I’ve started to believe that the way you approach situations is a choice, and from that choice, future opportunities present themselves in the way you want to perceive them. In essence, you make your own “luck.” That’s not to say the people that struggle have chosen to struggle. We all have our fair share of issues and hardships but—now especially—the temptation to stay a victim is palpable.
Before I delve deeper, I want to explore why victimhood is so easy to fall into and so hard to climb out of. I see it as a pit. So let's say for example you reach senior school and run into your first experience with bullies. At first, you may respond by shrinking in on yourself, unable to comprehend why someone would take time out of their day to insult you and furthermore be caught off guard due to the fact you cannot formulate a response back. It’s as if, in my mind, you trip over and fall into a ditch. At first you know not everyone thinks this way because this is the first time you’ve had someone say something nasty enough to cause you to trip. The bully comes over and says another negative comment, and you shrink further and eventually it affects you so much you start believing what they’re saying. I see this as digging deeper into the ditch to eventually create a pit, one in which you can no longer see grass above you. The bully isn’t digging it for you. They’re certainly fueling you to do so but it’s your hands doing the work as you and you alone are the one in the self-made pit.
Someone has made you feel this way so it only feels natural that it has to take someone else to change it, to fill in the pit for you and help you out. Except they don’t have the extra dirt you dug up. They can’t fill it up unless they give their own dirt, which very rarely happens and happens at a price, usually for them. The loose mud is in the pit with you. It’s under your fingernails and all over your clothes and the only way to see it is to stop looking down into the pit or up for help but around for tools.
The focus is off the bully who may or may not have lost interest by now as well as a hopeful lucky interaction with a benevolent caregiver who has copious amounts of mud they’re willing to offer you. The focus is now on you, and that’s scary but necessary to get you out of the pit, walking away from it and dodging other ditches as you go.
Life, a lot of the time, isn’t fair. That’s not to mean there’s not a lot of joy and love in it. However, a lot is out of our control. You can’t control someone from saying something nasty to you but you can control how you respond to it. You don’t have to keep digging; you don’t even have to fall into a ditch in the first place.
I think one of the main factors that inhibit this way of thinking is that the vast majority of people think they deserve respect and acceptance. That’s not a bad thought as the majority of us are well placed in society and work to keep it that way. However, it’s much more complex than that, as it should be. It is a fair conclusion to make that if you feel entitled to something you put that “thing,” whatever it may be, into someone else’s hands and allows only that person to validate your worth by either giving it to you or withholding it from you. Just because someone thinks they deserve something doesn’t mean they will get it and that can be embarrassing and hurtful. It’s no shame to feel these emotions but it begs the question, “Why doesn’t he/she give me the respect that I deserve?” rather than “What can I do to change it if I genuinely care about their opinion?”
Because we feel entitled, we see doing the work ourselves as another punishment. What we selfishly want is someone to do it for us because, well, “haven’t we suffered enough already?” This mentality fuels the first. People, on the whole, want to please. It’s in all of our best interests. They will try and help if they think they can but their ladders are always too short and their words of encouragement can’t manifest into rope. The likelihood of you gaining respect rests on your shoulders, where it has always been and where it should always stay.
Take for example, the desire to see more female characters in film. Being a female myself I would enjoy that. However, it’s not owed to me. I’m just a number among other numbers to the people in power here. Scriptwriters want to write their own stories and production companies will take on scripts that they think will be profitable. The new Ghostbusters and Ocean’s 8 weren’t made to make women happy; they were made to sell tickets. That’s the way it has always been. That’s the way capitalism works and how we have been able to, in most ways, thrive in the western society. There’s very little malicious intent in that—it is merely business. However, that belief isn’t held by many people, which again begs the question, “Why am I not getting the films I deserve?” Because at the end of the day, if you want a film with real female leads, there’s nothing stopping you from writing one. It is on your shoulders, so pick up a pen.
That’s not to say when we see an issue, we shouldn’t talk about it. Talk away. Just don’t expect anything to change if you are unwilling to put the effort in, because if you care but can’t be bothered to do something productive about it, why should someone else?
My tone may come across harsh but for a lot of my life at least I’ve been under the belief that most things are out of my control and that the best I can do is get through the day. A lie I had been encouraging because I was too scared to face my potential and I thought it was easier to believe my issues were the result of someone else’s actions. I achieved very little in this mindset and I stayed in my pit leaving me sheltered, lonely and hard to be around.
It’s a common misconception that people who are optimistic are naïve. Our society strangely values negativity over optimism, perhaps because negativity is easier to relate to. Perhaps we marry negativity with realism all too often. Perhaps we all have a constant jealously complex that rejects the idea of someone else’s decision to view the positive in the everyday as if they’re ignoring the hardships others endure. In reality, it’s very easy to be negative, it’s much harder to be optimistic.
I don’t want to paint optimism as a self-actualised goal. It can be as tough as anything else can but it can help propel you forward where negativity is unable. To clarify, if your attitude towards life is a negative one it will lead you to hone in on the negativity you encounter every day to validate your perception on the world. We all have an overwhelming desire to be right, even if what we are right about will harm us. You become the victim of your own story and you will stay that way until you decide to change it. It will leak into not just your perception, but also your inner thoughts on the future as all you have to look back on for reference is a series of negative memories and emotions. You will start to bring that negativity wherever you go.
The hard truth is no person that gets the most out of life wants to be around a negative person. Negative people suck the positivity out of everything around them and replace it with doubt, insecurity, and loss. To be an optimistic person around that is near impossible. Not because it is difficult alone, but exhausting and tiresome and quite frankly, boring. This will only fuel someone with a negative outlook as they start to hang around other negative people to which they then begin to feed off each other and convince one another that the world really is the way they have made it. They have met each other at the bottom, reached independently by their own self-made tunnel through the dirt.
Optimism, on the other hand, does not ignore the negative like many believe. It is a choice to acknowledge the bad but allow the mind to open up to the possibility that not everything negative is about them. We are vulnerable creatures. Get most of us alone and we will cower like a child. Negativity can in some ways keep us safe in that stance but we are not cowering from immediate danger anymore. Optimism is the choice to stand back up and face what we are afraid of to learn valuable lessons; ones that will help us get what we want out of life. It is the knowing that if we are beat down by something so seemingly over powering we can and will stand up again.
Being open to the possibility of being wrong or other people wronging you doesn’t push you down. It allows you to teach yourself how to combat issues of deception, how to combat external questions of your self worth, and how to build your character on societies backbone and not just your own perception on things. Optimism is walking through life eyes open and seeing all, then deciding it’s better for you to focus on the beauty because you know that regardless of the world being at times a harsh and unforgivable goddess, there are still pockets of beauty and that is all we need to continue bettering ourselves to figure out where we stand and who we want to be.
Optimism is never an answer for life’s biggest questions but it is a method that yields the most progress within you. If you are able to see the good and the bad and can approach every situation with an open mind and then know how to respond productively when things don’t go your way, there really is no stopping you.