Differences Between Self-Compassion and Playing the Victim

02 March, 2021
There's a fine line between self compassion and playing the victim role. What can you do to prevent it? Setting clear goals is a good start.

There are certain differences between self-compassion and playing the victim. However, depending on our attitudes, they can be almost synonymous and very harmful. 

According to dictionary definitions, self-compassion is compassion towards oneself. And compassion is defined as a: “feeling of pain, tenderness, and identification with someone’s wrongdoings.”

As professionals, such as author Jack Kornfield, point out, compassion arises from the awareness that we’re interconnected with all things, and that it’s part of our deepest nature.

So, self-compassion can be positive. That’s because it implies that we’re being understanding of ourselves instead of criticizing ourselves when we do things wrong. 

That’s why the professionals Simón and Germer, who focus on self-compassion from the mindfulness and the Buddhist conception, define it as:

“Giving ourselves the same care, comfort and serenity that we naturally give those we love who are suffering when they fail or feel inadequate.”

So, what could be wrong with that?

Self-compassion and the role of the victim

Instead of using self-compassion as a tool to avoid being too harsh on ourselves, and as a way to encourage ourselves to do our best, we may start to play the role of the victim. 

Falling into the role of the victim can lead to us behave irresponsibly, avoiding our responsibilities or not facing our problems. Those who play the role of the victim may blame others for their problems. 

The problem with pitying ourselves is that we aren’t taking responsibility for the difficulties in our lives. As a result, we feel like the victim and we can’t move forward in life. 

Sad woman.

Why do we start to pity ourselves?

People who are excessively self-compassionate, and who end up playing the victim all the time, tend to have low self-esteem. Also, they don’t feel like they’re capable of solving their problems. 

Because of that, people continue to suffer while they wait for someone else to solve all their problems. Obviously, people who play the victim role have difficulty finding success, overcoming their challenges and conquering their goals.

Those who constantly pity themselves can end up becoming eternal victims who blame God, neighbors, luck, life, their partners, or whoever, for their situation. If we see ourselves as weak and defenseless, we can never take control of our lives. 

Keep reading: 5 Steps to Detect and Defeat Low Self-Esteem

Where does this feeling come from?

Many people feel sorry for themselves and play the victim because of the messages their parents used around them when they were younger. For example:

  • “Poor thing, they can’t do their work right now.”
  • “Poor thing, they’re just not well.”
  • “Bad things always happen to them.”
  • “It’s not their fault this happened to them,” among others.

Of course, children listen to these types of messages and progressively internalize them until they become part of their repertoire as an adult.

Another reason could be that a child watches their parents victimize themselves and blame everything on other people. Then, the child starts to imitate that behavior.

If a child has also been a real victim of some abuse, this may affect them the rest of their life if they don’t work on the issue in therapy.

Child hugging mother.

Read also: Learn How to Identify a Child Abuser

How to avoid playing the victim

  • Be aware. Keep in mind that this feeling will only hurt you and limit your abilities and potential.
  • Stop looking for the cause. At this point, it doesn’t matter how it all started. The important thing is working to change so that you don’t fall into an eternal circle of self-pity.
  • Avoid complaining. Try to see the bright side of things. Instead, try looking at everything you have in life and practice gratitude.
  • Stop the pity. Stop trying to get others’ attention and try taking responsibility for the situation you’re in.
  • Start solving the issue. Stop asking other people to solve your problems. Remember, the more you ask other people to do for you, the more control you’re giving up.
  • Act like a grown-up. Keep in mind that you’re no longer a helpless child who needs your parents to protect you. You’re an adult and you have responsibilities.
  • Set goals for yourself. Then, go after your goals with a determined mindset.

Everything that has happened to you is in the past. Let go of the pity and stop playing the victim role. Today is a new day and you can start living in a completely different way. Take control of your life and see how far you can go. It’s never too late!

  • Alonso Maynar, M., & Germer, C. K. (2016). Autocompasión en Psicoterapia y el Programa Mindful Self Compassion: ¿Hacia las Terapias de Cuarta Generación? Revista de Psicoterapia. https://doi.org/10.33898/rdp.v27i103.111
  • Aranda, G., Elcuaz, M. R., Fuertes, C., Güeto, V., Pascual, P., & Sainz de Murieta, E. (2018). Evaluación de la efectividad de un programa de mindfulness y autocompasión para reducir el estrés y prevenir el burnout en profesionales sanitarios de atención primaria. Atención Primaria. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.APRIM.2017.03.009
  • Araya, C., & Moncada, L. (2016). Auto-compasión: origen, concepto y evidencias preliminares. Revista Argentina de Clínica Psicológica, 25(1), 67-78.
  • Elices, M., Carmona, C., Pascual, J. C., Feliu-Soler, A., Martin-Blanco, A., & Soler, J. (2017). Compassion and self-compassion: Construct and measurement. Mindfulness & Compassion. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mincom.2016.11.003
  • Gálvez Galve, J. (2012). Revisión del concepto psicológico de la autocompasión. Medicina Naturista.