When you’re marginalized:
- No matter how nice you are, people will call you mean
- No matter how justified your anger is, people will tell you that you’re overreacting and making a big deal out of nothing
- No matter how polite you are, people will call you rude
- No matter how well you explain yourself, people will accuse you of speaking without thinking
- No matter how closely you stick to the facts, people will accuse you of letting your emotions make you irrational
This post is not about that, exactly. It’s about one consequence of living in a world where people treat you this way. You have to grow a fairly thick skin, and learn to disregard a lot of mean-spirited and unwarranted attacks on you.
The need to protect yourself this way comes at a price. The thick skin you have to develop to function at all can make it hard to tell when you actually *are* doing something wrong. And sometimes you will be. Because everyone is mean sometimes, Everyone overreacts some of the time. Everyone is rude sometimes, Everyone sometimes believes things based on what they emotionally desire to be true rather than the facts of the situation. Everyone gets outraged at things that don’t warrant it. Everyone is cruel sometimes.
And when everyone tells you that you’re doing awful things whether or not it’s true, it’s really hard to tell when you actually are doing wrong.
It’s important to cultivate friendships with people you can trust to care whether or not you are doing the right thing. Who share your values and won’t use false accusations of being cruel to shut you up, and won’t try to undermine your struggles against marginalization. Who will genuinely care about both the success of your work, and whether or not you are treating yourself and others well.
And to have friends who can trust you to do the same. It doesn’t mean that you always have to agree, or that you can’t ever do something your friend thinks is wrong. But it does mean that you listen, and take into account what one another thinks.
One of the awful things oppressors do to us is to make examining our actions difficult by flooding us with a lot of mean-spirited false criticism. It’s important that we find a way to counter that.