05/01/2014 06:26 pm ET Updated Jul 01, 2014

Stop Being a Victim! Take Responsibility

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I had a good friend I'll call Tara. When she got a grant to get an advanced degree at a school far from New York, we promised to keep our friendship going long distance. At first, we talked on the phone and emailed a lot. When Tara asked me to edit her papers I was happy to help her. When she complained about how much she missed certain products from New York, I sent them to her. Then I stopped hearing from her. When she finally called, she said she'd met a guy she was falling in love with. I was happy for her.

After that I hardly heard from her. During this time my first book was published. I thanked Tara in the acknowledgements for her support and sent her one of the first copies I got. I was so excited. When two weeks passed and I didn't hear from from her, I called to make sure she'd gotten it. She was unapologetic as she admitted she had it for over a week.

I lit into her, saying she was a lousy friend now that she had a boyfriend. I reiterated all the things I'd done for her since she left New York and asked how she could ignore such a good friend. She became defensive and angrily said it was my choice to do those things for her and I expected too much from her.

As I listened to my whining rant, a lightbulb went on. I realized my benevolent behavior gave people permission to do as they pleased to me. And it was up to me to stop it! Taking responsibility for how people treat me gave me the power to change my whole life.

It was my choice to help Tara with her schoolwork and send her things she missed from home. I was so giving that she took me for granted. My awakening freed me from the anger I used to carry around like a black cloud over my life, as I recognized I can't blame others for what I allow them to do. People took me for granted because I let them. Men hurt me because I didn't leave. I now take responsibility and my actions set boundaries.

Do you complain about how people treat you? The truth is they usually can't do what you won't allow. Taking responsibility gives you power to change what you don't like and stop feeling like a victim. Victims blame other people for being unhappy. People pleasers often see themselves as victims of people who take advantage of them. That used to be me. They suffer and complain about those who did them wrong. But it's your choice to keep giving and accept behavior you don't like, or not accept it. People don't make you a victim. You volunteer. No one can do hurtful things to you or take advantage unless you allow it.

Taking responsibility for how you're treated is a power move -- better than whining to others and being angry. Controlling YOU establishes indirect control over others, like I discussed in my last article -- "Accepting the Reality of People." Pay attention to how you allow folks to treat you. Give yourself a good dose of self-love and set boundaries.

Asking "Why me?" reinforces feeling like a victim. Instead, focus your energy on how to change situations. Many people allow themselves to be a victim of poor treatment if they believe they're not "good enough." That's why building self-love is so important.

People pleasers are often victims of their insecurities, such as: "I'm not thin enough so I'd better be agreeable, even if I don't like it." Or "Other people seem better than me at work so I'll do all the grunt work, even though it's not my job." Everyone has their own issues that make them insecure enough to be so "nice" that people walk all over them. Then they blame their unhappiness on how others treat them. But the truth is, you make yourself a victim.

It's your choice to adopt a victim mentality or change your response to what you don't like. Nobody can take advantage of you if you don't let them. Someone can't take all your time unless you give it. If you do many favors for friends who never help you, stop giving them your time and energy! Being nice should make you feel good, not like an unhappy victim of people who abuse your kindness.

If you say, "He makes me feel unattractive," it's your choice to accept his unkind words and feel unattractive! Your response determines whether you're a victim of hurtful words or a powerful person who doesn't accept unfair criticism. People can't consistently do negative things unless you allow them to. YOU control how folks treat you. It's your choice to agree to what you don't want to do. It's your choice to listen when people say hurtful things. Deciding to ditch the victim role and refuse to allow behavior you don't like attracts better treatment and increases self-respect.

Take responsibility for your choices and how people treat you. I haven't felt rage since learning to take responsibility. Taking responsibility for what causes your anger gives you power to change it. Then you're charge, not your rage!

Nicely tell someone who regularly says things you don't like that you'll walk away or hang up the phone if it doesn't stop, and do it! Politely turn down requests you don't want to do. Let your response to people show that you've changed. You don't have to yell at the person or get nasty. Just gently explain that you're doing things differently now and you hope they'll accept it in the spirit you feel. Slowly set stronger boundaries.

Do you loan money and then get angry when it's not repaid? Take responsibility! I'd make loans and they tried to embarrass me when I asked them to ante up! The nice girl in me cowered. Then I learned not to ASK for it back. I TOLD people it was time to repay me, even in installments! Now I rarely loan money. And if I do, I make an agreement in writing. Nobody uses someone who won't allow it. You can be a very nice person, giving when you can, when you take responsibility for how people treat you.

Taking responsibility set me free! Accepting that I allow most of what people do to me calmed my anger and helped me curtail what I don't like. Now I'm vigilant about what I allow. I called Tara and apologized for my attitude. I gave to her freely and she owed me nothing. But from now on, I wouldn't be so giving. I no longer felt angry, and our friendship survived. And I've forgiven myself for not doing it sooner. That's important or you'll turn the anger onto yourself, which is unnecessary. Taking responsibility reduces stress, which is a loving gift to you.

I take responsibility for everything that goes on in my life. This gives me the power to change it.