Why me? Why not me?

Life can be tough. It can bring disappointment, frustration, pain and adversity. When it does, ‘Why me?’ is a natural question to ask. It’s a healthy response to a state of affairs that we weren’t expecting or circumstances over which we have no control.

We’ve all had those days when things seem to go wrong ~ we oversleep, run late because we can’t find the car keys, drop coffee over the laptop, snap at a colleague, send a personal email to all your contacts instead of only a best friend.  And all it takes is one more incident to make us think ‘Why me?’ Usually we can can accept it as ‘just one of those days’ and are able to take it in our stride without too much anguish.

Then there are those days when we feel overwhelmed by an ongoing situation and we ask ourselves ‘Why me?’ out of a sense of despair. A broken heart, a long-term illness, an unexpected redundancy, bereavement. Any significant life change will result in a transition that we would rather not make, yet there is no option but to respond. Grieving or loss may naturally include a stage when we ask ‘Why me?’ but with time we come to accept the situation and are able to live ‘normally’.

‘Why me’ becomes detrimental though when it becomes the basis of thinking. In the past, it locked me into a victim mentality from which it became increasingly harder to escape. Instead of having positive thoughts and expecting the best, ‘Why me?’ dragged me into a negative spiral of expecting the worst. It kept me in the role of a victim whose life was disintegrating through depression and alcoholism. Additionally, it was preventing me from gaining the strength and wisdom that comes from recovering from tragedy and trauma.

There were times when I thought life would never be bearable. I remember sitting with a psychiatric nurse shortly after I had attempted suicide. It was quite a ‘pity party’! I wailed as I recounted how my unloving mother had left me and then declared me as dead, how my cruel father had abused and neglected me, how I’d been bullied incessantly at school because of my appearance, how my relationships had failed, how I’d lost my job, home, possessions. And to top it all I was in the grip of depression and alcoholism. There was no end to my sorrows.

I wanted the nurse to feed my pity with consolation and sympathy. He didn’t. His response was to remind me that I was fortunate to be alive and that I lived in a world where life was tough for others too.

It took me a while but eventually I understood what he had said. As I began to heal I initially felt ashamed and embarrassed at my selfishness and arrogance. What was so different about me that I should escape tribulations? Nothing. I also realised that my mentality could shift dramatically when something good happened. I could embrace a positive experience with excitement and gratitude. Never would I query it with ‘Why me?’ because I believed that I too deserved blessings.

And so began my first steps from victim to survivor. From ‘Why me? to ‘Why not me?’ From feeling powerless to changing anything to believing that I had the strength to take responsibility for everything. Of course there continues to be highs and lows but I no longer consider what is missing, instead I choose to appreciate what is present. I am grateful for it all.

So what about you?  What are you thinking today? Is it ‘Why me?’ or Why not me?

72 thoughts on “Why me? Why not me?

  1. I needed to read this today. Very encouraging. I like that specified that it’s a choice. Often when we’re hurt or overwhelmed we feel out of control and forget that we have the power to choose to be
    free from our victim mentality.

  2. Thank you for this thought provoking post Carolyn. I think it is easy (but understandable) to sometimes fall into the victim trap but we do ourselves a disservice by going down that path. We can find ourselves digging deeper and deeper into that dark place… If we can find begin to find some gratitude in our lives (however small), this can be the start of changing this pattern around and moving towards some light…

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  4. I absolutely love the simple question “why not me?” I think this question has had profound impact on my life, especially at those moments when I have gotten stuck feeling sorry for myself (victim mode). People feel pain and go through immense trials in their lives. When the time comes where it is my turn to walk through the fire, indeed, why not me?

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  7. Just discovered your blog today.
    The tough part is the second category you mentioned in your blog [and which Yeremi refers to as a ‘more generous share than others’].
    Survivors of serious child abuse would naturally be perfect illustrations of that. Because of the profound inequities in the very foundation of their personalities, reflexes, coping mechanisms, etc., it seems ludicrous and even idiotic to tell them, “Everyone has their share of problems”.
    Yet it’s in their own interest that they too ultimately take the reins of their lives.
    None of us in this life will ever be able to make an empirically-based statement about why such inequities happen, but some of us can hope to know *later*. Until then it helps a lot if we can believe there is perfect justice ultimately in the world.

