Victory Over Victimhood by Dr. Robert Toth

Dentaltown Magazine

Three steps toward a better mindset

by Robert Toth, DMD

Self-identifying as a victim is like eating candy: It is satisfying in the moment, but it is bad for your health. With simple awareness, this habit is very easy to break.

We all have bad days in the office. Chaos is right around the corner. There is no escaping it. What is important is how we respond to stressful situations. Do we fight to overcome obstacles, or do we choose to feel victimized?

Why would anyone choose to be a victim?
It is far easier to claim victimhood than to strive for greatness. If we can convince others (and ourselves) that we are victims of unjust circumstances, then surely, sympathy is due. Victims quickly become addicted to the attention and social goodies they receive.

It is no mystery that some people have an inclination toward victimhood. To be a victim is to do nothing. It is our default setting because it is the path of least resistance. When the storm hits, how do we continue to fight against all odds? That is the mystery.

With these three techniques, anyone can incrementally shift their mindset from victim to winner. Step one is to change the office environment by removing employees who don’t want what is best for you. Steps two and three focus on rewiring your higher levels of consciousness. The lens we choose to view the world determines our reality.

A note on perception
We all experience a different version of reality.

We use our senses to make meaning of objective events, which plays like a movie in our head. Due to the sheer volume of information, our brains take mental shortcuts for efficiency. In a matter of seconds, we decide which information is relevant and cherry pick the parts that align with our current set of beliefs. Our worldview is fragile and new ideas threaten its structure.

In the final analysis, our movies are radically different from one another. We are all watching different movies on the same screen. Interestingly, we all think we are watching the correct version of the movie.

It is important to remember that your identity is tightly wrapped up in the stories you tell yourself, and you have the power to rewrite those stories.

Step 1: Eliminate negativity
“My ex refuses to watch the kids this weekend. I was supposed to go out with my girlfriend.”

“That one patient is coming in. Remember him? He’s awful!”

“Susan forgot to take the trash out last night. I came in this morning and everything was a mess!”

“Can today just be over?”

Do you feel the energy draining from your body? This staff member self-identifies as a victim and chooses to focus on negativity. She drains your energy for nothing in return. Sometimes we are so depleted from work, we can’t provide our loved ones with the attention they deserve.

There is price to pay for surrounding ourselves with negative people. When we give others consent to act without principles, we hollow ourselves out. It removes some of the pleasure from our work. We tell ourselves it’s all right. It is not worth complaining about. It is easier to sweep it under the rug.

But every day we become a little less resilient. In time, we become the people we surround ourselves with. As my grandfather says, “You are who your friends are.”

Once you’ve identified the bad apples, it is best to let them go immediately. This may sound harsh, but people rarely change. Change requires a high level of self-awareness and willpower. Not only does the person need to perceive a problem, but they have to want to change. It is impossible for a person to change if they don’t want to improve. Step one is easy: Eliminate outside forces that seek to destroy you.

Step 2: Embrace suffering
The second law of thermodynamics states that the entropy or randomness of the universe increases. No matter how much time we spend ordering our lives for predictability, life throws a curveball. Randomness rules our lives. A crown doesn’t fit, a patient gets stuck in traffic, the X-ray sensor breaks, and your charting software goes down during peak hours.

How do we respond when chaos strikes? How do we restore order? We have two options. We can either feel sorry for ourselves or we can frame a bad situation as an opportunity for growth. A moderate level of stress makes us tougher. It gives us confidence to handle similar problems in the future.

Try to reframe a bad situation as an opportunity for growth. If you didn’t sleep well, can you still own the day? If you had a difficult patient, can you stay cool and upbeat in the face of conflict? Are you unshakable? Prove it!

This may sound irrational. After all, aren’t we just self-deluding ourselves into believing a bad situation is actually good? Yes, but if self-delusion makes us more optimistic, then it has the desired effect.

Of course, reframing has its limits. Growth occurs at the edge of our comfort zone, but not too far beyond. My father made the leap to go digital a few years ago. In one day, he switched to digital X-rays, charting and scheduling. His staff struggled to take X-rays and schedule appointments.

Patients began piling up in the waiting room. It was total mayhem. He described the experience as the worst day of his life. When we wander too deep into the unknown, it is hell on earth.

Step 3: Think positively
“I’ve had thousands of problems in my life, most of which never actually happened.”
— Mark Twain

When a negative thought enters our head, we have a tendency to believe it to be real. It’s funny, but most of the problems in our head have nothing to do with reality. For example, a patient might say, “Thanks, doc, I was worried about this all week. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.” 

He suffered more from a negative thought than from the procedure itself.

When we choose to think about something positive in the midst of chaos, our mood changes instantly. This ancient technique is known as gratitude meditation. Tibetan nuns and monks use this simple, but powerful intervention to control their emotions.

Focus on the positive elements of life. You have a warm bed to sleep in, food at every meal, and a loving family. Millions of people are not that lucky. Take a few moments to think of three people that you appreciate. Practice daily gratitude by thanking your assistant for every task no matter how menial, compliment your staff daily, and reward effort.

In the end …
We need to be careful of placing ourselves in the role of a victim. There is nothing to be gained from victimhood, aside from momentary sympathy. We can get addicted to our own self-pity. It gives us an excuse to delay action, leaving us with a feeling of hopelessness.

The world is an insane place. We want to make it better. To manifest change in the world, we must first change our perception of the world. This means reframing bad situations as opportunities for growth. Think positive. When you view the world through an optimistic lens, you become a beacon of light. Others will be in awe of your greatness. Have courage, use your judgment, and protect yourself from uncritical pity.

Author Bio
Author Robert Toth, DMD, earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Delaware and his DMD from Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine. He is the owner of the Dangerous Dentist Blog, where he motivates dentists to be bold and live life on their terms.


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