Everyone has a story in their life. At the center of each of our stories is us. We are the protagonist traveling through life, living from a first-person perspective.
Very often our stories have high points and they have low points. And they have other characters as well. Allies, lovers, teachers, family and many more.
This past year of my life, I have realized how significant the stories we tell ourselves are, and how they can guide our sense of happiness and direction in life, or they can lead us into a prison of doubt and frustration.
On our path in life, whether we like it or not, we are going to bump into people who are going to affect us. Sometimes in a positive way, and sometimes in a negative way. These negative experiences with people can cause us to be thrown off course, and often that makes us feel unhappy.
As storytellers, what we often do is label these people as Villains.
The Villains in our life become the reason things didn’t work out for us, or the reason why we aren’t able to move forward. We see them as evil, mean-spirited and cruel. We get self-righteous and angry about what they did or said to us. Sometimes, we can even start to believe these Villains did these things deliberately to spite us.
The truth, however is that these people aren’t Villains. They aren’t doing things to hurt us, they are just doing what they want with their life. They have their own agenda, and they are following it for their own reasons.
During the past year, I had noticed how I had started to build up some stories about people in my life who I felt had ‘done me wrong’ and caused me to be held back. The truth was that these were just stories I was making up.
I was making them into Villains so that I could make myself into a Victim.
One day I sat down and wrote a list of all the people in my life who I felt were Villains. I looked at the situations with fresh eyes and asked myself:
What is the story that led me to see this person as a villain?
What could be their agenda or reason for doing what they did?
And then came the most difficult question:
What am I getting out of thinking that they are a villain?
When I looked at it objectively, the truth was that I was making them a Villain, so that I could be a Victim.
The truth was that these people weren’t bad people, they just had different agendas than I did and were following them. That had nothing to do with me, yet I was using the story I’d created to make them into Villains.
You see, whenever you make yourself a Victim you get a secret payoff:
– You get to complain
– You get to make excuses
– You get to feel righteous
– You get sympathy and attention from others
Yet, at the same time, you lose your power. Instead of being an empowered protagonist in your life story, you become a powerless victim. You give your power to the past and to people who probably didn’t even mean to hurt you anyhow.
(Side note: I realize this can sometimes be a tough pill to swallow. I know at times people do very hurtful things and all I can say here is that ‘hurt people hurt people’. If someone truly hurt you intentionally, realize that they are deeply hurt themselves.)
Generally speaking, whenever you feel that someone has wronged you, if you keep holding onto this story, you make them a Villain. And once you have a Villain in your story, you become a Victim.
One of the most interesting things I’ve noticed about people who are successful in life is that they don’t have any Villains in their life. They do have setbacks and people who cause them problems, but they don’t make them into Villains. And for this reason, they are always empowered to rise again and make themselves more successful.
Human beings love to tell stories, especially their own stories.
When you tell yours, make sure to realize that there is no such thing as a Villain, and that you are a hero who can rise.