March 13, 2019

Vulnerability vs Victimhood: Why we need to Stop Pointing the Shame-Finger at those who are Struggling.


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It seems this term, “victimhood,” is resurfacing.

Perhaps with self-empowerment on the rise, vulnerability is along for the ride, and so is the shame game that comes with it.

This week in “victimhood” (something to this effect, used in a post by a successful, high performing motivational speaker and life coach): quit living in victimhood and get off your butt and make things happen for yourself .”

This came as a direct hit to my vulnerability. I’ve recently reached out to some friends for help and support while going through a grey time of depression, which is new for me. Down days? I’ve had those in my life, absolutely. Hard times? Definitely. Curled up bathroom floor ugly cry nights? Yup, definitely had those too.

Even through cancer and chemo and countless surgery and recovery days, months, minutes—the “why me” moments were incredibly limited to the point that my joy and celebration of little wins actually annoyed and confused the sad people around me during treatment.

But depression—that I can’t get out of bed or move my body feeling, like the walls are locked and the key is nowhere near my hand, like everything is effort beyond capacity or capability, like my value is outside. Unseen. Unheard. No one cares and I don’t care—all this is new to me.

To anyone who truly, or even slightly knows me, that person is not me. I don’t blame the world for my problems (divorce, cancer, single mom, career layoff, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera)—I write and speak for change and empowerment and awareness, from cancer survivorship to gender equality, to teen issues and single-momming, and all around badassery. On the outside, people see me as a thriving, badass single mom—so I’ve been told.

So, when I reach into my vulnerability and peek out of my walls for a moment, and say, “help please, the world feels like it’s crashing down” and to receive, “stop being a victim,” feels worse than an unanswered call or a ghosting after a first date you thought went really well.

Aren’t we all struggling sometimes? Shouldn’t we feel okay and safe speaking our struggle without being labeled and shamed?

And while I appreciate the extension of a “you got this” point of view from this particular post and value that human immensely, the nudge included a side of judgment that was clear as day: pointing the shame-finger toward people who may be actually suffering. 

What we need instead is, “here’s my hand and there’s no catch or cost, no fee for support.” And this is especially important when we’re on that last rope, frayed and empty. With our value tank already compromised, some of us cling to that savior with the giant smile and the comeback story, and all those badass quotes. She can save me, right? So, we follow their dream and the bright light beacon, and pay the membership fees.

The truth is, for me, there is no hand—at least not today. So, I’ll read and write and find some comfort in my discomfort. Some wellness in my sick. Some joy in my fear. Some breath in my suffocating anxiety.

Will tomorrow be better? Maybe. But at least I know there will be a tomorrow.

“People who wade into discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about their stories are the real badasses.” ~ Brené Brown

So, if my vulnerable looks like victimhood to you…well then, I offer my hand on the door to help you exit, because I have some healing to do, and judgment is not invited. 


What I know about myself

When I don’t feel valued
I don’t show up

Without purpose
I have no reason to

People pleasing
is my only guide
and traps bitter clichés
and hearts
in the corners of my mouth 

Perhaps I can move for tea and
a sandwich now
that the cat is moving as well
and the sky is peeking in my window
and the day is rotating without regard for

my grey.


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