Victim Mentality Vs Victimization: The Difference

Note: this is an opinion piece. I do have some references, but this is not based on research.

The victim mentality. We’ve all heard of it. In fact, we frequently hear about it everywhere. Social media, a close friend or relative talking about it, politics, TV shows, articles…the list goes on. It typically goes like this:

-“She plays the victim”

-“He won’t take responsibility of anything.”

-“Quit complaining, it gets you nowhere.”

The messages we hear about victim mentality are everywhere. But, what is victim mentality? According to Andrea Mathews (2011), people with victim mentality typically have these belief systems:

  • Life is really, really hard.
  • Don’t get up, you’ll just get kicked back down again.
  • Beware, always beware of trickery; it’s around every corner.
  • You can’t trust anyone.
  • I can’t.
  • You just don’t understand how hard it is for me.
  • Everyone is always picking on me.
  • “They” are always bigger, badder and smarter than me.

There is a difference between venting/complaining and having a victim mentality. Venting and complaining happen in the initial days, weeks, and sometimes months after an unforeseen circumstance happens. We all need and deserve to vent. Victim mentality persists. Typically for months to years. This time frame is an important distinction.

Individuals with victim mentality typically have identifiable behaviors such as chronic complaining, blaming, not taking responsibility for their behaviors, or their life, and they typically have a “poor me” attitude. They are the ones that have the “life isn’t fair” attitude. Thus, the word “victim” has become a dirty word. It is used to describe undesirable, frustrating people. People that are often viewed as the problem in society. It has become a word that real life victims are afraid to use to describe themselves. They do not want to be seen as weak or as if they are allowing their circumstances to define them. This is courageous. But, there is a difference between victim mentality and victimization.

According to, the definition of “victim” is:

-a person who suffers from a destructive or injurious action or agency

-a person who is deceived or cheated, as by his or her own emotions or ignorance, by the dishonesty of others, or by some impersonal agency

In my opinion, this definition is assigning responsibility. Victimization is when one person or group is responsible for an event or circumstance that perpetrated destruction, injury, or physical, emotional, and mental harm on someone else. This is important information for victim’s of sexual assault, physical assault, domestic violence, among other situations. It is also important for law enforcement and other professions involved in these situations. Hence, why we call them victim’s. This is to let all involved know what happened and who perpetrated the incident. To let them know it is not, in any way, their fault. And yet, so many victim’s say they are not victim’s. While I admire these individuals for not allowing what happened to become their identity, I want to challenge this thinking.

“Victim” is not a dirty word. It simply means that something happened to you and it is not your fault. It means you do not need to feel guilty for what happened. It means, in all likelihood, you did nothing wrong and you probably could not have prevented it. It does not mean you are weak. It does not mean you are not allowed to be angry, upset, frustrated, and hurt by what happened. It means that you deserve to be helped, understood, and validated. It IS possible to call yourself a victim AND not allow the circumstance to sink you. It is not either/or.

While we are on the topic of victim mentality, I’d like to challenge another line of thinking. We are so quick to label someone as “playing the victim” these days. While there are some situations and disorders that playing victim is a key behavior, this pattern of behavior must be established over a long period of time. Majority of people you come into contact with that complain are victim’s of something. Fear. They have become afraid of rising after they have fallen. Fear is one of several distressing emotions. We all need the opportunity to discharge these strong emotions. Give them the space to do this.

References: (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2019, from

Mathews, A. (2011, February 24). The Victim Identity. Retrieved January 17, 2019, from

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