You Are Not Your Weaknesses

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It’s never been easier to define yourself as a disabled minority. Autism, PTSD, agoraphobia, rape survivor, any and all of a long litany of modern-day maladies. You don’t even need an actual medical diagnosis; just slap the label on yourself, proclaim it to all and sundry as loudly and as often as you can, and only the brave will dare dispute you. If you can pass for an oppressed minority de jour–female, transexual, homosexual, racial or religious minority–more underprivileged points for you. Go on some special places on Tumblr and you’ll see people competing to slap as many labels on themselves: vegan poly autistic queer pangender otherkin diagnosed with ADHD, BPD, PTSD.

But what kind of person defines himself by dividing himself down to the smallest he can be?

Every gratuitous label represents a degradation of the human spirit. It is a narcissistic celebration of weakness. Define yourself by what you can’t do and you tell the world that you are a loser. Identify yourself with special snowflake labels and you tell the world you only crave attention.

I qualify for a number of tumblrina psuedo-labels myself. I will never use them where they are not appropriate. I do not even define myself as autistic. I choose different indicators: author, journalist, thinker, blogger.

I define myself by what I do.

Every declaration of what you won’t or can’t do tells the world that you are not interested in delivering value to others. Thus, the world will not take interest in you. Yes, you can get pity and attention with those labels, but they hold no water with people outside of those narrow circles, and feelgood brings no value to the world or to yourself. Every declaration of what you do and have done tells the world what you can, have and will achieve. It attracts like-minded people to you and bends the universe to your will.

I have achieved far more by drawing people’s attention to what I do and what I have done than to my weaknesses. So can you.

You Are Not Your Wounds

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Never before has the modern world rewarded people for being weak. All they have to do is stick those labels on themselves. Now that they are part of an oppressed underclass, they can organise and demand special rights and privileges. If someone disagrees with them, all they have to do is shout, “You are a privileged cis het homophobic/misogynistic/transphobic/Islamophobic/racist/nazi bigot!”.

This is the logic of social justice and the strategy of cultural Marxism. These people exploit social scripts of compassion, kindness, empathy and charity. By declaring themselves as part of some oppressed minority, they can claim that their demands are legitimate and draw attention to themselves. Anyone who says otherwise with them is a class enemy who must be destroyed.

In-groupers think these labels are power. They think lets them take and take and take from society without ever having to give back. But this is only possible in a society willing to give in. The winds of culture are changing. People are recognising these tactics and the parasites who use them for what they are. When society stops caring about them, what are they left with?

Nothing but shrieks and howls.

With that said, there are plenty of people out there who have experienced trauma, crippling diseases and disabilities, and genuinely need help. I am not unsympathetic. Social justice warriors have appropriated their wounds to wear as armour, and the siren song of power and pity is everywhere in the First World.

But you are more than your wounds. You are more than what you can’t do. If you want to live life fully, you cannot define yourself by the lesser part of who you are.

If you seek to excel, you must overcome them. Mind blindness, social deficits and phobias, sensory issues, what-have-you, these are not things that define you. I’ve seen too many people using them as excuses to justify why they aren’t getting jobs, why they aren’t achieving their goals, why they are wallowing in self-pity and like being losers.

Wounds are not to be picked at and paraded to the world. They are to be healed and learned from. If you want to be great you must step beyond your limits. Identify your weaknesses and reframe them. They are not things holding you back; they are obstacles to be overcome. Know your deficiencies, seek out professional advice to resolve them, and put in the work. Day by day, week by week, month by month, chip away at your weaknesses until they no longer bother you.

This can be terrifying. If you have identified yourself as ‘X’ your entire life, the prospect of changing it could make you feel adrift in the world. And the sheer amount of work needed can be daunting. One method is to identify something better to work towards, something that aspires you to act instead of dragging you into sluggishness. If you are fat, marvel at the beauty and strength of a well-conditioned human body, and work to get there. If you are poor, imagine what you can accomplish if you can increase your wealth tenfold or a hundredfold, and work to get there. Every day, find something that inspires you to reach your goals and take steps towards that, and remove yourself from people and things that prevent you from getting there.

Aspire to be your best self and work towards it.

Be Great

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You’re probably not going to overcome all your weaknesses. That’s okay.

As I grow older my sensory issues have grown more acute. Just today I went shopping for pens that glided smoothly across paper without transferring resistance up into my fingers. When I train with sticks at full power indoors I have to have hearing protection on standby. Once, when shopping for cold weather clothing, I ran my fingers across synthetic down jacket. It elicited a screeching white sensation of disgust overlaid with yellow spikes, a feeling so powerful that it blanked out my brain. These are things that have never happened to me before.

It may not be possible to completely overcome your disabilities. What you can do is strive to achieve a minimum standard of functionality. As a teen I could not stand human contact; today I can power through empty-hand martial arts training and remain functional. When I was younger I had significant social deficits; today I can maintain a healthy relationship with my fiancee. I learned to adapt and overcome, and I’m not done yet.

