When you grow up with stigma, people tell you a lot of well-meaning things that actually cause problems. When you face people treating you like you’re less of a person, someone will often say something like:
- “You’ll prove them all wrong some day”.
- “It’s ok. You’ll show them. You’ll prove that you’re better than they ever could have imagined.”
And then, when you accomplish things, it often becomes, “Well, you proved them wrong, didn’t you?”
People who say this often mean well, but this is a form of victim-blaming, and it can hurt people who believe it really badly. The truth is:
You didn’t prove them wrong. You never had to prove them wrong. They were already wrong.
Prejudice is not something you have to earn your way out of. Dehumanization isn’t your fault. You don’t have to prove that you are human in order to be human. You don’t have to have amazing accomplishments in order to prove that you have worth. Everyone has worth. People who don’t recognize yours have always been wrong.
You didn’t prove them wrong. They were already wrong. About you, and about everyone else too.
You might have to fight to be seen as a person. You might have to fight for your life and your safety and for basic respect. That’s a fight you may or may not win. It’s a fight that, no matter how hard you try or how good you are, you will never win all the way. There will still be those who hate you and see you as subhuman.
But you can be ok, anyway. You’re ok. You’re whole. You deserve better. It’s not your fault they don’t see it. It’s theirs.
You have always been a full person, fully deserving of respect and equal treatment. People who treat you as a lesser being have always been wrong.
Knowing that helps.