How a Victim Mentality Affects Highly Sensitive People

A highly sensitive person with a victim mentality

If you have a victim mentality, you perceive your life as happening to you instead of your own actions directing your life.

It’s no surprise that highly sensitive people (HSPs) are more susceptible to being affected by their environment and interactions with others. Because we process things so deeply, we easily become overstimulated, whether it’s from the bright lights in a shopping mall or from absorbing a friend’s sad emotions over her breakup.  

As a result, it can be almost too easy to turn this sensitivity into an identity, the identity of a victim. Just a quick run-through of any HSP Facebook Group and you’ll see the following types of posts:

  • “I’m a sponge, I soak up everyone’s energy.”
  • “I feel drained, I spent all day working with clients.”
  • “I can’t work full-time, it takes too much out of me. What should I do?”

These are just some of the disempowering beliefs that some HSPs hold; you’ve probably heard this from HSP friends or maybe you’ve said some of these yourself! While it’s true that you’re more sensitive, you can actually manage your sensitive gifts in ways that will allow you to be productive and empowered in your life, not drained and stuck. 

There are plenty of successful sensitive people who have learned ways to work with their gifts instead of against them. You weren’t born to be a shut-in, but at the same time you weren’t born like around 70 percent of the population who aren’t highly sensitive! Taking this into account, you can make mental shifts to get yourself out of victim mode as an HSP. But first, you have to understand what a victim mindset is. 

What Is a Victim Mentality? 

What is a victim mentality? It’s when someone sees themselves as a perpetual victim and believes that their life circumstances are due to external forces out of their control à la “poor me.” Rahav Gabray, a doctor of psychology at Tel Aviv University, and her colleagues state that it’s “an ongoing feeling that the self is a victim, which is generalized across many kinds of relationships. As a result, victimization becomes a central part of the individual’s identity.” 

The researchers found that interpersonal victimhood is made up of four dimensions: 

  • need for recognition
  • moral elitism
  • lack of empathy
  • rumination

So if you find yourself having a victim mentality as an HSP, luckily, there are mindset shifts you can make.

See Your Sensitivity as the Gift That It Is Instead of Cursing It

One simple mindset shift is to view your sensitivity as a gift, not a weakness. When you view sensitivity as a weakness, you automatically see yourself as a victim who can be swayed by your environment. Years ago, I learned about the psychology term, an internal “locus of control.” Locus of control is what an individual believes causes his or her experiences, and the factors to which that person attributes their successes or failures. If a person has an internal locus of control, or agency, that person attributes success to their own efforts and abilities.

People that have an external locus of control vs. internal locus of control in their life were prone to suffering. They perceive their life as happening to them instead of their own internal actions directing their life. Years ago, I realized that I was living in victim mode because I perceived my outer world as a threat to my safety and well-being. 

Most likely, you’ve felt this, too, as a highly sensitive soul. What if you viewed your sensitivity as a superpower, one that allows you to tap into more information that isn’t available to most of the public? This is your superpower! What if you saw your ability to hold space for others as a gift, and your ability to experience life at a deeper level than most, to be something to be grateful for? Well, you’re in luck: Your sensitivity allows you to make people feel seen, and to connect with your intuition. It allows you to connect with animals, nature, art, and express your insights from these connections to the world. Use this gift you’ve been given, and watch victimhood fall away.

The Victim Mindset Trap: Realize That You Always Have a Choice

In the book Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl, a survivor of the Holocaust camps, writes that even in the most dire situation, you have a choice in how you will react and how you view yourself — and what you choose to believe will help you get through challenging circumstances.

In managing your gifts as a sensitive person, you may realize that you don’t like spending time with certain people or places that drain you. That’s great! Now the next step would be committing to making new choices and actually sticking to them. We all know the person that complains about their job incessantly, but they never take action about leaving it. No one wants to be around that person, understandably. It’s similar to an HSP who constantly complains about all the things that set their system into a tailspin, but never doing anything to change it — like trying self-soothing activities such as spending some alone time in their HSP sanctuary, meditating, journaling, you name it.

Remember: You always have a choice. And, as a highly sensitive person, you will most likely have to make key choices, like getting your own room when traveling with friends, or making sure to have your grounding rituals everyday before and after your day. I find that HSPs who are empowered almost forget they are sensitive souls who easily get overstimulated. Instead, they identify more with the tools they use to feel like they can do — and be — their best every day. So get clear on what you need to thrive and commit to take the actions needed.

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Set Boundaries Around Your Energy and Schedule

Trying to do all the things and overbooking yourself is a recipe for a victim mindset. HSPs need more downtime than others, so making sure you have downtime — however much you can manage between appointments (I suggest an hour) — is necessary to restore your energy. It’s going to be difficult to be empowered over your schedule if you book yourself every day of the week, with no time to just be and have some peace.

HSPs can be more prone to burnout this way, so make sure you always have at least two or three times per week where you have scheduled relaxation time. I love making Sundays sacred, (and staying off social media), and dedicating my time to creative expression, cleaning around the house, and cooking healthy meals. This helps to restore my energy for a great start of the week. After all, when highly sensitive people get too overstimulated, they can wake up the next day with an HSP hangover, and no one likes those!

Take as many breaks you need to, so you can be balanced in your energy and not a victim to your schedule. Having boundaries around your time — including with being online and on social media — is also important, because sensitive types pick up the energies of everyone they are connected to, on and off the internet. For example, choosing specific days of the week to go on social media, like Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays only, is a great start.

Your Sensitivity Is There to Help Your Quality of Life, Not Hinder It

These are a few simple mindset shifts that can take you out of having a victim mindset and into an empowered mindset as an HSP. It’s easy to feel like your sensitivity is a burden, but realize that it’s a gift: it’s there to help your quality of life, not hinder it. Realize you always have a choice to be empowered instead of a victim to your gifts, and that your ability to manage your schedule and set boundaries around your time will put you back in the driver’s seat of your life. Notice the ways your sensitivity benefits you and others, and live from that space instead of victimhood.

I’m a spiritual coach who coaches high-achieving, highly sensitive women who feel stuck in their careers to connect to their soul’s work. You can book a free 15-minute consult to work with me 1:1 here:

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