And just like you need to eat to survive, you need to grow to thrive. Personal expansion is your purpose. You'll live removed from your humanness when you stop growing. Hardship keeps you from slowly succumbing to complacency. 

When faced with a challenge, obstacle or hardship, pause and listen to your self-talk. Really pause and listen. If you hear blame or defense, if you want to diffuse or finger point, if you feel angry or offended, you’re in victim thinking: you're stuck in a fixed mindset.

Now, notice where you feel stuck: where are you hoping a person or situation will change so you can feel better? When do you believe hardship is happening to you? Where do you feel powerless? Then, remind yourself that challenge is simply an opportunity to grow and reframe your question from Can I? to How can I? You are the creator of your own reality. What do you want to create, learn, be or do? Go make that happen!

Join the conversation: Where are you stuck?