I honestly feel like I don't lose often these days -- figuratively speaking, of course. Just a couple weeks ago, I was back home shooting ball with my little brother and we lost 2 games in a row while running pickup at the Y. But did I really lose? A few years ago I would have been pretty frustrated about losing in hoop to some high schoolers but this time, it didn't feel like a loss at all. I mean, I was getting to spend quality time with my little brother doing something we both love and also getting vital exercise. Those two things are more than good enough to make it a win for me. I know that sounds cheesy, but it's true. You can probably already see where I'm going with this -- winning and losing is all in your head. I spent way too much of my early life playing the victim and thinking the odds were against me all the time. Woe is me, my family is poor. Woe is me, my dad's not around. Woe is me, I'm a black man in America. Woe is me, nobody understands me :' (. I was runnin' with my woes long before Drake made it cool. Now, don't get me wrong, there are certainly systems in our society like racism, capitalism, and patriarchy that do create literal victims and there are certainly times when the people in your life will hurt you but what I've learned is that just because you are literally the victim of an injustice, that doesn't mean you should behave like a victim. Losers lose because they expect to lose and it's impossible for a victim to win because in order to be a victim, you have to forfeit your power. In order to be a victim, you have to forfeit your hope. You have to become a slave to your circumstances. And I was a slave to my circumstances for a long time but by finally admitting to myself that I did have a bad habit of playing the victim, and by exploring why I became a victim in the first place, I gained the strength to overcome it.

Hurt people hurt people & I can always gauge if someone is truly happy by how they treat other people. You can't be happy if you're trying to hurt someone intentionally -- it's literally not possible. That's because once you have happiness, you want nothing else than to spread it and you know that insulting others won't make them happy. It's always funny to me when people tell me that they can't picture me mad. I guess it's a compliment? But it usually feels more like a challenge. I can say that it does take a lot to piss me off but once I'm there, I can become one of the most hurtful people you would ever meet.  I would often surprise myself with how low I could go in arguments that I'd have with lovers. It's worth pointing out that it was usually only lovers that could get me red hot. Why? Because those are the only people I would ever voluntarily be a victim around. Those were the only people that got see my insides, that knew that I was broken, so when they hurt me, it felt extra offensive. And it made me want to hurt them back.  It's no excuse, but back then I was such a hurt person from the trauma I experienced growing up and it made me want to hurt other people sometimes. I've learned that in order to be a victim, you have to constantly carry pain and pain is not something that should be carried around. To constantly carry pain around is to constantly be afraid of being hurt again. To constantly be afraid of being hurt again is to miss out on life and all of it's beautiful uncertainty. My pain used to be my nametag. I wrongly interpreted people's pity for love and so I used to be eager to show lovers my wounds.  When my mom got sick, it seemed like I couldn't help but tell everyone that I met that my mom was sick. It was like "Hi! My name's Micheal and my mother has cancer. How are you?". I allowed myself to identify fully with my circumstances and that's why I suffered so much from my circumstances. You are so much more than what you're currently going through but the only way to see that is to get up off the floor, dust yourself off, and keep pushing forward without allowing what has happened to you to be an excuse for why you can't win. Everybody gets hurt, everybody gets knocked down, but the difference between great people and mediocre people is that great people get back up and continue to fight, mediocre people stay on the ground and cry "victim".

I used to take life so personally but I've learned that life doesn't happen to you, it just happens. How I react to life happening is what determines not only my happiness, but also my overall human experience. Victims react negatively to every situation that doesn't seem immediately favorable for them. I've learned that you don't ever have to react negatively, regardless to what is happening. If you get a flat tire tomorrow, you could whine and cry and think "why me!?" You could freak out about it and start to spiral down a mental rabbit hole of everything else that could possibly go wrong now that you have a flat tire. You could allow yourself to forfeit all of the peace that's available to you by losing it over something that won't make a bit of difference 5 days from now. Or, you could breathe. You could try to remain relaxed so that you can think clearly so that you'll make the best decisions on how to move forward. You could save yourself unnecessary pain and stress by taking control of the situation instead of being the victim of it. After all, what if unbeknownst to you that flat tire saved you from an accident that would have ended your life? Yes, this world is congested with pain and injustice from top to bottom but as the victim you're not in a position to do anything about that injustice. But maybe that's what you want? Maybe you don't want to be able to do anything about the injustice in the world or even in your own life because that would give you responsibility for it. Maybe you want to play the victim because then you don't have to consider the possibility that even if you aren't responsible for everything that you don't like in your life, you are responsible for everything you don't like about yourself. I would have never been able to fix the things I didn't like about myself if I didn't realize that I had the power to change them. I would have never been able to fix the things I didn't like about myself had I not stopped feeling sorry for myself for long enough to work on making my life better.

A World Health Organization study has shown that only 5% of people worldwide suffer from depression. I'm no doctor but I honestly think that figure is more close to 100%. I think the other 95% of people in that study are lying to themselves due to the stigma around depression and mental illness in general. Depression is said to be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and I believe that imbalance is significantly enhanced by having a victim mindset to begin with.  I've been depressed off and on for the better part of the last 2 years. But thanks to meditation making me aware of my victimhood, I was able to regain some control of my life by reclaiming the power I'd given to my circumstances. That's how I maintained a quality of happiness during those 2 years even in spite of being depressed. "But Micheal, you can't be depressed and happy!" Well, why not? Says who? Most people think that depression and happiness cannot coexist because we've been brainwashed to associate happiness with pleasure when in reality, they are very different things. People dream of being rich so they can afford constant pleasure and comfort and they assume that is the same as happiness but it's obviously not. Isn't it obvious? How many wealthy celebrities have taken their own lives? How many times do we read about those who can literally afford to have pleasure every minute of everyday and are still depressed, miserable people? So there's obviously no correlation between pleasure/comfort and happiness. As my mother got ready to die, I lost desire for just about every pleasure I had; creating, music, women, working out, yoga,  they all went out the window for longer than I was comfortable with. But I maintained a little happiness through my depression because I still tried my best to live in the present. I tried not to unnecessarily stress myself out about a future I couldn't see or a past I couldn't change. I maintained happiness because in spite of how I felt inside, I tried to always greet others with a smile and when they returned their smile, it would hurt a lot less if even only for a moment. I maintained happiness because I claimed depression for what it is, a temporary teacher, and I decided not to let what was happening to me close my heart off to others. It was scary at first because I use to see my pain as the source of my strength, but in letting the victim mindset go, I've gained a strength that I didn't know was possible for me. A strength that allows me to be vulnerable for whoever wants to see without any worry that they might hurt me. A strength that allows me to choose love over fear everyday.

M.S.

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