When a writer starts off an article with the title ‘A Victim and Miserable: The Tragic Life of X,” the first question you probably have is “Who is X?” Don’t worry, we’ll get to that. Before I tell the story of X, though, I want to start by taking an in-depth look at the idea of victimhood and how encouraging kids to have a victimhood mentality ultimately makes them and everyone around them miserable.
A Victim and Miserable: The Tragic Life of X—Let’s start with Hannah
While my main argument today will be feature X, I want to start by letting readers know about a current channel you can find on Facebook that contains our first example of a victimhood mentality being taught. Let me introduce you to Exhibit A. Hannah is a lovely little girl who has big brown eyes, is as cute as a button, and is unusually eloquent for her eight young years. She is struggling with a disorder. It’s a unique disorder, and it has a wonderfully important-sounding name. It sounds bad—scary, even—and it’s called AFRID. So what is AFRID? I hear you ask. It is the acronym for avoidance/restrictive food intake disorder. Hang on a minute, isn’t that “picky eating.”? No, of course not; it’s WAY worse than just being picky. It consists of children who may suffer from the following complaints:
- Avoid eating foods that don’t have a certain colour, taste, texture, or smell
- Worry that something bad might happen if they eat, such as choking or throwing up.
- Not want to eat
Ok, so this is one scary disorder that runs around randomly striking little girls. Or does it? Let’s dive in a bit more closely. I have no wish to be personal with regards to Hannah, and actually, this is not about little Hannah, who is simply doing what any eight-year-old would do in similar circumstances. It’s about Hannah’s parents and thousands of parents like Hannah’s who do the very same thing, essentially instilling in their children a victimhood mentality whether or not they realize it. To be fair to them, I’m sure they don’t realize it, and I’ve no doubt they’re completely unaware of what might be the result.
You see, parents inadvertently give their children a victimhood complex by magnifying their every struggle. These particular parents see Hannah’s food aversion not as a problem to overcome quietly within the family unit but as rather an avenue and an opportunity for her to become an ‘influencer.’ They have no doubt told themselves that by promoting Hannah and her difficulties with food, she will act as an inspiration for others, but they have not stopped to ask what it might do to Hannah herself.
A Victim and Miserable: The Tragic Life of X—How the Problem Becomes Central to Personality
Taking any child and putting them in the spotlight for a disorder magnifies that disorder in the child’s mind, and that begins the process of installing a victimhood complex in how they approach life. When you’re just a normal kid, no one puts you on TV or gives you your own channel. Then you have mom, dad, or whomever coach you on what to say, how to act, and how to keep the material interesting. All of this serves to make the problem central to the child’s life and magnifies its importance in their own minds. They think, Wow, I must be really special. This disorder I have is so bad. Look! Everybody’s looking at me and tuning in to see how I manage my disorder. I must be really important!
Take all these messages to their logical conclusion, and the child hears that they are different, that they are exceptional, and that what they’re suffering from makes them exceptional so much so that their struggles are worthy of everyone’s attention. Now, ask yourself. Is this the message we should be sending to our children? Is this victimhood mentality healthy? Is it more or less likely to make a child fit successfully into the larger community as they grow?
A Victim and Miserable: The Tragic Life of X—The Beginning
Rather than use Hannah as an example, let’s use a child called X instead. X is your average child, if there’s such a thing these days. X’s family unit probably notices when she’s a toddler that X is really picky about food. There are certain things she’s willing to eat, and there are other times when she’ll hold her mouth tightly shut. Her parents, wrestling with a new food, wave a spoon in her direction to try and get her to eat it, pleading, but she refuses. Of course, like any good parent, they want X to eat. Since perhaps X is small for her age, they’re worried she’s not growing as fast as the other kids. They fret over her height and weight chart.
They approach each meal with trepidation and whisper amongst themselves about how they wish X would eat and how worried they are that she’s not doing so. They talk to their neighbours on the back deck and to Grannie and Grandpa on the phone about X’s problem, and everyone has lots of advice to give. They try one approach, but they don’t really feel confident about the outcome, so predictably, it doesn’t work. They try another.
Once preschool starts, they talk about X’s issue often with anyone who’ll listen, like at pick-up time while X waits to show them her newly painted picture. They look worried. They take X to the doctor, where they explain how much X’s seeming dislike of food worries them. The doctor listens and suggests a therapist trained in eating disorders. X listens closely. X turns away more food. Everyone looks really concerned, and the parents plead with X nightly to please eat! There are arguments with X, nightly crying episodes, and then the parents argue with each other over why X is behaving this way and whose fault it is.
A Victim and Miserable: The Tragic Life of X—More Attention From Experts
X grows up, is now in elementary school, and is seeing a therapist. The psychotherapist is a kindly soul who knows all about AFRID and has seen many devastating cases. She’s empathic with and affirms X’s challenges. Your struggles are real, she tells X and gives her a diagnosis of AFRID. X’s parents are thrilled that X’s issues are caused by a real disorder and that this disorder has a NAME. X is pleased as well.
The therapist suggests to X’s parents that they have a duty to encourage X in her struggles and that they shouldn’t be afraid to involve the whole community in X’s care. The school, teachers, and friends can all have a positive impact on X’s relationship with food and should be made aware of X’s challenges. More education and awareness are key, says the therapist.
