Victim or Victor; what’s the story you tell?

There’s no doubt that the big events which happen in your life shape you.

But what shapes you more is the story you tell yourself about those events.

If you view yourself as a victim, then you’ll find it hard to move on.

And as a victor, you’ll be happier and have a more fulfilling life.

Do you recognise this?

victim or victor 1I know your life didn’t turn out as planned, and you can’t change that. But, you can change the story you tell yourself about what happened. When you change the story, you take control and put yourself in the driving seat of your life.

It seems to me that life can be divided into facts and stories. Here are ten facts about me. I’m a woman, I’m married to Roger, I grew up in Yorkshire and I live in London, I’m currently 53 (as Dame Jenny Murray said twice when she interviewed me on Woman’s Hour), I’m 5’2″, I wear glasses, I’m an only child and both my parents have died. And I don’t have children.

These are facts, when I add an explanation to the facts, they become stories. And I could tell you many different stories.

What’s your childless story?

I could tell you that I don’t have children because we waited until I was too old, because we stopped IVF too soon, because I married the ‘wrong’ man, because we went to the ‘wrong’ clinics,’ because’ any number of reasons.

My story could be that not having children is the worst thing that happened to me, it still makes me sad, I can’t get over the loss, or I still can’t talk about it.

But I’m no longer a victim.

So my story is one of being incredibly disappointed that we weren’t able to have children, it was really hard, I felt sad, lost and alone then I asked for help and the work I’ve done has enabled me to put it into perspective and to lead a fulfilling life.

Whatever story I tell won’t change the facts, BUT it will change how I feel about not having children and myself. And it will change the likelihood of me being able to move on.

Here are two stories

Janet is a victim. Janet stopped having IVF five years ago; she describes herself as a victim and believes that not having children is someone else’s fault. She feels stuck and powerless to do anything, she depends on others to feel good about herself and about her life, and is often heard blaming others or saying things like ‘If only (eg they would stop talking about their children……..) then ….. (my life would be great.)’

Deep down Janet knows she’s taking the easy way out, because it’s easier to keep telling this story than it is to take responsibility for her life. She feels like she’s a passenger in a car, not in control of her destination and allowing events and memories to control her.
Victim or victor 2
Some words we could use to describe Janet include: blame, can’t do, victim, complaining, making excuses and a negative attitude.

And Jane is a victor. Jane stopped at the same time as Janet and she’s moved on to have a fulfilling life. She knows that she can’t control the world but she can control her world and her reaction to it. She went through tough times and she’s now taking responsibility for her story and her life, and driving her car where she wants it to go.

Jane actively chooses to take responsibility for her results and feelings, and she knows that no one can ever “make” her do or feel anything. She can be heard saying phrases like ‘even though xxxx has happened, I can choose how I want to feel, and how I move forward.’

Jane is charge of her mind, what she says, does and feels and therefore how she reacts to any situation, good or bad. Words we could use to describe her include: gets results, a ‘can do’ and positive attitude, confidence, and belief.

Jane did this by changing the story she told herself, she’d had enough of being a victim so she took a conscious decision to change her story to that of a victor. It wasn’t like flicking a switch, it took some time and practice.

Who would you rather be, Janet or Jane, Victim or Victor?

Making the change from victim to victor is about making a conscious decision to take responsibility for your life, so it’s about being aware of how you talk to yourself and others. Here are three simple ways to start.

  1. Set aside some time and decide consciously that you’ll be the victor for the next 30 or 60 minutes and gradually increase that time each day.
  2. Spend a few minutes at the end of the day to review how well you did today, and what opportunities you missed, and
  3. Plan how you will be victor tomorrow

It might take you a little while to grasp this fully, so give yourself time to let it sink in. And when it does you’ll realise what a very positive step this it to putting yourself in the driving
seat of your life.

How will you put this into practice?

If you use this, or have used this please leave a comment below to help others (you can use a different name).

If this is too hard for you, perhaps you need some support from someone who once was a victim and now is a victor. I’ve spoken to so many women who, after having a chat with me realised that what they’re going through is absolutely normal. So if you’d like to do that please book a complimentary session via my online diary

12 thoughts on “Victim or Victor; what’s the story you tell?”

  1. This is a very interesting and tricky concept – taking control of the narrative. As I said on this blog a few weeks back, at 55, with my baby quest ten years behind me, I have a very different perspective on how I came to be childless than I did in my mid-forties, when I was embroiled in a last-chance effort to become a parent.

    Because I had always had mixed feelings about becoming a parent, my eventual adjustment, and my ability to craft a more positive story, may have been easier than others’. So easy, that to some other childless-not-by-choice women, I may seem to be in denial.

    The fact is, I DO compartmentalize the bad times, the bad feelings, the sad stories a bit. The issue may be driven down to my subconscious, because the other night it flared up, and I woke up reminding myself, Yes, it is an issue, Yes, I will face my would-be grandmother years without progeny. But even in my dream, it didn’t feel so weird. There was this image of a “box” into which I’d put the whole issue.

