I’ve been working with several individuals lately around the concepts of victimization and ownership and I suspect there are others who also struggle with creating these boundaries within their own lives. To define these terms I think it’s necessary to speak about them together. With regard to victimization, this, to me, is when we are seeking something from others that we don’t feel we can adequately fulfill within ourselves. When we are taking ownership, we are speaking about a recognition of our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors with an awareness of their impact on both others and ourselves.

Do you know someone, or perhaps you can notice this within yourself, who seeks repeated affirmation? Someone who believes they can’t accomplish their goals because of someone else or a situation they feel they’ve been put in? Someone who undermines an interaction by insisting their emotions dominate? Someone who garners attention by repeated ‘woes me’ or a ‘look what I can do’? Someone who blames others? These are all forms of victimization. You see, victims dismiss the idea of choice. Victims insist on allowing others’ reactions to them to determine how they ultimately feel about themselves. Victims look to others to meet their needs.

Ownership is about actively seeking to recognize how our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are serving our lives, for better or for worse. It’s also about recognizing how those elements impact the relationships within our life. Ownership implies an intention for self-awareness and self-growth intended to lead a person to make choices that are a reflection of the life they are seeking. Ownership takes skills, victimization does not.

Now, while we may want to believe that we are more evolved in some areas of our life than others let us also consider the paradigm that states: How you do one thing is how you do everything. What this paradigm references is that victimization and ownership are both a reflection of our mindset, and that mindset does not magically mature in one situation and not another. It’s a filter on how we perceive life – all of life. We may offer restraint in our behaviors in certain situations but likely our mindset is still grinding the same gears leaving us to bottle up our emotions or release them during another situation, likely inappropriately.

So, how do we gain ownership? What I’m seeing is that ownership is proportional to self-awareness. If we are able to name our emotions. If we are able to slow down situations to hear the thoughts flying through the mind. If we are able to find space between what triggers us and how we respond. Take a moment, right now, and see if you can name the emotion you are experiencing. Are there any emotions within the emotion you named? For example, is impatience buried within your feelings of anger? Perhaps there is a myriad of emotions compressed together to create a feeling of being annoyed? Now, I want you to listen to the words running through your mind. I’m going to wager to say they harken words you’ve heard before in your life. Or, maybe those words are even steering you away from a memory that you are trying to avoid? You see, the more we can understand what we are feeling and what is happening in our self-talk, the greater the opportunity for us to recognize the beliefs we are holding surrounding them. This is how we build our ownership, as we can only work to heal and grow that which we are aware of.

I am reminded of the Tony Robbins quote that: “Relationships are where we go to give.” What he is expressing is that our needs are met through giving, yet there are so many people who believe that they need something from their partner, their siblings, their parents. Let’s be clear, we may want things from these relationships, but we are able to meet those needs ourselves. We may want the acceptance of a parent, but that adult human has their own mindset which is beyond our control, thus, if we base our self-worth on something out of control then self-worth will never be a stable attribute for us. If we need attention, that likely also means we need validation. But, how might we validate ourselves? By accepting ourselves as we are, even as we transition and grow. No one else can make you believe something that you yourself don’t already know to be true. When we explore life in a way that develops those parts of ourselves that have a need to heal, that is taking ownership.

It can be painful to uncover these truths about ourselves sometimes, but knowing that you are owning your life allows you to fully experience it.