Soon, it’s Halloween, and all the children have been asked to bring various foods in for a Halloween party. X’s mom freaks out and sends a letter to the teacher explaining that X struggles with many of the foods that kids might bring in and demands veto power over the menu. The teacher duly acquiesces to X’s parents demands, and her parents provide a list of sanctioned foods. Food that only X likes is served. The kids grumble a bit but are told in no uncertain terms by the teacher that X’s AFRID means they can only have what X wants because we must all be empathetic and understanding. X feels duly vindicated as the world is working according to X, exactly as X is beginning to understand it should. X’s victimhood mentality is becoming entrenched.
A Victim and Miserable: The Tragic Life of X—Why X’s Problem is Everyone’s Problem
As X grows in confidence, she starts to advocate for herself. Bravo! say her parents. When she goes anywhere, she makes sure to tell everyone about her AFRID. Perhaps mom suggests she could become an AFRID influencer and help other children just like her. X thinks that’s a terrific idea and can’t wait to start. Mum enthusiastically gathers all the material and information and thinks up all the appropriate hashtags (#mentalhealth etc.) to make sure they get the maximum number of viewers to watch X document her journey.
Meanwhile, X tries to have friends over and visit with others and attend gatherings just like any kid, but it’s difficult. Sometimes she doesn’t go because she just feels the whole thing is upsetting. On the one hand, she desperately wants to ignore the AFRID herself and just be a normal kid because those kids just seem to enjoy themselves, but, well, she’s got a lot of subscribers now. It’s complicated.
When she does pluck up the courage to go somewhere, she tells whoever she visits about her AFRID and what she can and can’t eat. That at least makes her comfortable, if a bit lonely. She finds it hard to interact with the other kids because often they’re having pizza, and she doesn’t like pizza. Many of the parents she visits acquiesce and drop anything off the menu that might upset X, so nobody gets any pizza. Everyone knows whose fault that is.
Everyone knows there are different groups in school, and X finds her place, though it seems to be with kids that share similar struggles, anxiety, and other mental health issues. People constantly ask her if she’s all right around food. She tells them about her journey and hands out her x-handle so they can follow her. There are some kids in school that seem super interested, and she’s happy to tell them all they want to know. She likes it when they notice how hard her journey is for her.
A Victim and Miserable: The Tragic Life of X—The Problem of a Victimhood Mentality Spreads
Over time, some elements of this strange disorder become contagious and start affecting other families. X’s starts a little group in school with the encouragement of the school staff. A great idea, they say. We should bring awareness to this complex disorder. X’s parents see this demand in the larger community and start a support group where they all discuss X and children like X and how difficult this disorder is to manage.
As X grows and goes into high school and then college, more students seem interested in X’s struggles and find solidarity in the issues they’re facing. She’s a great advocate for AFRID by now, knows the warning signs, and is quite the authority on the subject, so she starts the campus AFRID support group. She believes that there should be more awareness about eating issues like hers. The group agrees that all eating makes them anxious and that they should have a safe room where no food is allowed. A place to decompress all of their own. After all, it’s not fair to be around people who eat, as it makes them so anxious. They don’t have a right to make us uncomfortable, says X.
A Victim and Miserable: The Tragic Life of X- Hang on a minute! It’s not supposed to be like this!
Finally, X enters the workplace but finds the whole experience frightening. It wasn’t anything like she expected. Her colleagues put their ham and cheese sandwiches and salads in the office fridge! The office fridge! Don’t they know how upsetting that is? X has launched a complaint, of course, but they don’t seem to care! X has had a few jobs since then, but they’re always the same. Nobody really cares about her AFRID. She’s asked colleagues not to eat around her or put things in the fridge, but they don’t seem to be listening. Besides, they talk behind her back. She’s had to leave quite a lot of jobs because of that. X feels hurt and let down by the system and the world. They all seemed to care, but then they didn’t. What happened? The only people that care are online in her group, so she spends a lot of time online, where she feels safe. She feels like they’re her only real friends. She tells them that she feels sad and rejected. The world is a very unfair place, she says. The others agree.
I don’t think I need to go on further. I’m sure you get the idea. Children like X become fully ensconced in a victimhood mentality, not just with AFRID but with all the common challenges that people face today: anxiety, other mental health issues, issues of gender dysphoria, etc. True happiness will elude these people all their lives because instead of seeing the ups and downs of life as challenges to be overcome, they have been taught to make them central to their identity and view themselves as victims. That means they will view all the misfortune that happens to them through that narrative lens. That is the very definition of a victimhood mentality, and it’s why I titled my piece “A Victim and Miserable: The Tragic Life of X” because stories like these are just so tragic and they should and could be completely avoided.
Let me finish with this: We all used to hear as children, Finish your plate. Think of the starving kids in Africa. Well, right now my son is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, going down the Congo River on a boat, which takes a good month, if not two. The boat has no bathroom, no beds, no nothing. He simply has a mat on the floor and a roof that leaks. Food comes by way of fisherman who will sell you a fish, and there are people who will then cook it for you for a price who hang out on one of the barges the boat pushes. Everyone has to scramble for whatever they can get, including the kids. There are no victimhood mentalities, eating disorders, or AFRIDs in the DRC. I wonder why?
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