The wise understand their limits. You may not fully overcome your deficiencies and your weaknesses. What you can do is raise yourself to a level where they will not hamper you, allowing you to exercise your strengths and become the best person you can be.

You are not your weaknesses. You are the sum of your achievements and will become your future glories. Heal from your wounds and mitigate your flaws so they will not get in the way of your strengths. Present the greater part of yourself and leave your mark on the world.

Older

When I think about it, I don’t think I make for a very good socio-political blogger.

I started blogging when I was 17. That was seven years ago. I felt back then I could change the world with the power of the written word, do Big Important Things and practice critical thinking. Like most of the things I’ve done, I almost accomplished these goals.

My earlier pieces were fuelled with raw passion and felt like slashing sabres. When I look back on them now, I think I was just channeling puberty-driven hormones and teenage angst into my articles and rationalising them away as good or necessary or something. Then I stopped being so hormonal and tried being more critical, went through different phases in life, learned a bit more about how the world works. Now, I can’t write the way I used to write. I’m just not (all that?) angry any more.

I prefer to think through things. For whatever reason, I’m just not moved by extreme displays of emotion anymore. If anything, if I see such things in an opinion piece, my first reaction is to distrust the writer’s judgment. Emotion-laden opinion is a poor substitute for rational argument, yet it is and remains the fuel that feeds the modern-day Internet.

Hence we have Occupy Wall Street, lauded as heroes but completely directionless and having accomplished the nothing it had set out to do. When a George Zimmerman shoots Trayvon Martin in self-defence in America, the world is outraged, but when a group of black people rob and assault a white man in Martin’s name, it’s mentioned only once. I’ve seen bloggers I respected spread conspiracy theories after the Boston Bombings. More and more now I see people taking cheap shots and calling it critique, people screaming vitriol in the name of some pet cause without looking deeper into the different angles, and Wikiperts and Googlefools shrieking at people who try to use reason and common sense instead of appealing to the simplistic meme of the hour.

I won’t name these harpies. These slings and arrows won’t even reach them. There’s no point in that. But I will say, I refuse to be one of them. I am a better man than that.

There is this old saying that goes, stick fast to your beliefs even if everybody else disagrees. That’s only half the truth. The other half is: beliefs have as much substance as a thought or an emotion. I studied knowledge, truth and beliefs in Junior College. ‘Belief’ is a way of thinking about something, ‘Knowledge’ is justified true belief. Beliefs can be wrong. Beliefs are changeable. If you’re wrong, you’re wrong, and no amount of denial or vociferousness will change that. If you want to be right, you have to change your mind. You can’t change others’ for them, only point the way to what you think is true. Not necessarily what is.

All my life I’ve sought to know things before jumping to act. That means keeping silent on many, many things until I get a good idea of what’s going on. That means spending the time and energy trawling for facts — hard, verifiable facts — and expert input. That’s not how the media — traditional or alternative — works today, as everybody rushes to comment and generate meta-news on the hot topic of the day.

I don’t work like that. I can’t. I am not wired that way, and I do not intend to spend half my writing time jumping all over myself, correcting mistakes and running updates. Likewise, I can’t spare the time or energy engaging in Internet debates anymore.

Call it growing older. Call it growing up. But these days I have more important things to do. I need to eke out a kind of living on a degree no one wants. I need to work towards my goals of being a successful independent author. I need to plan for future housing, family, career, a hundred other things schools don’t usually talk about. I’ve got other things to do than spend hours writing blog posts and Facebook essays. I have to focus, and that means closing the door on blogging as often about contemporary affairs as other bloggers can.

I don’t bestow the words ‘blogger’, ‘writer’ or ‘journalist’ with some kind of holy reverence. It’s just a descriptor of what a person does in a particular context. Not necessarily membership in some privileged circle. Likewise, I don’t consider myself part of the local socio-political blogging community, except very loosely in the sense that I am Singaporean and I have a blog.  Yet this feels like an ending, of some kind. Perhaps a departure to some distant shore, another step in a life-long journey.

I won’t stop talking about politics, though. Quite the contrary; I’ve received word that an article I’ve written on Singaporean media regulation has just been approved. It’s just that I need to streamline my life in accordance with my soul and seek a new balance based on my new priorities. It’s also a refusal to do anything trivial or time-wasting, be it monkey dancing on Facebook or pointless pseudointellectualism on my blog. I’m better than that, and I just don’t have the time for it. I sense I’ll only be writing about politics when I can spare the time, or if I get something out of it. Otherwise, I’ll be writing about other stuff. Maybe here, maybe elsewhere. Or else working on something else.

I’m 24 now. I’m not going to get any of my years back. I have to focus if I’m ever going to do anything with my life.