By Cally Jetta
The concept of ‘victim mentality’ is a tricky one. It’s an insult many of us Aboriginal mob have heard too many times in discussions about our history and activism.
I have been accused more than once of ‘being stuck in the past’ and having a ‘victim mentality’ by frustrated people who disagree with my posts. I don’t view myself that way at all. If I was confined to the past I wouldn’t be working my arse off for a better future and if I saw myself as a victim, I’d hardly be effective in my role as an educator or activist. How can you empower others if you yourself are weak?
There is a big difference between wanting your history known and your cultural rights restored; and being stuck in the past with a ‘poor me’ mindset. Too often this statement is used to diminish and undermine our peoples’ perspectives and to make us feel unjustified in our endeavours. It is an easy way for the ignorant to brush it off and dismiss any lingering feelings of guilt or shame.
To me a victim mentality is all about a mindset based on self-pity. I learnt many years ago what a useless and dangerous emotion it is, it lead me down the worst path possible before I finally woke up. I make a conscious effort now to never let my self-talk turn to pity.
Before this, I would justify my lack of responsibility, my recklessness, and selfishness by convincing myself I was broken, recovering, grieving, isolated or whatever else worked at the time. It was never my fault and I couldn’t help it. I wasted many opportunities and sabotaged some good relationships with that attitude.
Aboriginal struggle and intergenerational trauma is real and needs to be addressed, but we must not let our grief and oppression define us as people. Our existence, our mindset and our perspective must be bigger and broader than that.
I think often self pity and victimization are expressed as anger. Some people have become so consumed by the politics and the struggle that they can’t see anything else or think outside of that. Everything is black, white, us, them and somewhere along the line compassion for other people and accountability for our own issues can be diminished.
I know it’s not always an easy thing being Aboriginal or any racial minority in fact, but I remind myself that there are people fighting the same struggles as us all over the globe and that there are countless people enduring far worse right now. We need to stay humble and keep our compassion. We need to channel our grief and anger productively so that we can achieve greatness, rather than creating our own barriers to happiness and success.
We are not victims; we are survivors. Survivors remember what they’ve endured and where they’ve come from; while forging onwards with pride, strength and tenacity.