Breaking the System

For most of my life, I was always putting other people down or on a pedestal. I was taught to do this from a young age by everyone around me, my family at home and my peers at school. I felt that this was how we were supposed to protect and express our pride and ego. In every aspect of life there was a prescribed pecking order, and it was my task to figure out where everyone fit in it, and to fill in that mold in my mind; then in the real world by treating others and myself according to how we were ranked. The underlying belief that supported this ideology was that of never being good enough. I needed to constantly decide where I lied in this pecking order so that I could gain some awareness as to how others viewed me. If I could successfully put someone else below me that meant that I was able to gain a rank. I was always terrified that I would be seen as being at the bottom. And if I was forced to see that someone was above me in any particular aspect, that obviously meant they were better than me; their social score was above mine. It gave me something to look up to, but it also gave me something to be jealous of. And it forced me to put myself below them in my ranking system, which often meant they were more important than I was, even in my own life. I lived to serve these people, but also to attempt to get to where they were at.

I think we can see this echoed on a mass scale in many different ways in American and global human culture. Hollywood elites, politicians, and billionaires are the people at the top of the pecking order, and the rank goes down from there with the people that are given the least respect falling at the bottom. The people that are different and who live outside of the social norm are always to receive the lowest ranks. This includes everyone who is not the “American ideal”, the rich, cis, heterosexual, white, thin, handsome, able-bodied, neurotypical man. If you fall outside of one of these categories your rank goes down. The thing about these categories though is they make no sense. We somehow managed to create a culture in which this “standard” was upheld under the false pretense that this “standard” was the correct one. Meanwhile everyone who couldn’t fit this “standard” was doomed to suffer in one form or another; shunned by society or cast out unless you could force yourself to fit into this rank. People who don’t fit into this capitalistic, racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, fatphobic, beauty-centric view are treated as less than human, unless they are prepared to give evidence that they fit into this ranking system in some way or another.

But no matter how dire it sounds and seems while we are living it, we can break free from this mold. The first step is to stop caring what anyone else thinks. This is the most difficult part because it usually does not immediately change things in a positive way. In fact, often, the foreseeable outcome of your situation becomes worse for awhile. Everyone around you sees that you are trying to break the mold, and they don’t like that. Often, others have become so comfortable in this system that they expect you to do the same, keep your head down and keep upholding the system as it was established. Though inside they may not like its restrictions either, they find comfort in where they have established themselves to be in the pecking order. When they see someone trying to break free they get a mix of second-hand fear, second-hand embarrassment, and jealousy. They fear for what will happen to you if you are unable to break free because people that try and fail are often sent to the bottom of the rankings. They have second-hand embarrassment because that means that people will see that they are associated with someone soon-to-be at the bottom, which means that their ranking will go down likewise. And they are a little bit jealous because if you succeed you are no longer constrained to the rules of the system like they are. They also feel that they themselves don’t have the courage it takes to risk the place they have established in the rankings.

But the truth is that everyone has what it takes to break free, they just have to believe in themselves. There will be many difficult obstacles to get over, which is why it is so hard to let go. We will want to cling to our established safety zones because even if they don’t serve us in the ways that we truly need, they are the devil we know, the wrong that we are familiar with; familiar enough to feel even a small amount of safety. But the true feeling of complete safety only really reaches us when we are established in our own strength; when we are able to carry on and live our lives without the need for the approval of others; without the need for the system.

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