Some background... A few months ago, as I've alluded to in other blogs, I picked up bell hooks's, Killing Rage. In one of her essays she takes on the topic of victimizing oneself. She recognizes that it's important to name and point to injustices in this world and how they have affected you, but only to the extent in which they allow you to address those issues and empower yourself. It's a delicate balance between awareness/justified anger and victimization. In my mind I interpret victimization and self-victimization as a pathologic state whereby one becomes somebody who is harmed and helpless to to remedy it. One grows so consumed with the injustices dealt to you and those around you, that it becomes impossible to maintain any agency. In the back of my mind I immediately, however reluctantly, admitted that this might be a trap that I fell into sometimes.
This is a really hard blog to write.
I think it's because if someone points out that I've made a mistake due to a cultural misperception or ignorance, it's both acceptable within my own self-image as well as societally, to graciously admit my mistake and genuinely try to learn. In fact, it's seen as humble and a positive trait. I can make a mistake in that capacity and still believe that I'm a wise or insightful human being, in fact admitting that mistake validates that. However, for me, admission of victimization is much scarier for so many reasons.
I fear that the admission of self-victimization will invalidate my anger and question the existence of the injustices that I've been pointing to. I fear that this will present a weakness of character that will discredit all that I have said before. I fear that by admitting that sometimes I victimize myself, I admit that I'm not actually as insightful or wise as I'd liked to think. I realize that by admitting this I also have to admit that part of my self-image was someone who is insightful and wise - which is perhaps foolish for a 25 year old person to believe. So I'm embarrassed of that as well.
And finally, the hardest thing to reveal in this blog... By admitting that working on myself was terrifying and difficult would mean that I would really have to recognize exactly that: this shit is hard. In my head, there are two general responses to those who are facing difficulties that you have also experienced. The first is supportive: "I, too, have gone through something similar and I remember how hard it was and how hard it probably is for you right now." The second is callous: "I, too, have gone through something similar, so why can't you figure it out and deal with it as well?" Re-experiencing how painful the struggle of true self-improvement can be is a reminder that recently I have not been particularly understanding of that with white and privileged folks around me. In that regard, I have not been a particularly empathetic person, and that, I am ashamed of.
Someone called me out on this today. Thank you, Mo. If you hadn't been so persistent then I'd probably still be pretending it wasn't around and hoping it would go away on its own. At first it was mortifying. I did my best to seem mature about it and admit my own shortcomings and speak honestly. Then later, when I didn't have to pretend anymore, all the fears engulfed me and I wondered how many other people could see what you had seen. I felt exposed and fragile, vulnerable and overwhelmed.
But there are positive things as well. bell hooks's piece shows me that I'm not alone; it's validating to know that it's not uncommon or a character weakness to feel this way. It feels empowering to know I have the strength to confront myself. And finally, it's uplifting to be reminded that there have fantastic people around me that can not only push me to confront these issues but also provide a warm shelter when I'm feeling vulnerable.