Reasons To Steer Clear Of Victim Complexes

Updated February 8, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Have you ever met someone who believes they are often the victim of relationships and life circumstances. Someone who believes nothing ever goes right for them, everyone’s out to get them, and nothing’s ever their fault? This is what’s referred to as someone with a “victim complex.” Sometimes also referred to as a martyr complex, a victim complex refers to when a person wants to feel like a martyr for their own personal benefit. They may seek out persecution or suffering to either feed a psychological need or to help them avoid taking responsibility. It is highly toxic and dangerous to one's mental health, self-worth, and self-esteem.

Reasons Victim Complexes Are Bad For Your Mental Health

There are different reasons why individuals have victim complexes, but none of them are healthy. They are based off of false self-beliefs. 

You Deserve To Be Happy

Reason #1: You Do NOT Deserve Suffering/Persecution

Individuals who suffer from victim complexes have sadly been conned into believing that they deserve to suffer due to a number of reasons:

  1. They have low self-esteem. For example, one study found that people with low self-esteem were less motivated to find ways to feel good because they believed they didn’t deserve to feel good.  This falls in line with self-verification theory, which “asserts that people want others to see them as they see themselves and will take active steps to ensure that others perceive them in ways that confirm their stable self-views.” So while a confident, self-assured person likely expects to be treated with dignity and respect, an individual suffering from low self-esteem may embrace victimhood, suffering, and misery.

2. They believe pain will improve their character. These individuals are also likely to embrace suffering and persecution. Sometimes those who want to atone for wrongdoing, express regret, or just punish themselves may accept and invite suffering and victimhood into their lives. In some cultures and religions, suffering is viewed as a state of being that will purge oneself of undesirable traits or characteristics.

3. They want to punish themselves. This disposition may stem from low self-esteem, trauma, or guilt. Unfortunately, self-punishment is a common form of victimhood. Persons who engage in destructive self-talk, or even self-harm are punishing themselves in one way or another. The desire to self-punish is insidiously dangerous and can even become lethal. Self-punishment is also linked to mental health issues, such as depression and eating/personality disorders. Individuals experiencing self-punishment behaviors should seek out help immediately.

Life gets tough for all of us sometimes. However, those who embrace victimhood are so much better than they believe themselves to be. Despite feelings of low self-esteem, the glorification of pain, or the belief that one deserves to suffer, life is about self-betterment and improvement. The adoption of the victim complex is profoundly unhealthy and left unchecked, it will breed ruin and ultimate destruction.

Reason #2: You Attract What You Think You Deserve

Despite skeptics and critics, the law of attraction is genuine and always at work. Individuals attract what they believe they deserve. A self-assured and confident person will more often than not draw supporting, favorable circumstances and opportunities into their lives. Conversely, a downtrodden, miserable individual who believes they deserve martyrdom or victimhood will attract situations, hardships, and even people who support this belief, regardless of how misguided it may be.

Causes Of The Victim Complex

Steering clear of victim complexes is critical because your livelihood depends on it. Why live a life of hardship, pain, and suffering when you can enjoy prosperity, abundance, and wellness? While the avoidance of the victim complex is paramount, understanding what breeds the victim complex allows afflicted individuals to overcome it and regain control of their lives.

Sadly, adverse childhood experiences and social/societal conditioning can engender or contribute to victim complexes. 

Like childhood experiences, societal and social expectations can impact someone’s self-esteem and whether or not they embrace victimhood. For instance, many people have made the case that those who are consistently abelled as privileged and capable by society are arguably more likely to believe in themselves and do well in life than individuals who are continually dismissed as underprivileged, victimized, and oppressed.

However, despite the impacts that childhood experiences, society, and social expectations may have, positive self-talk and the adoption of productive beliefs are still within reach. The law of attraction is continually at work. High self-esteem breeds favorable and supportive circumstances and opportunities, while the embracement of victimhood attracts undesirable situations that are well disposed to negative beliefs.

Reason #3: Victim Complexes Kill Productivity

A person’s level of productivity dramatically determines how society views them. It can also impact employment opportunities, financial burdens, personal relationships, and other paramount aspects of life.

