Personal Improvement

Getting Rid of the Victim Mentality

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victim mentality

Today we’re joined by Wes Chapman, founder of A Human Project. Wes shares his story and tells us how getting rid of the victim mentality can bring us greater success.

Wes is the founder of A Human Project, an organization that incubates creative, scalable solutions to systemic problems and gathers together the greatest minds to solve global issues in education, health, and society.

With a background in technology, design, and entrepreneurship, Wes has worked with clients like Verizon, Microsoft, A&E and has been the recipient of multiple “App of the Year” awards from Apple.

Wes is also co-creator of The Human Gathering, named “The #1 Leadership Conference” by Forbes, which brings together leaders in business, technology, philanthropy and the arts.

Social Media: Good or Bad?

Social media is a daily part of life for most of us but is it a good thing or a bad thing? Like a lot of things in life, social media is a tool that can be used well or used poorly.

Social media lets us stay in touch with family and friends who don’t live near us, we can use it to buy and sell things, we can use it as a news source (this can be good or bad), or to find out about events in our local community.

We can also use it to compare ourselves and out achievements unfavorably to other’s; we can use it to diagnose ourselves with diseases and conditions we don’t have, and we can use it to stir up drama and attention for ourselves.

Maybe most damaging, we can let social media feed a victim mentality. We all know people who do this. They post their woe is my tale, a bunch of people gives them attention and they continue to do it. It doesn’t work forever. Eventually, even the most dedicated friends get fed up, but while it works, it works well as a source of attention.

What is a Victim Mentality?

A victim mentality is,

“An acquired personality trait in which a person tends to recognize themselves as a victim of the negative actions of others, and to behave as if this were the case in the face of clear evidence of such circumstances.”


In simpler terms, a victim mentality is using the things that have happened to you as an excuse not to do the things you could or should do. I can’t do X because Y happened to me. Bad things happen to everyone, and some of them are horrific. But you can use those bad things to grow yourself or to stop yourself.


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Money and the Victim Mentality

The victim mentality is a really comforting place to dwell. You are not responsible for the things that have gone wrong in your life. You’re powerless; things happen that are beyond your control. Nothing is your fault. Being blameless is pretty nice. The problem is, thinking that way changes nothing. The bad things keep happening, and you do nothing to change them.

This mindset can be especially powerful when it comes to money. It’s not your fault you have credit card debt; your parents never taught you about money. It’s not your fault you can’t pay off your student loans; your cheap boss doesn’t pay you what you’re worth. It’s not your fault you had to declare bankruptcy, and the bank should never have loaned you more money for a house than you could afford to pay back.

You should have started saving for retirement sooner; it’s too late now so you may as well forget about it.

Breaking Out of the Victim Mentality

Leaving the victim mentality behind is scary. You will lose attention and validation; you will have to take risks, you will have to make changes, you will have to take responsibility. But are you happy with the way things are? You’re not. When you shake off this mentality and start taking steps to change things, your life will improve.

Don't play the victim to circumstances you created.

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Make a Plan

The first thing to do is come up with a plan to fix the most immediate problem. Let’s use credit card debt as our example;

  • Total up all of the debt
  • Choose the stacking or the snowball method plan of attack
  • Go through your budget and find ways to cut expenses
  • Start doing something that brings in extra money like driving for Uber or babysitting
  • Get the debt paid off as quickly as you can

You don’t even have to make your own plan. Whatever your problem is, LMM has already figured out a plan to solve it. All you have to do is work the plan.

Find the Cause

You got out of credit card debt. It didn’t happen overnight but you made a plan, stuck to it, and it worked. How much better do you feel? You probably can’t describe it. Not only are you relieved that you don’t have that debt hanging over your head anymore, but you also feel proud. Proud that you made a change, you took control of the situation, and you fixed it. Remember that feeling. It will be a powerful motivator in the future.

Now we want to understand why you make these poor decisions. Your parents didn’t teach you about personal finance. Well, lots of people’s parents didn’t teach them either, but they managed to learn it on their own. There is nothing wrong with not knowing something, but there is something wrong with not finding out. The root of the problem is not your parent’s failure to teach you, it’s your continuing failure to teach yourself.