    • Thank you Aleine for such insightful and thoughtful comments. I really appreciate your time to share. Your comment “Yet it’s in their own interest that they too ultimately take the reins of their lives.” rang bells for me because that’s what it is all about – taking back control after being without for so long!

  8. This is a very thoughtful post.
    Sometimes we focus so much on the misfortunes that befall us and fall into the ‘why me’ pit of self pity. The question I have always learned to ask when why me props it’s ugly head is, ‘If not me, then who?’

    We all have our share of problems – of course, some persons may have a more generous share than others – but maintaining our sanity means we must accept and learn to deal with any challenge thrown to us by life.

    Acceptance is a very important stage of the recovery process.

    –Yeremi Akpan

  9. This is a great post, Carolyn! Obviously, you have been through so much and have been given some Godly wisdom that has pulled you out of some dark days. Thank you for sharing your life’s journey with us so we can each dig a little bit deeper into ourselves to find where we need to change and grow! You are a blessing!

  10. I enjoyed reading your post. I used to get sucked into victim thinking and have made some great strides evolving beyond, as evidenced by the following: When my son died (suicide) 9 months ago (Oct. 2011), I don’t think I ever went to the “Why Me?” place but instead made a decision to use the excruciating pain for spiritual evolvement and growth.

    • Meryl I am so sorry to hear of the tragedy of your son. My thoughts and prayers are with you. You have incredible strength to be able to take such pain and use it in such a positive way. I am humbled and privileged to be a part of your journey. Take care.

      • Thanks, Carolyn. I made a decision early — I knew the pain would be there and I could be its victim or use it for growth. This has not been easy and I wish no one would ever have to lose a child (he was 35). I am grateful I was able to enjoy him for those 35 years.

      • So sorry that you had to live through this tragedy Meryl, but what strength and courage you have shown. Your beloved son would be proud of you. Take care of yourself.

  11. Hi Carolyn,

    This is wonderful. I too like what Claudia says, “By adding the word ‘not’ we set the atmosphere of our circumstances. Instead of being the thermometer, we now become the thermostat…in control.”

    When we are born we do not get to choose our family or parents, but we can decide how to handle from the choice that was made when our life begin.

    Sometimes the “Why me’s” are given to us for a reason and we have to turn them into the “Why not me” I have found for myself that the why me’s make me stronger and gather more wisdom than if they had been days of “life is full of lemonade.” Guess I am a person that loves making there own lemonade from the lemons.

    Thanks again Carolyn for sharing and blessings to you.

  12. As I age and am now at the place of gray hair I think, “God how do You want to use what I’m going through to help others?” I took me a long time to get to this place but now I seek Him for who needs what He is taking me through.

  13. Lovely post Carolyn, you share a part of yourself that others don’t often do. It\’s real, up close and personal. You speak to the reality of the ’why me’ vs ’why not me’. Life circumstances most often are difficult and challenging; moving through them offers each of us the opportunity to grow into our higher Self, learning the lessons each of us are meant to learn. As one who has walked through many of my own ’fires’ of life, I feel for you and commend you. Keep up the great work! Blessings and Light

    • Thank you for such lovely comments Mary. I love how you describe walking through ‘fires of life’ because that’s exactly how it feels sometimes! Thankfully I now can put them out a lot quicker instead of sitting and smouldering!

  14. I am really appreciating your posts. I have had a lot of things happen in my life, too, some of which it has taken almost my whole life to let go of. While I was not responsible for those things happening, I did eventually have to take responsibility for how I responded to them and allowed them to affect my life and my family. Discovering I was not a perpetual victim was good news!

    My favorite part: ” I also realised that my mentality could shift dramatically when something good happened. I could embrace a positive experience with excitement and gratitude. Never would I query it with ‘Why me?’ because I believed that I too deserved blessings.” Such a subtle, but important, shift!

    And, by the way, that image you used at the top of this post is awesome! Where did you get it? I wonder if there are any more that are similar.

    • Hi Susan, Thank you for your kind and encouraging comments! I glad you have been able to move out of victim mode too! Life can be good!
      I found the image on Pinterest and I have a copy there, but I have tried to trace it’s origin through Google image which has never let me down before but in this case I couldn’t get back to the original.
      So if you or anyone else finds the creator I would love to credit it, as I love it!