    Because I have always been pretty stoic by nature, I sometimes grow a bit impatient with childless women who seem to be having a “pity party” but that is unfair, because we all have a different “pain threshold” on this, as on everything else. I think we all need to wallow a bit. I’m thinking, two or three years, about the same amount of time I was in pretty deep mourning when my father died, when I was in my mid-thirties.

    But this is just me. I know there are many, many other women older than me, who feel that pain just as sharply as they did in the decades when they were pursuing a family and the supports – the right partner, steady income, good health – weren’t working out.

    There are so many angles to this, and no “one size fits all” solution for every woman (or man.) I do find having a “script” of come-backs helps. Such as when someone says “Happy Mother’s Day” to me at the checkout in a drugstore. I say “I’m not a Mom, but I’ll have a good day anyhow!”

    Now when people ask do I have kids, I say, No, but I do like children. In the thick of my own struggle, I felt like lashing out, and being around children made me very uncomfortable indeed. I’m not alone in that, by the way. The great writer Edith Wharton was also thwarted in her desire to be a mother, but friends reported her seeming to actually be afraid, when in the presence of children. It was probably the violence of her own emotions that she feared.

    So much more needs to be said about this, thanks Lesley, for getting the conversation out there.

    • Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment Christina. I agree that we need to wallow a bit (or maybe I’d use the term grieve) and then there’s a time to move on.
      It makes me sad to see women of any age, who still feel the pain sharply as that doesn’t have to be the case. As I can testify to, you have demonstrated & so have the other Inspirational Story tellers, it is possible to move on.
      Thanks for being part of the conversation.

  2. Hi Lesley, thanks for this blog entry. I am just starting to come around to the idea that we can alter how we think and perceive situations, and in turn take back control. I am in my late 30s, and whilst I have always known I was unable to have children it only really floored me a few yrs ago when friends started having babies. I am only just getting to a point where I can talk more about it to close family and friends and admitting it to myself. I hope I can start to move forward as I am fed up of being stuck in a rut and being brought to tears and hit in the stomach whenever I hear of another of my friends having a child. Thank you for your inspiring words.

    • Thanks for your comment Carys,
      Being fed up with being stuck is a very positive place to be as it’s a great start to getting our life back.
      You absolutely CAN take back control and get past this. I wish you well & please let me know if I can help.

  3. I love this post – thank you Lesley – I shall definitely be sharing it with my community too – there are many wonderful gems of wisdom in here. I am most definitely a Victor – but I was a Victim first… I wonder if it is possible to become the second without having overcome the first. For me I had to work through the albeit ‘fairly brief’ victim phase in order to process my demons before I could step through the threshold into my brighter world – but once you’re in your brighter world, there’s no going back to the darker one 🙂
    Helen Rebello recently posted…In Praise of Small Stuff (Ninja-Time-Bending Part 2)My Profile

    • Thanks Helen,I think we need some time as victim, or maybe not completely as victim but time to grieve and adapt before we step into victor.
      As you say there’s no going back once you;’re in the light & isn’t the light just wonderful?

  4. Thank you for writing this I think I stil swing between the two even after all these years, though the victim is becoming less. Coming towards my menopausal years the realisation of never having children really hits, what is especially hard is seeing the people around me having great relationships with their grown up children as well as having or talking about becoming grandparents. This is where trying not to allow myself to be a victim can be tough at times. It is good to be able to hear other people talking about this and inspiring listening to you and others comments. Thank you

    • Thanks Debbie, the menopausal years are definitely the end and it does hit some people hard. As you say it can sometimes be tempting to allow ourselves to slip back into the victim mode, and as you say it’s becoming less and less over time. I encourage you to focus on what’s good in your life, the things that are positive and especially those you can only do because you don’t have children.

  5. I know i have moved on in many ways however anniversaries still smart and i refuse to beat myself up over having a wobble at these times. Everyone’s way of coping and moving on is different we have to respect that.

    • Thanks for posting Lesley. As you say anniversaries can be tough and it’s really positive that refuse to beat yourself up.
      And yes everyone is different and it’s important to respect that.

  6. January 2016 – Where are all these women who offer these comments?! We are in such need to connect with you all…

    We are here in Canada, struggling in the depths of knowing that we cannot have children… and 5 years later, our wounds are still so raw. Our infertility has left us isolated and having to sell our home, change our job, tip toe around family and friends who are basking in the joy of becoming pregnant and having their families grow.

    We have no support groups here, no one to talk to, no one who understands and are feeling alone.

    Don’t get me wrong – we are making the most of our lives and trying to move forward. But when we are in are low’s… where do people go when they have no community to support them.

    We have had a rough start to the year and perhaps the sheer pain of this life circumstance is resonating so deeply with us today that we felt the need to write. Thank you all for your sharing… Perhaps this is where we will begin to find a sense of community. With heart and best wishes to you all for this New Year…


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