I have been a victim. Of all sorts. I have suffered, and I do have trauma to tell. I have past instances that I recall sometimes and only in retrospect understand that they led to other traumas occurring. As a woman, I understand I have a different place in society than men. As a white person, I understand I have a different place in society than people of colour. As a disabled person, I understand I have a different place in society than those with able bodies. We all have these different attributes that make us up; these different qualities and opinions and demographics. We have all been the victim. We can all choose how we identify, however. And I no longer choose to identify with the victimhood so easily claimed when you’ve suffered.
I don’t want to feel sorry for myself ever again. This only leads to the dulling of your own magnificent capabilities and the squashing of your true opportunities.
I started to recognise this clinging to victimhood when discussing mutuals with some friends. We kept going back to the same reason for why their awful behaviour wasn’t changing – being that they only see themselves as the victims, never the perpetrators. Many people use mental illness to excuse wrongdoing, but that trope only pulls so far. Maybe it’s time to get help for your brain rather than keep using it as a scapegoat then. Many use drug abuse or alcohol consumption to blame. Then how about quitting all external influences and seeing how much better you act and how much richer your life gets? I have used both of those things to try and justify behaviour in the past. I have said it was because I was depressed, because I was insecure. I have identified these issues within myself and clung to them in order to escape consequence. I used to get so shit faced I would black out. I would do crazy things that I wouldn’t remember in the morning, apart from a few blurry spots, only to be fed memory back in by friends who never got as fucked up as me. Then the cycle would continue: those depressions and insecurities would come swinging ten times harder, and the only way I knew to escape their blows was to pour so much booze and drugs down myself that I couldn’t feel, or even experience life. It seemed an easy option.
But then I went sober. Then I had to look at my body in the mirror and not pour a glass of red to ignore the parts I thought were too big. Then I had to embarrass myself and learn to get over humiliation without drinking it away. Then I had to relearn who I was. I had to realise all those years of masking myself only led to the underneath being neglected. And I did. It took time, as everything always does, nothing is an overnight success, but eventually, I started to see my sparks again.
There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. And usually insecure people view all confident people as arrogant. But most people who seem really up their own arse are actually the most insecure of us all. That is their vice. That is their cover. True confidence is not a loud voice, an always-right-opinion, a me-me-me persona. True confidence is the ability to trust that you are capable of great things, and having the peace that you’ll get there, or that you’ll get somewhere else which was the real goal all along, even if you didn’t know it.
But victimhood can veil that. It can allow us to wallow in self-pity opposed to building ourselves up. A man in my university class presented an idea recently that I really liked – that privilege is a spectrum. That everyone falls somewhere here or there, but nothing is black and white. There are lots of attributes to our placing in society. So many are impossible to change: skin colour, sexuality, gender, nationality, to name a few. But many can flourish to the more nourishing side of the spectrum if they are examined and worked on.
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was seven. I remember one instance, shortly after being diagnosed, in primary school, that really emphasised that my new disability made me different. I had gone low in blood sugar. I had done a blood test and told the teacher. Now, the remedy to low blood sugar is to refill on glucose by eating a snack or drinking something high in carbohydrates. Ever since my diagnosis my sweet of choice has been Dextrose Energy. These are little sugar tablets with a chalk-like consistency. I could have easily eaten these in the classroom, carried on with the lesson and not been alienated. But instead the teacher made me sit on the steps outside, alone. I remember clear as day, with my childlike contemplation cogs spinning, that the door being closed behind me on those steps represented the difference between me and my peers. Throughout my whole diabetic-career, I’ve had many ups and downs. I’ve had hypoglycaemic attacks so intense that I’ve lost memory. I’ve had seizures and passed out. I’ve felt so ill with hyperglycaemia (high blood sugars) that I couldn’t get out of bed. To be honest, due to getting the condition at such a young age, I never really identified it as more than just something I had. But when I stopped drinking, I started clinging to it as a sort of identity of victimhood. I started to feel pretty fucking hard done by that I had to have this condition for the rest of my life. I was angry, because the fluctuations in blood sugar tampered with my emotions, and I kept going low throughout the night so I wasn’t sleeping properly. There’s a lot to type 1 diabetes that isn’t talked about much. Type 2 takes the headlines and they really are so different.
But that doesn’t mean I need to view myself as less-than because I have a disability. Sometimes it can actually be exciting to be the victim – to be the special one with problems. This sounds crazy, but it’s true. I don’t think some people even realise how much joy they get from being troubled. By nature, we are attention seekers. I’m not saying everyone is a slut for eyes-on-them, but we all do crave some glory now and again. I think many of us get caught up online, too.
I’ve been using the internet for basically my whole life. I am from the generation of meme and have been pretty involved since I was about ten years old. I remember playing Temple Run, watching Fred on YouTube. I remember when Instagram was made! And getting my account on it pretty swiftly. When I turned twelve I discovered pro-anorexia forums. Places where teenagers posted pictures of their self-harm and tweeted about wanting to commit suicide. I started getting involved in feminism accounts at about thirteen and seeing the rise of Black Lives Matter, the transgender conversation and the Fat Acceptance movement. I saw cancel culture really gain its wings.
