Rage, Blame, and Rejecting the Victim Role

August 17, 2016
Kelly Coffey

Telling it like it is doesn’t have to mean embracing our own defeat.

My hair was sticking to the back of my neck and arms. My shorts and t-shirt were damp. I was on the sidewalk in front of our building, moving Barbies from one concrete square fantasy world to another.

I was having fun, but my mother needed a break. Maybe a cigarette. Maybe a beverage. Maybe more sleep. Maybe just time alone. 1

“Kelly, it’s nap time.”

“I’m not tired, Mommy,” I said, doing my best to keep dragons from eating princesses.

Never one for patience, she went straight for the ace.

“If you take a nap right now, we’ll go to the park after you wake up.”


“I promise.”

The park? The PARK! We almost never went to the PARK! My brain nearly short-circuited trying to imagine all at once everything I could do at the PARK! Would I spend more time in the grass, or looking at the East River? Would I swing, or would I play hopscotch? Did I still have that sweet hopscotch piece – the wooden one with melted wax on it to give it some weight? I could maybe even swim in the pool!


My imagination came alive like a package of Pop Rocks in a mouthful of Coke.

“OK!” I said. I left the princesses to fend for themselves, trotted into our apartment, into my little room, and into bed.

When I woke up, the sky was dim. I remembered the promise of the park and ran into the living room.

I saw my mother sitting in front of the TV. My heart sank.

“Can we go to the park now?” I asked in a little voice, hoping it sounded polite enough and not-annoying-enough.

“No!” she said, like I was a fool for asking “You slept too long.”

“But I didn’t want to sleep at all…”

“Obviously your body needed it.”

“But you promised…”

“One more word about it and no TV tonight.”

Standing there, I felt something like big, strong hands wrap around my heart and lungs and squeeze. I felt achy tension in my lower back. It was the felt sensation of disappointment, of powerlessness, and of betrayal. And rage.

My body was flooded with rage, which most women like me eventually realize is just fear wearing big girl pants and trying not to cry.

My brain linked the feeling and situation. Rage with mother. Powerlessness with mother. In that and other early life moments I took on a role that became familiar – victim.

Rage, Blame, and Victimhood www.strongcoffey.com/2017

I grew up. Sometimes, I didn’t get the job. I didn’t get invited. I got dumped. I got stranded on I-95 in New Haven with smoke pouring out from under the hood of my POS car. I didn’t lose weight or I gained back the weight I had lost. When these things happened, I’d get angry at myself, and often how I coped with that anger was to assume the role of victim, and blame my situation on someone or something outside of myself.

Sometimes that someone was my mother.

But the rage / blame phenomenon didn’t stop with my mom. If I got mad at myself for not consistently eating better food, I might blame my boss for being a cheapskate, not paying me enough to buy good food. If I got mad at myself for not working out, I might blame work for taking up so much of my time, leaving little or none to go to the gym.

Placing blame felt good for a second. It took my mind off the discomfort in my body – the sensation of rage and all its parts 2 – but, ultimately, as is the case with so many quick-acting, channel-changing “coping strategies”, placing blame only made things worse.

I was not treating myself well 3 and blaming that on someone or something else only helped me feel justified in continuing to treat myself like crap.

In my own head, placing blame felt like power. In reality, by placing blame and changing nothing, I was embracing my own defeat.

Blaming other people for our situation is one way we react to shame, the feeling that we are broken and fundamentally flawed. Our knee-jerk reactions to shame keep us stuck in old patterns, sabotaging our efforts to eat better, to move more, or to treat ourselves with care in a million different ways.

Rage, Blame, and Victimhood www.strongcoffey.com/2017

To break out of the cycle of shame and self-sabotage, we can practice becoming aware of our tendency to blame others. Once we’re aware, we have a choice – to stay in the victim role and change nothing, or to exercise the power we have in this moment to make another choice, and in doing so, create positive, if incremental, change.

The next time you get mad at yourself for not eating as well as you’d like, instead of blaming your parents for modeling piss poor eating habits and then hitting the drive-thru, you might choose to drive yourself to the grocery store. Once you’re there, you can buy the best food your budget will allow. It may not be much, but it will be an improvement.

The next time you get angry at yourself for not working out as much as you’d like, instead of blaming your ungodly work schedule and sitting in front of the TV, you might choose to go for an evening walk. It may not be much, but it will be activity your body desperately craves.

The next time you get mad at yourself for oversleeping and “wrecking the day,” instead of blaming your mom for not giving you enough time / love / attention to keep you from feeling like a basket case all the damn time, you might choose to hop out of bed and bring yourself to the park. Yes, The PARK!

