Ben Carson: gifted, intellectual, and one of the most talented surgeons of his generation. Those are just a few words to describe the well-renown and inspiring Dr. Ben Carson. Unfortunately, people didn’t always use these words to describe the talented surgeon. At a young age Ben Carson was forced to overcome obstacles in school. Carson struggled academically throughout elementary school, and was often referred to as the “class dummy”. Carson began to rise to the top in middle and throughout high school, and he eventually graduated high school with honors.
The talented young black man went on to attend Yale University with a scholarship, earning a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. After Yale, Carson went into medical school at the University of Michigan, where he specialized in neurosurgery. One writer describes Carson’s life obstacles as inspiring, “The lessons imparted by Dr. Carson are inspiring because they are an echo of his own life. He faced more than his share of hard knocks on the rough necked streets of Detroit” (BASU).
Throughout his impressive career Dr. Ben Carson wrote four bestselling books. He revealed his book “The Big Picture” to the world in 2000. In it he writes about the victim mentality and how he see’s minorities everyday struggle with this. Carson describes these “victims” of the mentality as people who: “Have a small-picture perspective on hardship–because that is what a victim mentality is. It is a short-range, self-centered, limited outlook, where the zoom lense of your attention stays so focused on the closest, most immediate obstacles that nothing else can be seen” (CARSON BOOK). Meaning people who fall under this mentality typically blame everyone else for their hardships instead of self-reflecting; essentially becoming the “victim” of any obstacle placed in front of them. Victims never view themselves as responsible for seemingly impossible obstacles, and assume little to no responsibility for solving those problems.
Ben Carson goes on to explain that it’s not just Americans who fall victim to this mentality, but there are people all over the world who seem to be taking on the trend. In his book, Carson mentions the letters he receives from people all over the world, and the sadness he feels for them. He goes on to write about how he receives a large number of letters each week from people asking him for financial help to pursue their dreams as well; even promising to pay him back once they achieve their professional status.
Carson says if he were to respond with a yes to every one of his letters he would go bankrupt within a month. Instead he wishes he could tell these people how he truly feels. Carson writes, “I wish I convince them of what I truly believe–that if they would put the same amount of initiative, thought, and time into devising a strategy for achieving their goals themselves that they have already invested in trying to get me to help them, they would be a lot further along in the game” (CARSON BOOK). But of course Carson understands that his beliefs would be a tough concept to sell to people who have already adopted what he calls a self-fulfilling victim mentality that says they are neither responsible for, nor capable of, solving their own problems.
Dr. Carson wonders how one would go about changing the minds of those who have allowed themselves to fall victim to this mentality. But to understand how to change one’s mind about their bad situation, one must understand how to overcome the victim mentality all together.
When it comes to overcoming the victim mentality, the doctor says there is one factor in a person’s life that is most important. Carson writes, “For me, the single biggest factor in developing the attitude necessary to overcoming hardship was having positive role models. That started with the people I knew who I could look up to and learn from” (CARSON BOOK). When a person has a role model in their lives who they’ve seen overcome obstacles and reach their goals, it becomes harder for that person to view themselves as a victim.
Carson’s mother was one of his biggest role models, Carson writes about how she refused to see herself as a victim and determined not to let him think of himself that way either. While overcoming racial oppression throughout his life, “Carson himself found inspiration in the lives of Booker T. Washington, a former slave who taught himself to read and later advised presidents and the biblical Joseph, who persisted though his brothers sold him into slavery” (BASU). Carson’s mother never allowed him and his siblings to view themselves as victims, so he can’t really understand why others choose to. Carson views himself as an overcomer as opposed to a victim.
Dr. Carson differentiates victims from overcomers in his book by writing, “Victims often look for excuses and explanations for why things are the way they are. Overcomers, as my mother’s example taught me, look for solutions that will change things” (CARSON BOOK). When facing an obstacle, an overcomer will search for solutions within themselves. Asking questions such as: What could I have done differently? What can I do to move past this? Where as a victim will blame other people around them, asking why people aren’t helping them. A victim would never think to focus inward, and ask what they can do for themselves. Dr. Carson is baffled by the victim mentality because he has always been taught to be an overcomer.
I completely understand and agree with Carson’s ideas on the victim mentality. I myself have always been an overcomer, because I had two successful parents to act as role models in my life. Like Carson, I was always taught to never see myself as a victim. Not to ask what others can do for me, but what I can do for myself. I was taught to be an overcomer at a young age. At the age of 16 I was denied the opportunity to study abroad in Australia. The application I sent in along with my essay and references were denied. I was crushed and heartbroken. I blamed the organization for denying me because I was a minority. However, my mother wouldn’t allow me to wallow in my own self pity for too long.
She sat down and talked to me and helped me understand that I shouldn’t give up and blame it on the color of my skin, and that I need to just work harder next year to get it. That very next year I submitted an even better essay, along with impressive letters of recommendation and I was able to travel to Australia for two weeks that year. When it came to that situation, I could have easily given up and called myself a victim, but instead I decided to fight harder and reach a goal I really wanted. And because of it I was given a once and a lifetime opportunity to travel halfway across the world and out of the United States.
Like Dr. Carson my parents were tough on me. They never accepted the words “I can’t” as a reason but only as an excuse. According to a biography on Ben Carson, while growing up his mother was: “Determined to turn her sons around, Sonya (his mother) limited their TV time to just a few selected programs and refused to let them go outside to play until they’d finished their homework…She was determined that her sons would have greater opportunities than she did” (BEN ONLINE). Although she herself dropped out of school in the third grade, Carson’s mother was determined to push them academically and intellectually. “She required them to read two library books a week and give her written reports, even though with her poor education she could barely read them” (BEN ONLINE).
I see many minorities from my generation fall victim to this mentality all the time. For some reason, people in my generation are known to feel like the world owes them something. I think this sense of entitlement stems from the lack of hard work that is expected from us, because our parents worked hard so that we wouldn’t have to. It’s almost as if our generation is comfortable with only reaching average. When young people today fail or run into an obstacle, we tend to blame everyone but ourselves. Sound familiar? In our minds we are all “victims”, except for the ones who were raised similar to myself; with parents and adults who push them to be overcomers.
Carson writes in his book that victims tend to shift responsibility for their problems, he writes: “They aren’t responsible for the seemingly insurmountable obstacles surrounding them, they assume little if any responsibility for tackling those problems. After all, they are ‘victims’–so someone else has to set things right” (CARSON BOOK). Thanks to my mother and father I will never fall victim to Dr. Carson’s victim mentality.
As I make my ventures in the journalism field on my road to success, I’ll be prepared to fight to reach the highest goal of success. I won’t allow any obstacle to hold me back, and if I do fail I will only look to myself to fix my mistakes. I say all of that because I know that there is only one person who can truly insure my own success, and that’s me. I can only count on myself to get to where I want to be in my future career path.
The only way people will ever overcome their self-assured victim mentality is if they open their eyes wide and take a good hard look in the mirror. It’s almost human nature to want to blame others for your own failures, but does that make it right? One of the most important things a person can ever do in order to become successful, and that is to stop blaming the world and start looking to yourself for answers.