Accepting being the villain in someone else's story

In this podcast (episode #560) and blog, I talk about how to manage being the “villain” in someone else’s story.

It is impossible to always be the “good guy” in life. You may not see yourself as the villain, but someone else might. This is sometimes the case with people you have had an intense relationship with, especially if the relationship ended badly or is in the process of ending. It can be an incredibly frustrating process, hard to deal with, particularly if it’s a close friend or family member.

The fact of the matter is that every decision you make affects the people in your life. And, in some cases, when you take control of your own life and make assertive decisions that are right for you, you may end up becoming someone else’s “villain”. Maybe you decide you aren’t happy in a relationship and realize it needs to end. The person you end it with may make you the villain of the story. Maybe you decide to take a stand and speak out against an injustice you see. You may become the villain in the eyes of someone who thrived in that injustice. Or maybe you just decided to make some changes in your life and become a different person. The people who want the “old you” may make you the villain in their story because this “new you” does not fit their plan. And, sometimes, a family member will make you the villain instead of accepting you.

To manage this, I recommend using the Neurocycle mind management method I have developed and studied over the past three decades, which I discuss in detail in my book Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess and my app Neurocycle. The Neurocycle is a way to harness your thinking power that I have developed and researched over the past three decades. It has 5 steps:

1. Gather awareness of how you feel mentally and physically, and your perspective when you are dealing with someone who is making you their villain. Ask yourself questions like: 

  • What are my emotions as I gather awareness of the situation? Frustration, hurt, irritation, anger?
  • How do I respond? What is my behavior?
  • What do I feel in my body when I am around this person or think about what is happening? Queasy stomach, heart palitpations?
  • What is my perspective of the situation versus what I think the other person may be thinking?

2. Reflect on how you feel. Take the time to think about the situation and your actions. Consider whether there is any truth to the other person's perspective, or if there are areas where you could have acted differently.

3. Write down your reflections to help organize your thinking and release pent-up energy.

4. Recheck: think about what your thoughts and feelings are trying to tell you. What does it say about what happened to you? What is your “antidote”— how will you work through how this situation is affecting you?  

Recognize that everyone makes mistakes and has moments where they may be perceived negatively by others. Embrace your imperfections and accept that you are not always in control of how others perceive you. 

Try to also empathize with the other person's feelings and experiences. Understand that their perception of you may be influenced by their own past experiences, biases, and emotions. Stop trying to convince them of all you have done to help them, and just accept that they are going to have to come to that realization themselves. Accept that they may never do this, but this doesn't make you a bad person—an important part of growth is coming to terms with the fact that you cannot fix someone else. 

5. Active reach: This is a thought or action you need to practice daily to help you reconceptualize what you worked through in the previous step. What are you going to do each day to give yourself the time and mental space needed to deal with what is bothering you and turn this situation into something constructive? How will you learn, grow and move on? Here are some suggestions: 

  • Practice self-compassion and self-forgiveness. Understand that it's okay to make mistakes and that you are human. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer to a friend in a similar situation.
  • Use this experience as an opportunity for personal growth and self-improvement. Reflect on what you've learned about yourself. Perhaps you are finally learning how to put up a boundary, and now you know how you can use this to be a better person in the future.
  • Set new boundaries. If the other person's perception is rooted in ongoing conflict or unhealthy dynamics, consider setting and maintaining boundaries that protect your well-being. People who benefited the most from your lack of boundaries will often make you a villain when you set boundaries, so when this does happen, it’s a sign you are doing something right for yourself! 
  • Think of the people in your life who have not made you a villain and recognize and appreciate those people. Too often we dwell more on the negative than the positive – on what we don’t have rather than what we do have. 
  • Remind yourself that people change all the time.
  • Have a list of helpful mantras, such as: 
  1. This is their truth, not yours. 
  2. Just because you are the villain in someone else's story it doesn't mean you are not the hero in yours. 
  3. How other people see you does not determine your worth. 
  4. Don’t give people the power to be your judge, jury and executioner.

It is important to understand that you cannot control how others perceive you, and sometimes their perception may be beyond your influence. It's okay to let go of trying to change their viewpoint. Being the "villain" in someone else's story does not define your worth or character. At the end of the day, you must live with and accept yourself, and if that means being a villain in someone else’s narrative, then so be it. Embrace your villain-era! 

For more on managing being the villain in someone else’s story, listen to my podcast (episode #560). If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing. And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media. (Don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).        

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Podcast Highlights

2:55 Sometimes we can’t avoid being the villain in someone else’s story

5:00, 8:04 How to manage your mental health when someone makes you the villain

12:20 Reconceptualizing how someone else sees you

13:30, 18:26 Helpful tips to practice when someone makes you their villain

This podcast and blog are for educational purposes only and are not intended as medical advice. We always encourage each person to make the decision that seems best for their situation with the guidance of a medical professional.

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