The Career Killer! Do you have it?!
There’s a pandemic that’s been plaguing humanity since the dawn of time! I’ve seen it in virtually every walk of life, and I have personally been a victim to its destructive effects; effects so severe, it has sent me running seeking for emergency help. Its effects are silent but surely deadly. It kills careers, it kills hope, it kills dreams, and it can be extremely difficult to detect. No matter your age or title, or how you choose to identify yourself, if you fall victim to this, you are destined to a life of failure and regret, unless you backtrack and find a cure to it.
THE STORY: I recently attended a programming meetup that I was seriously looking forward to attending for a variety of reasons. I was kind of in a bad mood because my work had been stressful. I was tired, hungry, and quite frankly not feeling very social. Nonetheless, I was determined to have fun and make the best out of it. As the lecture was over, people started to mingle and chat. I decided to stay on the sidelines and just listen to the conversations around me. Suddenly I overheard a group of boot camp graduates talking amongst themselves. I was curious since I’m still in a boot camp myself. I thought to myself “this is perhaps a great opportunity to learn some wisdom” As I listened more attentively, I heard them talking about how hard it was to find work in this career path, and how over-flooded the market was getting. As an up and coming programmer, this kind of worried me a little bit. They suddenly saw me and acknowledged me, and kept talking. I decided not to interrupt, and I started pondering as to the veracity of their words. Then I thought to myself “I haven’t even finished my boot camp, and I already have 4 potential freelance contracts, that have fallen on my lap. How come my experience so far has been completely different from theirs?” I knew that I was no smarter than any of these guys, and I’m no more skilled than they are. One of the guys was talking about how things could potentially get worse shortly and said that if there was any job or opportunity he could find, he would do it. I thought to myself “Well, I’m lucky enough to have a senior developer willing to work with me on some paid projects. I’d be willing to share a portion of the workload with these guys since they’re all so much more skilled than me” Once I got their attention, I introduced myself, and we had a short conversation. I then later told them about these paid projects that I had going on, and that I was perhaps going to need some more help with (Mind you, I was more than willing to split the profit with them.) One of the guys quickly moved on to another group to talk about how tough the market was once again. The other guy was polite but he kind of gave me the cold shoulder, and then proceeded to tell me “Oh yeah, I’m sure you’re a part of the meetup right?. Great, yeah you can find my name in there, and you can let me know about your projects there”. I was very puzzled. I thought to myself “Didn’t they just say that they were willing to take anything? Some of these projects are pretty large. If they’re so eager to find work in the field they’ve studied so much, why wouldn’t they at least explore the opportunity, or even attempt to find out more?”. As they continued to talk, it finally all clicked! I saw the symptoms clear as day. They were infected with the plague, known as the victim mentality. This explained the behavior I had been witnessing for some time now. It reminded me of days in my past, when I felt that life had played me wrong. I felt that everyone was out to get me and that I was unlucky. I remember always finding reasons for my misfortunes.
THE PATH TO DESTRUCTION:
The symptoms of this illness are many, but here’s a short list: A tendency to find reasons and explanations for our misfortunes and failures. A tendency to find fault instead of seeking for our share of the responsibility. Finding all the reasons why something doesn’t, or will not work. Finally, seeking to find excuses instead of seeking to find solutions.
The problem with victims is not whether or not what they’re saying is accurate or truthful. The real problem is their outlook in life, and where their focus lies. How someone has fallen victim to this disease, is equally irrelevant. What’s important, is that it is deadly, and corrective actions must be taken swiftly.
There are many a reason as to why the victim mentality is so destructive, but one of the biggest ones is because, when we seek to place blame on others, or circumstances, or when we seek to find excuses or explanation, we’re giving away our responsibility, and along with our responsibility, we’re giving away our sense of agency. We no longer have a say in the matter. When we seek to justify something, we have placed a seal on it, and in essence have chosen to make that particular issue, irreparable. The moment we seek to escape responsibility, we feed our brain the belief that we’re not capable of fixing that issue. We do this often enough, and our brain will start believing that we’re not capable of fixing anything that matters, and we’ll behave accordingly. There is a very well known name to this phenomenon, which you probably know. It’s called learned helplessness.
IMPLICATIONS: In case you’re asking yourself “Why should I care?”. Here are the health ramifications of learned helplessness based on Wikipedia
“People who perceive events as uncontrollable show a variety of symptoms that threaten their mental and physical well-being. They experience stress, they often show disruption of emotions demonstrating passivity or aggressivity, and they can also have difficulty performing cognitive tasks such as problem-solving. They are less likely to change unhealthy patterns of behavior, causing them, for example, to neglect diet, exercise, and medical treatment.”
