Life is a series of events. Any event in life can be summed up with simple descriptive phrases: Good times, Bad day, Just OK. The list goes on. Some events can also lead to labeling. The birth of a first child makes one a mother or a father. Publish your first book and you are an author. Sell your first painting and you are an artist. Beat cancer and you are a survivor. Encounter domestic violence and you are a victim. You see those last two labels? Why are they different? When someone dies as the result of an act of violence is usually called the victim. So why are the survivors also victims?

Often the answer is because in many cases, when a person is a victim, especially in a case resulting in death, that person can no longer react. When you survive cancer, you beat all odds and are still here to live. When you survive domestic violence, you are still here to live. Yet society and even the person with the personal experience, they refer to themselves often as a victim. The only way to change that way of thinking is to change the vocabulary we use.

So how does one begin to move from being a victim to being a survivor?

  • Own the experience: Own your own experience and the place it has in your life. It happened and it helped shaped you.
  • Provide the response you want when this life event comes up: Let’s face it, it is usually not a positive and happy memory. Generally the response is to shutter and feel sadness, or guilt, shame or frustration. Again, all are normal responses. But these responses lead to stress. You can choose how you respond to the memory. When the memory comes up, if you look at it with the mind of a survivor, rather than the mind of a victim, you carry far less stress, if any. If you own being a survivor rather than a victim, you can respond by looking at it as an achievement. Now some may say: “That’s not fair. All I did is live. In many cases, that is not the end result.” True. But there is a place for mourning. And while any life lost is sad, we are not talking about the victims. We are talking about YOU. YOU are a survivor! Respond by changing the vocabulary you use to: “I am a survivor!” — and not, “I am a victim.”
  • Create Change: Instead of stress, sadness, guilt, shame or frustration, you get to experience life and all it has to offer. A survivor continues to life. A victim is gone. You are still here. I am still here. We are survivors!

You can apply these thoughts and vocabulary to any area in life. If you have a bad day at work, you can decide if you are a victim or your boss’s ridicule or if you managed to survive that day with your compassion and integrity intact. If you are cut off in traffic, you can decide to react in a manner safe to everyone, not give into thoughts of ‘road rage’. And perhaps this leads to you being more aware and alert—and you survived. No one was hurt. Are the kids on your last nerve? You can get down and aggravated. You can yell and act all ‘whoa is me’ because they do not listen. Or you can put everyone down for a nap, or if they are older, perhaps go for a walk. In turn, you survived this moment in parenthood, and so did they!

You choose whether you are a victim or you are a survivor.

By just changing your vocabulary and eliminating negative self-talk, you can own being a survivor. Let eliminate the victim mentality. Start by saying this simple affirmation:

I am a survivor.
I survived yesterday.
I will survive today.
I am a survivor!

Now own it! Live life with a survivor mentality. Couldn’t we all use less stress? Life as a victim removes purpose. A victim’s life had purpose but a victim’s life has ended. Life as a survivor has purpose and life continues from one moment to the next. So are you a victim or a survivor? If you are a survivor, great! Keep on living this beautiful thing called life. If you are a victim, there is hope! You woke up this morning. You get another day, another chance at life. So change your vocabulary. Live life with a survivor mentality and start living the life you deserve!