Are You A Hero Or A Victim?

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An Electronic Mental Health Newsletter from Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. & Associates
Volume 15, Number 6

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We are living through very difficult times, made worse by the pandemic. Overall happiness is low while worry and anger are high. In a great many ways, our society has become polarized. Sides have been chosen with each claiming to be correct and the other side wrong. Tolerance for others’ points of view is low yet somehow, we manage to function. We are fascinated by heroes and victims as seen by the never-ending cast of superheroes and victims seen in the movies and on television. While these characters are not real, and they are not real, we fantasize about winning and truth and justice prevailing. But what about your own individual lives?

Are you the hero of your own story?

This month’s E-Letter provides information on understanding the personal characteristics of heroes and victims and offers some strategies on changing your self-view.

KimmelPsychology has provided a monthly E-Letter for over 16 years, that is educational, informative, and helpful. Topics change every month but the format remains the same; brief information about the topic as well as suggestions for improvement. The topic of interest can be downloaded and used as a handout or a “tip sheet”.

Downloads of this handout and others from our previous E-Letters can be found on our website, KimmelPsychology/e_Letters. We encourage you to read and download them. You are invited to email your thoughts to Dr. Kimmel at [email protected].
Make sure to read the latest blog addition near the end of this E-Letter.


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Photo by Yuris Alhumaydy
(Photo by Yuris Alhumaydy)

What makes a person a hero and what makes a person a victim? Do people choose to be either or are there specific characteristics for each? Are these behaviors innate or are they learned? (Victims in this article refer to those who have a victim mentality and not legitimate victims of some heinous act.)

People who engage in one-time acts of bravery are really not much different from regular people who are not heroes. Often, the circumstances bring out heroic features in everyday people. The person who may rush into a fire to save a person or a pet may be heroic because of the situation while ordinarily, they may mind their own business.

Yet there are heroic types. These are the first responders, the doctors, the nurses and others who may put their lives on the line every day in the service of others. These individuals have certain personality traits among which are empathy, helpfulness, a moral code, honesty, courage, a belief in service to others, and performance of actions without expectations of rewards.

It is also possible for people to learn to be heroes. Through emotional education, people can develop a sense of empathy and compassion for others. They can learn to see situations from the viewpoint of others and be able to imagine themselves in those situations and what they would do to help.

Heroes can be role models and inspire others to be compassionate, caring, empathetic, and willing to help others by building them up. They can improve us by motivating us to be heroes in our own individual lives, to build connections between people, to help others less fortunate, and to be optimistic about the future.

But are you a victim? Do you know others who act like victims? People with a victim mentality are pessimists that believe that bad things happen to them and will keep happening. They believe that they are not at fault and that others or the universe are to blame for their misfortune, and that things will never be better for them so why try to improve their lives. These individuals will constantly tell you about how troubled their lives are and what health problem they may have or had. Nothing seems to go right for them, and they present as being doomed to a miserable life.

Having a victim mentality allows a person to avoid responsibility as they can make excuses or blame others. They feel sorry for themselves and appear helpless with an implied message that you should solve their problems. Being a victim can have some rewards that only tend to reinforce their victim thinking. Society often gives extra benefits to those who present as being victims and are unable to help themselves. However, victims self-sabotage and do not enjoy life. Their negative thinking leads to frustration, hopelessness, resentment, anger, and depression.

To overcome the victim mentality, it is important for the victim to recognize who they are and take responsibility for how they are. Often with the help of professional therapists, negative thinking can be changed, and feelings of powerlessness can be overcome. By choosing progressively more difficult goals and achieving them, it will lead to a sense of mastery in one’s life and overcome beliefs of impotency. Setting boundaries and being assertive will lead to success and a sense of power and control in one’s life. Practicing self-care and learning to be empathetic will lead you to be the hero of your own story.

We offer the following information on: Are You A Hero or A Victim? This information can be downloaded as a handout at KimmelPsychology e-Letters.


You are the hero of your own story … Joseph Campbell


    • In today’s society, especially in the media, people are often viewed as heroes or victims
    • Many people knowingly or unknowingly approach their lives with a hero or victim mentality
    • The term “Heroes” has been described as voluntarily acting to help others while recognizing potential risks/sacrifice and without expecting any rewards
    • Heroes generally have the following:
    • a set of values by which they live and are willing to stand up for
    • self-confidence and competency in their actions
    • an ability to overcome fear and take action
    • compassion for others and able to feel what others are feeling
    • empathy and are able to see things from the perspective of others
    • physical abilities or training in how to deal with crises
    • Heroes inspire us to overcome our own problems, help others, build relationships, and become better people
    • People who see themselves as victims have usually had painful experiences and have not developed ways of coping
    • Victims tend to be self-absorbed and complain about only bad things happening to them
    • They believe that nothing is their fault and that the world tries to harm and punish them
    • Characteristics of a victim include:
    • A need for attention and recognition of their victimization by others
    • Seeing themselves as good and victimizers as wicked and unjust
    • A lack of empathy for others because their victimhood is worse than anybody else
    • Focused on current and previous experiences of being victimized
    • Have little sense of responsibility for their actions as bad things just happen to them
    • Rejection of helpful suggestions from others because of a belief that they won’t work
    • Benefits of being a victim include no accountability, getting sympathy and attention from others, avoiding taking risks, and getting possible financial benefits


    • Recognize who you are and take responsibility for your life
    • Be aware of how you perceive yourself; be compassionate and practice self-care
    • Choose goals and develop plans to achieve those goals to overcome feeling powerless
    • Set boundaries and be more assertive to others
    • Become more educated about the victim mentality by reading self-help books
    • Join a support group and listen to the feedback and suggestions of others
    • Seek professional help if you feel overwhelming loneliness, depression, or anxiety