There comes a time for each of us–writers are no different–when you have to put your foot down with yourself and just get on with it. You cannot spend your whole life psychoanalyzing yourself, blaming people in your life for their shortcomings in their relationship with you, or saying you can’t do something because you are whatever label you have decided is your identity.
Nor can you expect everyone to stop living their lives to deal with what you perceive to be your problems. Life doesn’t work that way.
In the end, you must look in the mirror, stop making exudes for yourself, and leave your victimhood behind, however hard and painful. And yes, letting go of your labels is excruciating, especially if they’ve become part of your inherent identity.
Except that they’re not really you. You are you. You aren’t your mental illness, your past, your cultural identity, your skin color, your religious beliefs, your past, or your perception of the world. These are accidents of birth and station. Not essentials.
So, let’s return to a few essentials in this post.
Quick Explanation of Accidents vs Essentials
Accidents are mostly superficial to who you are. These are things that are determined by your DNA, your life circumstances, family, social circle, upbringing, etc. Even something like your looks is “accidental” rather than “essential.”
Accidents shape our lives, yes. We know this to be true. We know our background drastically affects the way we navigate the world.
Essentials are things that are innate to all human beings on some level. These are things like the ability to reason, learn, grow, change, feel, evaluate our thoughts, become better or worse, and to overcome challenges. We’re all capable of those things regardless of how we look, where we live, or what we believe.
Essentials don’t change. The accidents of our existence can affect them, but the essentials remain unchanged. Even those we once considered mentally disabled have proven, the more we understand, that they are capable of the same essentials as anyone else. They have different talents and sometimes have to use different means to do the same work.
So, this is something I’ve picked up from St. Thomas. Brilliant guy, St. Thomas Aquinas, by the way. Even if you aren’t Roman Catholic or even remotely Christian, he has some good solid logic that can help cut through some of the marketing around “mental wellness.” One of those things is the difference between “accidents” and “essentials.”
Coincidentally, this is also something debated hotly amongst other intellectuals in some shape or form, particularly during the Enlightenment. You might also know it as the “nature vs nurture” debate, although that deals with the question on a more evolutionary level.
Accepting responsibility for yourself means letting go of your own excuses… And your “accidents.”
This sounds ludicrous. Accept more responsibilities? That sounds like pure torture. That means if I mess up, I pay up, right? Yes, that is the downside to more responsibility. You find more limitations to your time, your energy, your money, and many other things besides. Moreover, it means you can no longer accept your own excuses for anything.
For many of us, that sounds like punishment. But it’s not. It’s a tool for happiness. When you have control of your finances, your time, your energy, and your emotions, you become your own master. If you don’t like the word “master,” by the way, substitute it for whatever word you do like. I’m going by the original saying because being a “master” meant you had control, whether that was of your craft, your vocation, knowledge base, etc. It doesn’t always show a slave/master situation.
Mastery of yourself is hard. It’s even harder when you don’t allow yourself the freedom to be something other than the “accidents” you used to label yourself. And it’s slow. Slower for some than others. I’m still working on my own “accidents” and accepting they are my experience, not me.
Putting your foot down and not accepting your own excuses anymore isn’t easy. It’s difficult to strip away the labels others taught your to emprace or you gave yourself. It’s difficult letting go of what you think is your identity. But when you do and accept that those labels are your experience, not your identity, then you may find a lot more freedom out there than you thought possible.
It’s taken me two decades to give up some labels I put on myself and even then, I’m still finding threads that need to be severed. But I’m a lot freer than I was when I started and, dare I say it, happier?
If you don’t accept life’s hardships, you are missing out on some of the sweetness of its joys.
When was the last time you really worked for something? I mean sat down, planned it out, strove hard for it each step of the way, gave in toI tears, depressive episodes, and tantrums, but won in the end?
If your answer is “never”, then you might still need to do some major revision work on your past. More than likely, you accomplished something spectacular, but just don’t see because you’re comparing yourself to what you think you should be and not what you are.
My senior thesis for my English major was long, arduous, and it cost me a good deal personally to write and get right. I spend long hours, isolated myself, and shut nearly everyone and everything out of my life. It hurt. It hurt horrifically. But it was worth every tear shed. Because when I was done–really done–I was so proud of what I’d written I could have burst.
Hardships are not what you want to go through. I don’t like going through them myself. I avoid them as much as possible, in fact. But there’s nothing quite like being in pain to appreciate its absence or the rewards that come with knuckling under. Why do we always love stories about the underdog? Because the underdog’s success in relation to his or her starting point is what we all really want.
We want that success, we want that emotional rush.
But, the underdog has to do one thing: realize that he or she is no longer a victim and start doing instead of just being.
There’s nothing wrong with the contemplative life. The lives of many of the medieval saints show us that. But you’ll find that in contemplation, you still have to take action, even if that’s mentally doing the work and deciding that you are no longer the accidents in your life.
You may still have to deal with them. But you don’t have to be ruled by them.
How we experience the world still shouldn’t change our essentials–the things that link us with our fellow human beings regardless of our accidents. Allowing them to do so is the road to division.
And we’ve had quite enough of that in the past few years, haven’t we?
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2 thoughts on “Learning to Distinguish Yourself from Your Victimhood and Leaving Your Labels Behind”
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Thank you for reading! I’m glad you enjoyed it!
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