cv cartoon

Competitive victimhood hinders progress

It seems fair to say that no one should lose. In the case of victimhood, however, this idea backfires.

To students, sleep schedules, test scores and physical condition all share something in common: they are enigmas that often immediately lead to contests where the one who suffers the most “wins.” 

A culture of victimhood is a phenomenon that encourages, according to psychologist Jonathan Haidt, a response “to even the slightest unintentional offense.” Unlike medievalesque duels for honor, one is now expected to call for help from others and portray themselves as the victim.

We are on the verge of a shift in culture — one in which responsibility for offenses is transferred from a “deal with it yourself” type of a problem to a “you help me” type of a problem. 

From the perspective of a high schooler, much of what we do has been codified into a set of competitions. Although this can seem natural in an environment where grades, popularity and extracurriculars are key facets, this behavior also passes into other subjects as well. This behavior takes advantage of stress very well. High school can be a very strange point in life: a combination of classes, maturing brains and adolescent hormones can concoct an unpleasant beverage of stress and unhappiness.

As a result, we can stumble when faced with high expectations. And, yes, the one-up competition of showing just how much you are suffering can ensue. Obviously, just why we do this varies from person to person. For some, it is sarcasm, but for others, it can be the result of a deep-rooted need for validation. This is a natural response to trauma or negative occurrences: it would be strange to reject any acknowledgement of pain or suffering. However, this approach is not healthy. If the response to hardship becomes letting others know that one is a victim, the habit will remove an individual’s ability to independently resolve crises or offenses.

To a lesser extent, this mindset can cause another unintended consequence: people who are not experiencing the same hardship as the “suffering masses” can feel guilty about their situation. Say, for instance, a friend group is talking about poor scores on a test when it devolves into — surprise! — a competition of victimhood. A person who scored well on said test may be dissuaded from sharing their own score out of humility and also the fear of being left out. Sure, it may elicit a positive remark or two, but this type of discussion often leads to an overemphasis on victimhood. Instead of the empathy of feeling for one’s suffering, the focus becomes a self-motivated act to prove you have it the worst.

I, for sure, am guilty of unproductive exchanges like this.
However, it is important to recognize that the more healthy decision is to stop treating our grievances like badges of honor. Perhaps, instead of trying to be the victim, we can collectively work on a growth mindset. That is, a belief that suffering can be overcome through effort and self improvement. It may be the harder route, but it is well worth it.

By Ethan Park, Staff writer
Editorial cartoon by Daniela Marquez