When you only get your information from the internet, you can easily forget real life. In the world, it’s not full of people on the attack constantly. It is, however, full of people willing to answer questions that you have. If I am unsure or confused or even just interested in something regarding a particular culture or community, I just ask them. There’s no harm here. Ignorance only develops into understanding when curiosity or confusion finds clarity. But I am lucky to live in a very diverse area and meet people from all different walks of life that can answer these questions for me. So many people live in bum-fuck-nowhere, or are sheltered, and don’t have access to broader spaces. So they turn to the internet.
Recently I had a university day which focused on lectures from professionals in the writing industry, such as agents, publishers, etc. It was online and we had an open chat where we could put questions throughout the session. One guy put this:
“Serious (but possibly a controversial) question – Are white, male, working class, middle-aged authors at a disadvantage when seeking an agent or publisher? Is it always the case that authors are chosen on merit or is there more to it?”
Of course, bloods boiled and feelings were sensitised over this. People thought it was a ridiculous question, coming from what many consider the most privileged group on earth – white men. I just laughed when it came through – and laughed harder when our tutor reworded it so diplomatically that it basically turned into an investigation into diversity in the writing world. But then I thought about the man’s question a little bit deeper. He’s probably read articles, social media posts, literature, that all vouch for more diversity throughout. He’s also probably seen a few Piers Morgan and Katie Hopkins interviews and identified the huge divide ‘snowflake’ and ‘alt-right’ have at the moment. He’s probably read the slogans of hating men, hating white people… the list goes on. And the list goes on… line. I seriously doubt he’s had proper conversations with minorities in the real world about these topics. I doubt he’s had much interaction with either side of these debates, and he’s collected his worries from the internet, and now feels like a victim. And the people angry with his question also feel like victims.
So it’s cyclical. We get wound up because we’re offended someone may question our claim to victimhood, and we get wound up when they claim their own. One group considers themselves the most hard done by, and the next claim top spot too. There’s serious work to be done. There’s things that need changing from the ground up and certain communities that need more attention than others. But is happiness really achievable when the only thing that wins points is how shit your life is?
I know I was never happy when I clung to my mental health problems, my diabetes, my confidence issues, my substance issues as huge identity factors. In fact, I was fucking miserable. I was desperate to get worst in all these aspects just so I could say I was. It’s quite embarrassing to admit, to be honest. But I am seeing more and more people falling into these traps each day. Molly-Mae Hague, a former Love Island contestant turned social media influencer, recently came under fire for saying we “all have the same 24 hours”. What she was saying, basically, is that no matter what your background is, where you come from or who you are, we all share the same time and space to succeed. Sounds quite harmless, init?
Not everyone thought so. People were outraged that such a privileged person could compare her strive to those in the working class, those of colour, those without mummy and daddy to top up their bank accounts. And I totally get that. It’s annoying when rich people tell you how to not be poor. But the fact so many people spun in anger at her making a little, motivational statement proved to me how desperate we all are to be victims. She’s not going to change the world with what she said. She’s not going out of her way to spit in the eyes of the underprivileged. Yes, she is totally out of touch with those who’s 24 hours are spent on duty and impossible to use for Instagram posts, but it did not deserve the reaction it got.
Start identifying what’s good in your life. Don’t just focus on the bad. Even if it’s just one good thing you can pull up, then use that. Idolise that. Celebrate that ONE thing. One is always better than zero. In fact, it’s 100% better than zero.
Rihanna used her privilege of being a rich celebrity to change the face of diversity in media. She created Fenty, her makeup brand, and ensured every skin colour was represented. She created Fenty x Savage, her lingerie brand, and ensured every skin colour, body size and gender was represented. And many other brands followed her influence. She didn’t just make a soppy social media post complaining, she used what she had in her power to actually make a huge change. Of course, none of us are Rihanna. Not many of us can create businesses overnight. But we can put bricks to the castle’s foundations and start from there. We should be focusing on positive changes, not negative dwelling.
I do understand this newsletter is a bit preachy. Apologies for that. But it upsets me that it’s such a trend to victimise ourselves at the moment. We are all capable of great things. When I got off the train the other day, a TFL worker was getting on with a bin bag to clean it. I smiled at him as I got off. He beamed. He said “hello” to me, and I looked back and returned the favour. In that moment I recognised a brightness in him that most passengers ignored. And I was proud. This didn’t change the world, it didn’t earn me or my community loads of money, it didn’t make the man and I best friends. It was just a sweet exchange that effected both of our days.
WIAEA (What I Am Excited About):
Song: More Pressure by Kae Tempest – this is the first single from Kae Tempest’s new album, which is coming out on April 8th. It has a cool synth sound but, as always, the lyrics wear the crown. Kae is a figure who allowed me to find my own power and spark in writing; they helped me find a hero in myself when I felt like a victim.
Book: Stet by Diana Athill – I love Diana’s writing in this book! It has a cheeky, fun flow that is captivating. She recalls her life in publishing literature. It is both insightful and entertaining.