If you’re even somewhat active on social media these days, there’s a sizable chance you’ve heard a term thrown around called “the victim complex.” You’ve seen others referred to as “perpetual victims” or “playing the victim” when conflict arises. One of the most notable examples of this strange narrative in pop culture? Taylor Swift. Any time she releases a statement or a song firing back at critics, exes, or well…anyone, she’s quickly accused by both the media and by the general public as “playing victim.” It almost feels like some sort of millennial phenomenon.
As someone who has been labeled with this narrative multiple times throughout the years, I’ve felt inspired to push back against it.
The “victim complex,” also known as a “martyr complex” or “victim mentality,” can simply be described as a complex that a person can have when they feel that others have wronged them. It’s associated with not taking any responsibility for situations in their lives, or simply refusing to be held accountable for their role in the conflict. People are generally accused of “playing the victim” when they bring up that someone else has wronged them.
When I was younger, I was very shy and meek. I was also heavier than other children my age, which made me a target for some very mean comments at times. I didn’t really have friends, and I was too afraid to stand up for myself because I thought it would just cause more trouble than I was already experiencing. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that that assumption was 100% correct. I am quite the outspoken person now. When someone insults me or wrongs me in some way, I don’t stay silent about it anymore. I will bring it up to the person involved and, contrary to the trend of being “petty” and “savage” on social media, I do try my best to not let it escalate into public drama. Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same way as me.
And this is why I’ve been perpetually slapped with the “constant victim” label. It’s partly hilarious to me because I’ve never once referred to myself as a victim in any sense of the word. I have no qualms or hesitations accepting my responsibility in negative situations, offering sincere apologies to those I’ve hurt (whether it was intentional or not), and working on myself through my mental illness and financial woes to better my life, by myself and for myself.
But when even just one person decides that they have a vendetta against you, anything and everything you do has a negative, nasty excuse for it. You insulted someone once in a heated argument, so you must be an entirely awful human being. You got sloppily inebriated once, so you’re “the annoying drunk that nobody can stand.” Your car broke down in the middle of the highway last week, so you’re a “broke bum who doesn’t drive and mooches off of people for rides and help.” Everything you have ever said or done in your life is blown entirely out of proportion, taken out of context, and then spreads like wildfire. Other like-minded people with a penchant for drama and tomfoolery hop on board, and that’s how a witch hunt starts. It can last for years and damage your reputation. It’s unfair, it’s frustrating, and at some points it’s devastating.
So if you’re reading this and you, too, have been unfairly labeled with this false narrative, I want you to know that you’re not anywhere close to a victim. You are a survivor.
You are allowed to demand that people be held accountable for their actions when they hurt you. You are allowed to stand up for yourself. You can simultaneously admit to what you have done wrong while wanting your deserved justice from the other sides of the equation. You are allowed to freely and publicly speak about the experiences you have been through—the experiences that you’ve SURVIVED and lived to tell about! You are strong, you are capable, and you may not be perfect, but your emotions and your lived experiences are valid.
The next time other people label you as a “perpetual victim” due to the projection of their own insecurities and inability to hold themselves accountable for anything they’ve done (which, if you think about it, actually says they would have more of a “victim complex” than you do?), stay strong. Fight through it. Allow yourself to feel the emotions of frustration and annoyance that come with the gossip, but please do not ever let it define you. Other people don’t have the privilege of deciding your identity. Other people don’t know you inside and out like you do. Let their inaccurate, pitiful words roll off of your back, spread your wings, and keep working on yourself and your beautiful life.
You are not a victim. You are so, so much more, and no amount of gas lighting or manipulation can take that away from you.