LIFE LINES: Are you a real victim or a volunteer?


Victoria Sarne


Before any reader gets too agitated by misconstruing my headline, let me say that I am not suggesting that any of us volunteer to to be the object of the genuinely bad things that can befall us – such as murder, rape, or any emotional, physical or criminally violent episodes which would render us real victims with a right to grievance and justice. There are many things over which we have little or no control. Sadly, bad things can happen to good people. Some of these things will fall within our personal sphere and others could be a social collective of war, poverty, or economic woes.

My question to answer is about how we react to certain irritants or circumstances we deem as adverse as we go about our everyday lives; they might be family or friendship related, about our job or career advancement, lack of money, social economic issues, even minor health or other worries which might affect our daily well-being and sense of happiness or purpose.

If you find yourself in a situation which is affecting you negatively, what do you do about it? Do you find yourself complaining; do you complain about things all the time and is that all you do; talk but take no action? There’s an old saying: “Cry and you cry alone, laugh and the whole world laughs with you.”

There’s a world of truth in this; if you take crying in this instance to mean complaining. If our first reaction always is to complain. We need to recognise that it’s become a habit and it’s a bad habit. It’s lazy thinking, non-productive and doesn’t fix or change a thing. It only serves to sap our energy, depress us and certainly that of those who have to listen. When we talk about others we often say this person gives off good or bad “vibes” because we feel that energy. Likewise, when we voice negativity we give bad vibes and breathe energy into the problem making it bigger and more unmanageable.

We always have the power to change our mental attitude and to change our habits by taking action to adjust our thinking. It takes discipline to break any bad habit, but we know we can train our brains to adopt new processes; to look on the other side of the coin, for opportunity. We can stop being passive and volunteering to be in victim mode: “Why me, poor me; the world is against me.” It isn’t, it’s just life.

We can teach ourselves to view issues constructively before we open our mouths, we can create an alternate outcome. There is always a variety of solutions. Complaining isn’t one of them.

We all have bad days when nothing seems to go right or we didn’t get something we really wanted – could be anything: we can’t afford the new shoes we wanted, but we can save for them; we didn’t get the hoped for work promotion but it might be a door opening to a new direction; or a friend hurt our feelings, we choose to wallow or move on.

We can vent either to ourselves or out loud. This is a normal reaction if it’s brief; constant complaining isn’t. We have to figure out how significant the upset really is in the grand scheme of things. Drive around and you will probably see someone in worse circumstances than yours. They might be walking with heavy shopping bags while you are driving; they might be wearing broken old flip flops; they might be begging at the traffic light. They, too, surely have real things to complain about and yet they are doing something no matter how unpleasant. Who is worse off? You, because you can drive your shopping not walk like that woman? You, or the woman in the flip flops, because you don’t have to have that coveted pair of shoes? You, because you are going home or the person who has no home? Ask yourself honestly if your particular problem will matter in 10 years time if you even remember it, then set about adjusting your mindset. Attitude determines outcome. Perspective is everything.

• Victoria Sarne is an entrepreneur and writer. She headed a team to establish a shelter for abused women and children in Canada and was its first chairwoman. You can reach her at victoria.conversations@gmail.com, or visit www.lifelineswritingservice.com.


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