You are not a victim

There is seldom anything more toxic than the self-victimization mentality. The endless re-play of stories that we are the victim of someone else’s doing, even when we really are, makes us cynical and overlook the opportunity to make a real difference. It paralyzes us and robs us the ability to enjoy the time of our lives, filling our minds with rumination and distractions.

In a previous post, I talked about using optimization as a framework for real-life decision-making. Adopting that spirit, instead of telling the story where we are helpless victims, ask ourselves: is replaying such stories useful? Does it help minimize our suffering?

I’m not saying you should forget the hurtful experience or ignore the fact that some people betrayed or hurt us. What I am saying is that we should not be surprised by or overly upset by those behaviors. Like Marcus Aurelius murmured in his Medications that he expected people around him to be “meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous”. In modern western societies, we often live in environments where every agent comes with their own ulterior motives and their own agenda. Each is simply competing against everyone else in the bloodbath of evolutionary comeptition. Just and healthy leadership that trades off short-term gain for long-term prosperity is often not adopted by organizations. Despite the cliché ideas that we can create win-win non-zero-sum games, many still see that, in short terms, the amount of resources we are allocated often scales with our internal status in the social groups we are in. In such cases, non-selfish and empathetic individuals are naturally rare breeds or saints. In the Stoic spirit, to expect all people to be loyal and truthful is irrational.

However, that does not mean we should be cynical. Rather, a healthy attitude toward life is to view life as a series of experiments. Our goal, according to this interesting podcast episode recommended to me, should not be to succeed — for if we aim to succeed, we already lose. Instead, we should set out to experiment, whether succeed or fail. Experiments are chances for us to learn about the world and ourselves. If you loved someone truly and put yourself out there authentically, you’ve done your part. Pick yourself up and be ready to do it again.

We must remember to preserve the part of us that is not corrupted by greed or dulled by cynicism or betrayals. And when you are lucky in that you do run into friends or mentors/mentees that you can trust, like I did, cherish the time you spent with them, and be good to them. For such connections are rare and precious. To change the world, you need to make more of them.

As usual, I will end by preaching some pseudo-Buddhist ideas: be plain-spoken, be straightforward and without ulterior motives, be not deceitful, be not proud, be curious and brave enough to experiment, and be the change you want to see in the world.

Written on December 4, 2022