  15. I am more on the side of why not me, but I do have why me moments. When I do, I give myself a virtual smack in the head and tell myself to snap out of it. I have actually a quote that was published in a calendar. It goes like this” At times of adversity, resist the temptation to feel sorry for yourself, look for a solution instead.

  16. Beautiful post, Carolyn. I recall my years of “Why me?” while living / grappling with a number of loved ones’ alcohol misuse and their drinking behaviors. I could rant and rail and list all of the rotten things they’d done to me like reading a shopping list. I’d rationalize in my best martyr tone, “It could be worse – I could be paralyzed,” as if that was the benchmark for tolerating how bad it was. Until one day, when a friend said, “Yes, but it could be better.” Fortunately, I’d already started my journey through therapy and research to unravel the effects of what decades of living and coping with loved ones’ drinking behaviors when the disease of alcoholism is not understood, so I was at least open to the thought, “Why, yes, it could be better.” And more importantly, “Why not me?” to make it so. It was that shift in thinking that helped me let go of my pity party and the laundry list of resentments I’d carried for years, and instead focus on the good in a healthy manner and from there, change my life. I so admire your courage, Carolyn, to get through all that you’ve experienced because no matter what, it’s natural to ask, “Why me?,” given the early childhood trauma you’d suffered from a mom who’d abandoned you and an alcoholic father who abused you. I’m so happy for you, today, and continually inspired by the courage, strength and hope I find in your shares.

    • Thank you for your insightful comments Lisa. You have shown how it is possible to recover after years of living with the effects of someone else’s alcoholism. My heart felt for you when I read “It could be worse – I could be paralyzed” because that is such a desperate place to be in. What courage and strength you have shown in overcoming your past for yourself and your family. Thank you for all the work you do on BreakingTheCycles.com which is an amazing site for anyone who has an issue with alcohol.

  17. Carolyn, another powerful post from you….such an emotional journey you have been on…thank you for sharing that with us! Moving out of that victim mentality and taking responsibility…powerful stuff!

  18. Great post my friend 🙂 It takes work to get past the “why me’s” for sure but one thing I have noticed is that once we start walking a different path then we take the focus from me to them and that is where it all changes 🙂

  19. Beautiful post Carolyn. You are touching the lives of many including my own. I am trying to remember every day “Why not me” . I am going through many challenges right now and it’s nice to know there are people like yourself who can relate and understand. Thank you

  20. This is a great post Carolyn! It does take a wee bit of work and dedication to one\’s own journey to move out of the \’why me\’ place and into the \’why not me\’ which allows the development of so much more personal power. I appreciate how you\’ve articulated this so well 🙂

  21. Such a beautiful post, Carolyn. I used think ‘why me’ but over the years have changed my thinking, I take every day as it comes….positive and negative things and chalk it up as living and learning. I try not to stress over the challenges and make the best of every day. It works…most of the time. smile.

  22. I was just saying something like this to myself today, believe it or not. Why me?! And I already knew the answer. Why NOT me? It was someone else last week, so why not me this week? That\’s such a simple, yet effective way to instantly change your attitude. Just a simple question. Why NOt me?
    And I loved the point you made about the fact that we never ask that question when something good happens to us. Profound.

  23. Great food for thought Carolyn. By adding the word ‘not’ we set the atmosphere of our circumstances. Instead of being the thermometer, we now become the thermostat…in control.

  24. I really like what you said here, Carolyn… how you identified the core realization which tipped the scales from victim to survivor:

    “What was so different about me that I should escape tribulations? Nothing. I also realised that my mentality could shift dramatically when something good happened. I could embrace a positive experience with excitement and gratitude. Never would I query it with ‘Why me?’ because I believed that I too deserved blessings.

    And so began my first steps from victim to survivor.”
    It takes a lot of courage to share our intimate stories!

  25. It’s true that we have to change from the victim mentality to the victor mentality; many things happen to many people, why would we be exempt? I think one of the reason things happen in our life for us to be changed from glory to glory!!

  26. Truly I don’t think why me or why not me?? I try hard to just take each disappointment as they come and realize it isn’t the end of the world, we learn from each of them. If I make good choices I will get through and be able to live my life happily and focus on the fact that I can be happy if I so choose no matter what is going on around me.. There may have been a day that I felt defeated but I know now no one can defeat me, if I choose happiness I will be happy.

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