Victim or Hero: Which One Are You?

03/24/2015 12:18 pm ET | Updated May 24, 2015


What a question!

All of a sudden the two words seem extreme -- victim and hero. You might feel they have nothing to do with you. But they absolutely do.

You have a full life and things happen to you every day. You have successes and failures, troubles and happiness, obstacles to overcome and things to celebrate. One minute you're on top of the world because you landed a great new client, and the next you're cursing because your email was hacked.

I'm not trivializing the meaning of these words because being a victim can be a horrible thing -- when someone steals your identity or physically hurts you. But helping out in some important way can save a person's life and that is being a hero.

Hero or victim is a state of mind and a state of heart.

What's your general state of mind?

Are you easy going, positive and pretty happy or do you complain, have judgments and feel things are against you?

Are you self-supporting or self-defeating?

These qualities can be covered by the words hero or victim. It's that's basic.

How much do you see yourself as a victim? Misunderstood and followed around by a black cloud that doesn't miss a chance to rain all over you. You just can't get a break.

How much do you see yourself as a hero? A person of integrity, who works hard, comes through and truly cares about people. You even use what has happened to you in your life to be a kinder person. It's an important element of being a hero.

I'm writing this intentionally because hero and victim are real things and I'm encouraging you to have a hero's state of mind and purpose in life.

'Why is this happening to me?'

We come into the world as a tiny new baby and instantly start making choices. We choose who to trust; counting on people to love us, helping us to grow and be strong in the world.

Life can be harsh, even horrible, but the choices you make about how you'll live your life are critical. Either you'll choose to live as a hero -- someone who perseveres, moves forward through any physical and mental tests -- or you'll live as a victim, blaming the world for your troubles.

Certainly there are real victims who have no control over their circumstances. Victims of war, earthquakes, unfortunate people abused and born into extreme poverty.

But what enables someone to rise above their pain, tirelessly working to overcome their suffering and improve their life?

What makes them survivors, caretakers, champions, givers, warriors, heroes -- often quiet, unnoticed leaders in their quest to live a good life and have others benefit?

Author and teacher Don Miguel Ruiz gives this answer: "The difference between a warrior and a victim is that the victim represses and the warrior reframes."

When you take steps to change, to "reframe" and be in charge of your present and your future you're being heroic. You believe in yourself and either you work to be free or you remain a captive of your problems and situation.

What's your story?

When I was seven years old I was hospitalized for months with a life-threatening illness. It was traumatic, but all I could think about was getting home to my family. I wanted my life back and I wouldn't give up. I had a powerful drive to live even with all the pain and fear I endured.

Coming out of the hospital, I had to learn to walk again. I was restricted from sports and on a special diet. Yes, I felt like a victim often asking "why me," but my desire to get through this trouble was bigger than my self pity. I made a choice to change what happened to me, to get over my obstacles, consciously working to heal my heart and all my physical and emotional challenges. I found strength I didn't know I had.

Every person we know and admire has a story and we love them because of their saga. A "hero's saga" is the ability to passionately overcome hardships, to better yourself and to give back to others.

Here are four people I admire, personal heroes to me who chose not to be victims:

Helen Keller

Once I knew only darkness and stillness. My life was without past or future, but a little word from the fingers of another fell into my hand that clutched at emptiness, and my heart leaped to the rapture of living.

Nelson Mandela

I will not leave South Africa, nor will I surrender. Only through hardship, sacrifice and militant action can freedom be won. The struggle is my life. I will continue fighting for freedom until the end of my days.

Christopher Reeve

"A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles."

Viktor Frankl

"Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

A hero's choice

We emulate friends, authors, celebrities, politicians, soldiers, artists -- all kinds of people we see as heroes.

• Who comes to your mind and why?

• What have they done that moves you, raises you right up determined to do better?

• Who inspires you to grow and improve?

• Who gives you courage?

• Who empowers you to reach out and give back?

Please: Use them to be the person you want to be and live as a hero! Put yourself in power no matter how overwhelming things may be.

It's your choice to live as a hero, to believe it and achieve it. That's what heroes do. They believe in themselves. They trust the world and other people. And they do the work to get there.

Go ahead -- Make your choice. Make up your mind to be a hero. You'll find your way there! Take action!