Furthermore, there is a vast array of studies that prove the correlation between learned helplessness and depression: “In humans, learned helplessness is related to the concept of self-efficacy; the individual’s belief in their innate ability to achieve goals. Learned helplessness theory is the view that clinical depression and related mental illnesses may result from such real or perceived absence of control over the outcome of a situation” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learned_helplessness
EFFECTS ON THE WORK-FORCE: While there’s been intensive material written about it, this is still a massive problem, especially in the workforce. According to stress.org statistics “depression leads to $51 billion in costs due to absenteeism and $26 billion in treatment costs”. https://www.stress.org/42-worrying-workplace-stress-statistics
As we saw above, the victim mentality has some lethal side effects, including learned helplessness and the mother of darkness “depression”.
Despite the statistics, and scientific breakthroughs, the victim mentality remains prevalent. I think the reason why it continues to plague our society, is because it’s very hard to spot it in ourselves, while it’s extremely easy to spot it in others. If you want to test yourself for the victim mentality, simply ask yourself with pure honesty, when you’re faced with a difficult task, are you solution-oriented? or are you excuse oriented? When someone says something that represents you less favorably, can you simply shrug it off? or are you eager to correct the score?
THE CURE: I have had to eradicate the victim in me multiple times in my life, and it’s not easy, but it’s extremely empowering and fulfilling. The first step to handling this mentality is to first recognize you have it, and then to voice it. You then need to search through your memory banks and find instances of when you’ve been a victim. Then decide how you’re going to handle it the next time a similar situation arrives (Usually this means owning up to your mistakes, and finding what you could have done better, even if the issue wasn’t at all your fault).
DANGEROUS ADVICE AHEAD: If you want to fix it, and are determined to do it at any cost, there is one more piece of advice you might want to consider, although I will warn you: This is not for the faint of heart. In other words, it is the nuclear option. Do this, and you’re guaranteed to rid yourself of that pesky illness forever. Furthermore, it’ll make you mature decades, and will give you a powerful sense of confidence. If you do this right, it’ll probably be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, but the rewards are immeasurable.
The victim mentality is the result of our brain trying to protect our ego. There is a good reason for this. Way back in prehistoric days, keeping our ego intact helped ensure our survival as we had a greater sense of competition which would result in better hunting, and the added confidence helped us fight off terrifying monsters. However, I think we can all agree that in modern-day, this does more harm than good. Since the purpose of the victim mentality is to protect our ego, then the goal for eradicating it is surely to reverse this process and to do the opposite. To destroy our ego. “How would you do that?”. I thought you’d never ask. You do it by creating scenarios or situations that encourage and allow others to tare it down, by wiping out any sense of self you might have. For example: if you’re typically a pacifist, then you should become more confrontational. You don’t have to do this forever. Only until you achieve your goal. Your brain will be screaming to try and relieve the pressure that was created as a result of your confrontation. Fear will strike your heart. But don’t do anything to correct the record. Let the person think you’re a jerk. On the other spectrum, if you’re someone easy to anger, and have no problem setting someone straight; become a doormat. Let people push you around. Your brain will be screaming at you to “do something” to protect your “honor” and set them straight. Let them bully and abuse you. If someone blames you for something that won’t incur legal or any catastrophic jeopardy, take the blame. Don’t show evidence of your innocence. Let people think that you’re to blame.
By now you’re probably launching every curse word in the urban dictionary at me, or at the very least you think I’m stoned or something. If you follow the above recipe enjoy this step by step guide to what’s going to happen next.
- 1 NOISE/PANIC: You’re going to feel terrible, and your brain will do anything it can to try to get you to reverse course, and to turn back to safe mode. Be prepared for the voices in your head to get louder than ever
- 2 ACCEPTANCE: You still won’t enjoy this process, but the voices in your head are going to get a bit quieter with each passing day.
- 3 SILENCE: You’ll start to become numb to both the internal and external noise, and will begin to have some clarity of mind, and suddenly, you really won’t care that much.
- 4 MILESTONE — SOCIAL FREEDOM: You’ll begin pondering your life in a very different light. Suddenly, social conditioning and other useless norms will no longer have a seat at the mental table where you make your most important decisions. You’ll be for the most part unaffected by external criticism, and groupthink.
- 5 EVOLUTION: You’ll start noticing all the excuses you’ve made throughout your life, and the limiting beliefs, and the bullsh#t your brain has been feeding you on the daily, and you’ll be horrified. You’ll start working every waking hour on eradicating this unholy trinity.
- 6 THE GRAND FINALE — CATHARSIS: The person you once were will become nothing more than a distant memory. You’ll have a calmness, and a sense of control to you, that will make people flock to you. Ironically enough, you’ll no longer need their validation, but you’ll welcome those who are genuine. You’ll be known for being reliable. Always facing problems head-on.
CONCLUSION: Only by overcoming this great illness will you have a shot at making your dreams come true…