I’m not saying your rage isn’t justified. It probably is. Maybe your boss doesn’t pay you enough to eat as well as you’d like to or think you should. Maybe there isn’t enough time in a day for you to exercise “perfectly.” Maybe your mother didn’t give you the love and attention you needed to develop strong self-care practices and unshakable inner peace. Me neither. If life has dealt you a less-than-ideal hand, moving out of the victim role and dropping blame can feel next to impossible.  If it does, cut yourself some slack. Don’t try to do it perfectly. Just try to take better care of yourself in meaningful, reasonable, do-able ways.  This dropping blame and nurturing self-care thing is a practice. Let yourself be a beginner.  Give yourself, and the process, time. Rage, Blame, and Victimhood www.strongcoffey.com/2017

It’s worth it.

You’re worth it.

And if you don’t believe me, try acting like it until you do. (wink)


  1. I say this without judgment. My mom had her own shit, just like I have mine. She had plenty of reasons to want to check out, just like I still sometimes do. No mother is perfect, including me. Well, OK, maybe I am. Nah, just joshin’. I’m a mess.
  2. Disappointment, powerlessness, betrayal, sadness….
  3. AKA not eating foods that nourished me, not abstaining from foods that lowered my quality of life, not moving my body…


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Showing 8 comments
  • Michelle

    Love this.

  • Kelly

    Kelly – I needed to read these words more than you know today. I kept saying “yes!!” the whole post. Thanks for reminding me I gotta get my sh*t together. Keep the truth coming! Love it. K

  • Sheila

    The blame was placed on other people and circumstances because there was no self-worth. I wasn’t even worthy of the blame. Good thing I know different now.

    Thank you for the awareness and truth.

  • Mayra


    This is so absolutely beautiful. I can see the connections and the resistance to looking at it. And your writing allows me to be with it. The ‘it may seem impossible’, ‘don’t try to be perfect’, ‘incremental changes’, is so helpful. There’s so much to see about it. It’s enough right now to just be conscious of it. In fact, that’s the biggest part.

    Wow. Thank you..

  • Laura

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I actually pride myself on not placing blame on other people. Somewhere along the way, someone told me that blaming people for how your life turns out in big and small ways takes away your independence, and that scared the pee out of me. So, pretty good at that part (though I do slip up from time to time).
    Now, blaming stuff on THINGS. That’s a blind spot I didn’t even realize I had and it’s a BIG one. Blaming the hot weather for staying in and not walking. Blaming my diabetes for making me too tired to move. Getting overwhelmed by thinking I have to care for myself PERFECTLY if I’m going to do it at all, and then finding something on which to pin my feelings of defeat. Like, if I can’t work out for 30 minutes because this or that ate up my time, I won’t settle for doing 15, because that’s just not enough, not PERFECT enough, in my head. Wow.
    So, thank you for pointing out that it’s a process of self care, and it’s baby steps sometimes, but that’s all you need to do. When I do the baby steps, it feels so good that I want to keep going, at least a little longer than I thought I would, and I glow inside with self-love and a feeling of accomplishment even with a little care. I hate that I sabotage myself with grand plans so much of the time, perfection is so insidious and such a killer of joy, spontaneity, and action. I’m going to tape this blog post to my mirror, so I can remember to do small things with love for myself and leave behind the bad, helpless feelings more often. Sharing this with friends, too. 🙂

  • Calley

    I’m sitting here smack dab in the middle of mommy shame. You told that story so well, I cried. I felt every ounce of that little girls pain. Fortunately, I’m very good at not blaming anything outside of myself. Unfortunately, I’m extremely hard on myself. Hence the mommy shame I’m feeling in this moment. All I can do now is give my precious babies a big hug when they get home from school, stay present with them, and do better. Thank you Kelly, for shaking me up.

  • Elena

    Thank you thank you thank you!
    I just discovered your site and you hit the nail on the head. Very insightful, funny and relevant to my life right now. Tired of wallowing in self hatred and frustration at how I’ve been unsuccessful at change in the past, I got inspired by Tony Robbins’ quote : you get what you tolerate. Slowly, one decision at a time, I’m taking myself out of victim mode and doing what I (the real me) really wants. Be healthier, stronger, in charge of my stuff. It’s no one else’s responsibility but my own.

  • Joanne

    I saw this the other day on social media –
    you have two choices of pain – the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.
    I know I have for so long chosen to live with the pain of regret. NOW – I try to choose wisely, the first option. and most times it hurts. but its more satisfying and lasts longer and it gets easier each time you do it. Making better choices with food, exercise, behavior etc etc.

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