Life Lessons in the Real World

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13 Simple Words that Could Change Your Life Forever

The following 13 words have the power to change your life:

Victimhood is a position of powerlessness, while accountability is a position of power.

When I was in grade school, bullies picked on me all the time. At lunchtime, I practically had a target on my back, and every schoolyard thug made it his personal mission to call me names and push me around. David Cobb, Todd McGraw, Enoch Peterson and loads of kids I can’t even remember made me the butt of their jokes.

My personal low-point occurred when I was 11 years old. I was walking home from school in the rain, backpack and clothes soaked, shivering from the cold. To speed my retreat from the cold, I took a shortcut through the trail out by the creek. And when I rounded the corner from the trail onto the street, I came face to face with three mean high school kids from a neighboring school.

Their fearless leader, wearing a leather jacket and shades, sprinted to the end of the street to intercept me. “What’s your name?” he said.

“My name is John,” I responded meekly, looking down at my muddy shoes.

“Oh yeah?” he smirked. “Where ya goin’?”

“Home,” I said.

I turned to walk away, but the three high school boys were on my trail.

“You hear that, Jimmy? Poor baby’s goin’ home.”

These boys were twice my size, 5 years older than I was, and 3 times my number. I was the mouse, and they were cats. And I know what happens to the mouse when the cat is done playing with it, so I was highly motivated to get home in a hurry.

I started running, but they knocked me to the ground, took my backpack, and started kicking and punching me. I remember the feeling of their fists against my ribs, the hollow sound it made in my lungs and the feeling of dry air rushing over my vocal chords. The world was a flurry of shadows and pain.

Just when I could take no more, an adult from across the street burst out of his front door and chased the bullies off.

What might have happened if that adult had not appeared?

Soaked and bloody, I retrieved my books from the mud, stuffed them back into my backpack, and walked home. As far as I could tell, I had done absolutely nothing to provoke the attack — I just couldn’t understand why the world was so damned mean.

I stayed home from school for a week, and when I finally went back to school I had internalized my role as the victim. And that’s really when my trouble started.

The bullies at school seemed to sense my lack of confidence the way a lion senses an injured gazelle.

Looking back, it’s clear that I was, indeed, a victim in this particular situation. But life makes everyone a victim from time to time – that’s not really the point.

The point is that I allowed myself to become a perpetual victim. I learned to blame bullies for picking on me, teachers for hassling me, and friends for betraying me. I learned to focus on the bad things that other people did to me instead of the good things I could do to improve my life.

I even blamed my girlfriend for the disaster that was my first real relationship. Victimhood was a lifestyle, and I had started living it.

But you know something? Somewhere along the way, I finally realized the truth in those 13 little words, and I’ll repeat them here because they’re worth repeating:

Victimhood is a position of powerlessness, while accountability is a position of power.

The only person I can control is myself. So when I accept responsibility for something, I am giving myself power to change it. Yes, life will victimize me, but I cannot control all the random external forces that may harm me – I can really only control myself. Therefore, the position of accountability is the most powerful position of all because it encourages us to look inside ourselves and make necessary changes.

Was I really accountable for all the abuse I endured at the hands of bullies when I was younger? Partly, yes. I lacked social skills, proper hygiene, and decent dress. Plus, I had become so defensive over the years that I reacted to every encounter with hostility. So you see, I contributed to my own plight. I attracted unwanted attention by behaving in an unwanted way.

And it was only when I recognized my own power to change myself that my life really started to improve.

Today, my life is completely different. I get along well with people, and I am rarely victimized by anyone. And the difference cannot be attributed to the nature of the world, for the world is largely the same today as it was when I was a child.

The difference occurred within me.

I stopped thinking of myself as a victim, and started thinking of myself as accountable for my own problems. I fixed what was broken inside me.

Do you think of yourself as a victim? Do you spend time wondering why people treat you so badly? Do you blame your financial, emotional, and professional problems on someone or something other than yourself?

If so, know this: When you attribute your problems to something other than yourself, you give that thing power over you, and you make yourself its victim.

Sometimes, it’s better to take responsibility, even if the fault is not your own. Only by taking responsibility for your problems can you take control of your life.


25 Responses to “13 Simple Words that Could Change Your Life Forever”

  • […] the course of my life. If you’re interested in reading about my experiences in detail, click here: 13 Simple Words that Could Change Your Life. Otherwise, I’ll summarize for you here in this thread: In a nutshell, I have noticed throughout my […]

  • Gina says:

    This was a moving story, John. I was picked on by bullies when I was younger too. I relate to this!

    And you are so right about the power of personal accountability!

  • Travis says:

    You can definitely tell the difference between the ones who take responsibility for the things that happen in their lives and the ones who blame everything on something other than themselves. The ones who take responsibility are the ones who work to improve their life and are always moving forward in life. The ones who blame, and render themselves and the “victim” are the ones who stay fixated, and wait for something to happen. Sorry to hear that you had a rough childhood, but the important thing to know is that you learned from it and came out of the situation better.

  • JohnPlace says:

    Thanks for sharing your comment, Travis. And welcome to my blog.

    Although it can sometimes be challenging, I have learned over the years to look at every hurdle as a growth opportunity.

  • JoN says:

    Thanks for this article

  • RM says:

    Again a great article, have subscribed the Google Reader feed to you blog and look forward to lots more articles like this.

  • JohnPlace says:

    Thank you, RM.

    Thank you for subscribing, and I look forward to chatting with you further. :)

  • shypys says:

    Very well said. I realize now, that I hold myself accountable for almost everything, and perhaps am overdoing it. Maybe a little moderation seems to be in order for me. :p

  • JohnPlace says:

    Thanks for the comments, Shypys.

    All things in moderation, as they say. :)

  • […] Place posted 13 words that can change your life. I seem to be seeing this a lot lately, and I agree fully. Sadly, I think many people can never […]

  • […] months ago, I wrote about my experiences with grade school bullies and how I had learned to be helpless as a child through their attacks. If I could learn to be […]

  • BigFatAshMumma says:

    You are cool, awesome and wise for sharing this – I’ve learned and learning so much more. I will return and read some more.

    Keep up the good work!

  • […] 13 Simple Words That Could Change Your Life Forever – A true story of how I dealt with bullies in gradeschool and the lasting impression it made […]

  • […] We’ve discussed the benefits of walking and how it improves one’s self-confidence. Here are some tips on how to properly walk with a goal towards improving self-confidence: […]

  • […] this in your own time and sometimes, in the comfort of your own home. Building your self esteem and confidence never was so […]

  • […] Confidence is actually half the battle won in mot situations, as well as being a very powerful psychological effect on everyone around you. Confidence is belief, it is purpose and it is movement, it drives you towards a situation where failure is not an option and ‘trying your best’ is just a popular euphemism – even a cliché you might call it. […]

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  • Onge says:

    Not sure I agree whole hartedly, I do believe that wallowing in self pitty is detructive.
    And that Narrcissists can sense this and are attracted to it.
    But I don’t think blaming yourself for the actions of every screwed up person is going to be good for the self esteem.
    Lets face it there are people like those bullies who are seriously messed up in the head.
    I thimk the key is to nurture faith and confidence in one self and accept that you cant control everything.(take the good with the bad)
    But where I agree is that you should not place blame on others for everything that goes wrong. Afterall, a vulcher will always act like a vulcher, thats its nature, not its fault.
    But please if I have it wrong explain it to me, I will listen with an open mind.
    I think you may have stumbled on a area that need improvment in me.
    How whould you deal with those bullies now?

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