Whatever you need to learn, the information is out there. The whole reason LMM exists and has been successful is that lots of people don’t know good money habits. But they found their way to us and learned one we are just one (the best one!) of thousands of personal finance resources available to anyone with an internet connection.

You can learn how to get out of debt, how to save money, how to make more money, how to achieve financial independence, what to do when you can’t pay your mortgage, how to save for retirement and anything else related to money. It’s your responsibility to educate yourself.

Define Your Own Success

If you’ve let a victim mentality hold you back financially for many years, it can feel impossible ever to feel successful. There is really no substitute for time when it comes to growing your money. I’m kicking myself that I waited until I was 38 ancient years old before I ever gave money much thought, finally started to learn, and finally started investing.

I can’t make up for those nearly 20 years when my money was just sitting in my checking account when it should have been invested. All I can do is go forward with what I have learned. So no, I am not successful if I compare myself to someone like Mr. Money Mustache. The guy is around my age and has already been retired for years.

But I don’t compare myself to him. I don’t really compare myself to anyone (financially anyway). I’m happy, thrilled actually, with how far I have come in just a few years.

That’s one of the problems with social media. No one is putting pictures of the crappy parts of their life out there for people to see, they put the fun stuff, the glamorous stuff. So if that is the kind of thing you are comparing yourself to, you’ll always feel unsuccessful.

You have to define success for yourself. Are your bills paid, are your credit card debt free, do you have an emergency fund? If so, you are doing a lot better than millions of others. Maybe even better than those people you are envious of on social media. You don’t know the truth behind those pictures. Maybe that vacation was the final straw that maxed out their last credit card. Maybe those loved-up pictures of them with their partner are a desperate attempt to look happy in an unhappy relationship.


Rather than comparing yourself to people you know very little about, instead measure yourself against benchmarks. These are just yardsticks so you can see if you’re where you need to be. If not, you can figure out a plan to get there.

What Will Happen

What will happen when you finally give up the victim mentality? Lots of things. You’ll be scared and uncomfortable. That’s okay; it won’t last forever. People will start inviting you places again. Sure, your friends and family say the appropriate things when you post your latest “I been done wrong” tale on Facebook, but you’ve been at this for so long, they have heard it before. Over and over and over.

They don’t care anymore. They’ve tried to help you, and you always have some excuse. They comment to be polite, but they avoid you like the plague in person. And who can blame them? No one wants to be around someone who whines and complains all the time but never does anything to change the situation.

Your friends and family still love you of course, but they are fed up hearing it. So when you stop the complaining and the dramatic posts, they will notice and want to spend time with you again.

Your mental health will improve. The worst kind of anxiety is the kind caused when we feel like we have no control over our lives. Even taking one step towards gaining control will lessen that anxiety. And when all those worst-case scenarios you play out in your head are replaced by the plan you’re formulating to gain control, you feel calmer and happier and more powerful. To drift is hell, to steer, heaven.

Your entire life will improve. When you stop blaming outside forces and gain control of your life, every aspect of your life gets better. Your finances, your relationships, your physical and mental health. Remember when we said that you would feel uncomfortable and scared? Remember the feeling when you paid off your credit card debt? Which feeling is better?

When you give up the victim mentality and take charge of your life, you will have many more days of feeling like you just paid off credit card debt and that feeling is better than the dull comfort you had as a perpetual victim. How do you want to feel?

Show Notes

Cappuccino Stout: A heady mix of beer and caffeine.

Sour Monkey Victory Brewing: An American wild ale.

Wes Chapman: Wes’s site.

Building a World of Worth: Wes’s TedX talk.

Tool Box: All the best stuff to manage your money.

Investable: Research and evaluate rental properties.

Candice Elliott - Senior Editor
Candice Elliott is a substantial contributor to Listen Money Matters. She has been a personal finance writer since 2013 and has written extensively on student loan debt, investing, and credit. She has successfully navigated these areas in her own life and knows how to help others do the same. Candice has answered thousands of questions from the LMM community and spent countless hours doing research for hundreds of personal finance articles. She happily calls New Orleans, Louisiana home-the most fun city in the world.
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