The victim complex is the psychological equivalent of living life with a ball and chain attached to one’s ankle. This destructive, harmful mentality does absolutely nothing to boost life progression, accomplishments, or achievements. As previously stated, each person attracts what they believe.

Going through life, we should always be striving for productivity, success, and greatness. How can this occur if we are under the misguided belief that we deserve to suffer? According to Forbes, some of the most effective ways to boost productivity are to reward yourself after the accomplishment of a goal, embrace ambition, and seek out help when needed. 

However, each of these methods is more likely to breed maximum results when implemented by a self-assured person with a healthy level of self-esteem. Accomplishments require hard work while ambition is fueled by the desire to better oneself. A person suffering from a victim complex is significantly less likely to put in the work needed to increase their productivity. After all, why would someone who embraces suffering want to do well in life, thus ending their self-inflicted persecution?

Reason #4: You Were Put On This Earth To Be Amazing!

While the negative impacts of victim complexes should be more than enough to eviscerate toxic victim complexes, another absolute truth remains: you were born to be amazing.

Victim Complexes And Narcissism

As mentioned, people who truly see themselves as victims often do so as a result of past trauma or other painful experiences. However, people with a narcissistic personality disorder also play the victim – but for a different reason. A narcissist’s goal is to play the victim because they see the benefit in making others feel guilty.  

You Deserve To Be Happy

How To Overcome A Victim Complex

Victimhood is often bred by certain experiences and life circumstances. However, in times of trouble, positive affirmations can work wonders. A significant part of our beliefs is impacted by what we consistently tell ourselves. So whenever we feel ourselves slipping into the trap of victimhood, we should repeat affirmations, such as the following:

I am stronger than any challenge.

I am in control of my life.

I deserve the best.

I was born to be great.

I can do anything.

Whether you realize it or not, each of the above affirmations is accurate. You were born to move mountains, achieve great things, and live to the fullest – not live in martyrdom and victimhood. Sometimes, it can be easy to lose sight of this, but hardships do not diminish your destiny. Often, challenges are merely opportunities in disguise.

Victim complexes are incredibly toxic illusions. Suffering and persecution do not ease burdens. Happiness, contentment, and joy are not negative emotions or traits of selfishness. You deserve to be successful and in good spirits. Self-inflicted suffering is not atonement or a healthy means of dealing with guilt, difficulties, or other issues.

Regardless of what you may be feeling, dealing with, or working through, it is highly essential for you to know that you were born to be phenomenal, spectacular, and amazing. There is no other person like you, and whether you realize it or not, that is your greatest strength.

Getting Help

If you or someone you know is experiencing a victim complex or feelings of martyrdom, seeking out help is the most viable and prolific solution. This is not a sign of weakness, but an indicator of strength. Regaining a strong sense of self-requires work and courage. This should be commended, not feared.

An ongoing and habitual indulgence of victimhood is dangerous and may inevitably lead to disaster if not swiftly halted. If you believe that you or a loved one may be suffering from a victim complex, it is critical to know that you are NOT alone. A counselor can help you get to the root of your victim complex and provide ways to overcome this false narrative. 

A professional counselor can help you identify the cause of your victimhood, which often is the result of childhood trauma, poor functional relationships, abuse, and other factors. A therapist can also help you change your thoughts and beliefs, and as a result, your behaviors, to help you have a more positive outlook about yourself and your life. Professional counselors also know how to teach you new skills, such as practicing mindfulness and improving self-talk, which can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as help build self-esteem. 

An easy way to get started with therapy is online though BetterHelp. In addition to kind-hearted, caring psychologists, therapists, and social workers, BetterHelp also has countless testimonials, and success stories from individuals who lives have been transformed due to our services. Online therapy has been shown to be just as effective in many situations and allows you to connect with a professional licensed therapist from the comfort of your home or office. 


While difficulties and challenges are an inherent part of life, people should strive to overcome hardships as opposed to wallowing in them. You deserve to be happy and have positive things happen to you. For some, this truth is hard to accept. If you find yourself having a victim complex, it is essential for you to know that you are not alone. If you believe a victim complex is impacting your life, please reach out to the team at BetterHelp. You are only one click away from living your best life.

For additional help & support with your concerns

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet Started