Victimhood is not and should not be a status symbol.

It’s an observation that has been made time and again, but it seems to be a concept that some people struggle to understand. In the age of social media, people are no longer accountable for their words or actions. We see this almost every day on Twitter and other social media platforms; people will say something in one context but then completely reverse their opinion when there is a reaction from others.

Being largely anonymous makes it much easier for people to avoid accountability for their words. But we also see this in the bizarre phenomenon of victimhood as a form of status symbol. We live in a world where being offended is an impressive feat; it’s something you brag about with your friends and colleagues rather than simply getting over it.

There is a strange phenomenon where being offended or victimized by someone else’s words or actions is a status symbol. People have been offended by cartoons, statues, and even an entire food chain. What is especially concerning about the rise of this trend is that these people have no real reason to be offended; they simply want to brag to their friends and colleagues that they were offended.

This is especially problematic when considering the rise of identity politics in recent years, where individuals with an inflated sense of self have determined that they should be protected from any perceived slight or aggression; from any ideas with which they disagree.

Those who have suffered tribulation and trauma and have become survivors are rarely interested in defining themselves as victims or publicizing their experiences in exchange for attention. Those who have not experienced any real hardship are most likely to use the language of victimhood. This is because they have not had to develop the strength of character that comes with overcoming adversity. Instead, they have learned to see themselves as victims of circumstance, as people who are owed something by the world.

The pursuit of victimhood as a status symbol

The rise of victimhood as a status symbol is a strange concept to try and comprehend. Why would someone want people to know that they were offended by something? What purpose does it serve? There is a growing misconception that being offended gives one a degree of moral superiority, making them more virtuous.

We see this play out on social media platforms, where people will go out of their way to find something to be offended by to virtue signal to their followers. We see it in public statements, made from the high ground of whatever populist cause garners the most sympathy, by every public figure with a platform. These people are not interested in a genuine debate or discussion; they are interested in building clout and using the language of victimhood to do it.

It’s hard to identify why some people care so much about being offended. We are all “offended” by something daily, but most don’t dwell on it for more than a few minutes. Some psychologists have suggested that the rise of victimhood is due to the desire for control — offended people want to control what others are allowed to say. Other psychologists believe that the increase in pearl-clutching outrage peddlers results from people being more self-absorbed and narcissistic than ever before. I believe that some people are simply searching for a reason to feel special, to feel celebrated, and to feel like they have worth.

There is no growth in embracing victimhood as a personality or identity. It is a static, one-dimensional way of looking at the world that sees only offense, only wrongdoing. It is a perspective completely lacking in empathy, in the ability to understand another person’s point of view. It is a worldview that is entirely self-centered, leading to more division, not less.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Joan Westenberg

Joan Westenberg


Chaotic good. Award winning creative director & writer, ft. in Wired, Inc, SF Chronicle, TNW. Founder