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14 Clear Signs Someone Is Always Playing the Victim

Dr. Christian Maciel is an author, professor, marriage and family therapist, blogger and inspirational speaker.
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How many of us have blamed our little sister or brother for breaking a family heirloom? How many of us have pointed the finger at our co-worker for screwing something up at work? Playing the victim is something many of us have done without even realizing it.

Unfortunately, playing the victim rarely gets anybody what they want. Furthermore, people that believe they are victims tend to push friends, family, and coworkers away.

Let’s look at 14 signs that someone is playing the victim card and what they need to do instead.

1. They Don’t Take Responsibility

When playing the victim, a person will refuse to take responsibility for the circumstance that they are in. Instead, they point the finger to make others feel guilty, or simply ignore their role in perpetuating the problem.

What’s the remedy here? Every circumstance, situation, and event in their life offers the victim an opportunity for growth. They may not be completely responsible for what has occurred, but they can always ask if they contributed somehow.

Asking this question invites a person to be responsible, mature, and cooperative. Plus, it will help them avoid similar situations in the future.

2. They Are Frozen in Their Life

Victims believe that they are at the mercy of everyone and everything around them. Usually, a victim will not make progress or advance in their life because they perceive that they are powerless. As a result, their life is stagnant.


If you were to ask them why, they would respond by giving you a laundry list of reasons why they are stuck. The real sticking point here is that the victim will not usually tell you what they plan to do about their lack of progress in life.

In order to fix this, the so-called victim needs to see that small behaviors or changes in their attitude can reap big rewards. Try to help them make a list of small, achievable steps they can take towards a goal in their life. Hold them accountable and ask them to hold themselves accountable, too, in order to get them out of the role of victim.

3. They Hold Grudges

The victim likes to hang onto old grievances and make other people feel bad about their actions. They carry these around like weapons, just in case anyone ever tries to hold them accountable for something. A victim will bring up old memories and events in which they were probably legitimately hurt, but they use them as reasons why they can’t make changes to their attitude, their life, or their circumstances in the present.

To move forward and stop playing the victim, people engaging in this behavior need to see that keeping grudges is only holding them down. The victim needs to recognize that freeing others of blame is actually returning all power and self-control back to the victim.

4. They Have Trouble Being Assertive

The victim does not truly believe they can control their life, so they struggle to state what they need, desire, or deserve. The victim’s life will usually involve repeating patterns of submissiveness and passivity. This pattern is detrimental to self-esteem and personal development. The victim generally fails to break this pattern and suffers from potential anxiety or depressive disorders.

What’s the remedy here? A first recommendation is to seek help from a professional psychologist, counselor, or life coach. This is a chance for the victim to turn the direction of their life around.


Ultimately, learning to be assertive is not a quick fix[1]. It will take time, practice, learning, failing, and trying over and over. In the end, however, he/she will no longer feel that gnawing sense of powerlessness and self-pity that has kept them down for so long.

You can learn more on improving assertive communication skills here.

5. They Feel Powerless

This could be a shadow behavior, meaning that the victim does not outwardly show that they feel powerless. Instead, the victim will try to be manipulative, coercive, and underhanded in getting what they need.

You may have dealt with someone experiencing this kind of powerlessness. Usually, the victim is someone that is suspicious of others, feels insecure, and is constantly needing to know the latest gossip while playing the victim.

As an outsider, do not play the game with them. Stay away from the game of sharing gossip, listening to their stories of manipulation, or engaging with their stories of insecurity. Let them know you’re there to support them and to listen to them, but not to contribute to their feeling of powerlessness.

6. They Don’t Trust Others

This issue is not only a problem of not trusting others. This is a problem of the victim not believing they are trustworthy themselves. The victim makes the assumption that other people are exactly like them: untrustworthy.

To help this issue, the victim must examine the evidence. There are trustworthy people in the world and people that want the best for you. It is the job of the victim to begin revising their old assumptions about people instead of always playing the victim.


7. They Don’t When Enough Is Enough

In relationships, victims have no sense of limits. They don’t know when to say enough is enough. They have a hard time creating boundaries, both for themselves and others.

To begin fixing this, boundaries are crucial. What is the maximum they are willing to take in a relationship, or in any given situation? It is the responsibility of the victim to decide these boundaries for themselves.

If you are a friend or loved one, you should also set boundaries with the “victim.” Decide how much of their victim behavior you’re willing to put up with before you bow out.

8. They Argue a Lot

The victim has trouble choosing their battles. To them, every battle is a war. They feel that they are under attack all the time and have a hard time realizing that not everything is about them.

What’s the remedy here? The victim needs to realize that a difference of opinion or a piece of criticism is not necessarily about them. It could very well be about the other person. The victim must recognize they have a choice over whether they allow themselves to enter into petty arguments and decide what it’s worth to them.

9. They Feel Self-Pity

Victims have a habit of pitying themselves. Their mirror reflects a defenseless child that cannot fend for itself. Since other people do not usually show them sympathy or empathy, they try to give it to themselves, only to potentially appear immature to others. This further traps them and keeps them playing the victim.


The victim needs to recognize that all people have tough days and experience bad events. Even the luckiest people experienced unfortunate events. S/he must learn to avoid thinking that they are the only person in the world that has experience sad, difficult, or unfair circumstances[2].

10. They Constantly Compare Themselves to Others

The victim usually struggles with the habit of comparing themselves to others negatively. The truth is that we are all lacking in some respect compared to others, so it will always be easy to engage in this behavior or train of thought.

In order to improve this, the victim needs to change their view. They must recognize that they have good qualities and likely have experienced privileges, too. This will also help their mental health overall. 

11. They See Life as Always Lacking

Even when something good happens, the victim will seek out what’s lacking or what’s missing. The victim will complain about complaining, and then complain that they can’t stop complaining.

Instead, they should count their blessings, The victim needs to treasure each good thing in their life and develop a new habit of being positive and optimistic through gratitude. They should aim to be the most thankful and hopeful person they can be.

12. They Are Critical

The victim has a need to put others down and find fault in people in order to feel good about themselves. By doing these things, they get a fleeting sense of superiority by playing the victim.


What’s the remedy here? The victim should take all their energy and use it to build others up. This will reflect back on them in a positive way, too.

13. They Think They Are Perfect

Ironically, when there is a chance that a victim could be caught in an error, they suddenly become perfect. This arrogance and narcissism closes the victim off from having truly trustworthy and cooperative relationships.

Instead of thinking this way, they need to remove the word “perfect” from their vocabulary and accept that they are human and naturally imperfect. In fact, the victim needs to realize that the more they own their mistakes and failings, the more others will gravitate towards them.

14. They Cut People out of Their Life

If a victim faces a difficult or challenging moment with someone in their life, they’re likely to respond by cutting someone out of their life. This highly emotional behavior creates chaotic relationships.

The victim needs to recognize their pattern of cutting people off, as this usually doesn’t lead to the resolution of problems and conflict. They could always take a different, more positive approach, such as letting people know their feelings instead.

The Bottom Line

In the end, playing the victim doesn’t get you anywhere. The victim will end up facing painful consequences in their life and relationships if they do not change their behavior by taking constructive criticism and turning it into positive action.


As with most things in life, alternative options are there. We just have to be willing to look for them and make a start.

Featured photo credit: LoboStudio Hamburg via unsplash.com


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