Trigger Warnings: Hurtful or Helpful?

Trigger Warning Society

We recently ran a sexual assault article in my campus news paper, with big bold red letters at the top offering a trigger warning. We talked about it a lot in our meeting the following week, because there was information at the bottom of the article about events going on on campus for sexual assault survivors. Did we just turn away the people who could have benefited from the article?

When you go online you see a lot of trigger warnings on blog posts, all over tumblr, and on every other platform. Our society has gotten a lot more aware of the fact that people are sensitive to certain topics. The question isn’t whether or not things can be triggering, especially when it comes to topics like sexual assault, the question is more about how our society has come to handle trigger warnings.

When I first saw this topic approached it was online. Someone had told someone that they should put trigger warnings on their tumblr blog posts about weight, because the blogger talked about how unhappy she was with her body and what all she thought was wrong with it, and the person asking the “question” said that she was bigger then her and it triggered self hatred in herself. I thought that the anon was being a little intense, because after all, did this girl not have the right to talk about why she decided to change her diet and start running?

I thought, wow, we’ve become a culture that is over sensitive to everything, and in a lot of ways I still stand by that statement. But at the same time, it’s all over our TV shows and movies, we clearly are expected to deal with it in some areas. Why is it okay in some and wrong in another?

I’ve thought long and hard about this topic and have decided on this:¬†We shouldn’t have to filter our statements and personal stories. Our experiences can help others, our articles might have important information at the bottom. Our world, our victims can really use others stories to relate to and help them grow. Does that mean that we don’t go through a period of time where we really don’t want to read those things? Of course not. Should we have to put a trigger warning on all of them?

I don’t think so. I think that instead of putting “Trigger Warning” in bold at the top of every real down to earth post we should maybe in the first few sentences of our article or post say up front: This is a story of sexual assault -or- when I was suicidal I felt -or- when I hated my body and weight I felt.

If we put red letters on top of everything we say that tell people to turn away, we won’t really be doing anyone any good by sharing. In the same way we won’t do anyone any good by posting too graphic scenes up without any opening statement. Our culture hasn’t yet figured out how to balance, and I think it’s about time we learned.

On the Topic of Beauty and Confidence:

bA question I get asked a lot is how I became so confident, and let me assure you before I go any farther, I have plenty of bad confidence days too. But despite the ever present pull of society’s standards I’ve realized that there is something more important, and those are my standards. Because, if we are being perfectly honest, society may tell us that parts of our bodies are prettier than others (which is a nice way of saying the “others” suck) but it’s us who really drive it in. When your walking down the sidewalk, the guy walking in the opposite direction, staring down at his phone, is not the one telling you that you don’t look pretty enough in your hoodie and messy top-knot, that’s all on you sweetie.

It’s not easy to accept, but our self confidence is not actually in society’s hands. I know plenty of girls who are over weight or have a nose that has been broken or acne prone skin, who own it. They decided they were beautiful and you can too. Because, yes it really is that simple. Is it easy? Hell no. But it is that simple.

It starts with you faking it. You know that old saying “fake it till you make it” well it’s true in more ways than not. When you look in the mirror you have to tell yourself “hot damn, you look good”. It’s easier to gravitate towards pointing out the giant zit on your chin than it is to fluffing your perfect hair, but we have to notice the things that look good first. The process starts with us just focusing on the things we like about ourselves. Once you master that you can move on to learning that the things you dislike aren’t that bad either.

Instead of saying compliments too ourselves that have “buts” in them, we need to start ignoring the bad things all together. That zit? Just. Don’t. Look. At. It. Ignore it, cover it up (or don’t!) and pull your eyes away every time you feel them wandering in the mirror. It might feel like tricking yourself at first, and that’s completely okay. The key is to keep it up long enough, because trust me that feeling fades. It turns into genuine love for yourself. And when you get there, you start realizing that you don’t need someone too compliment you to feel good about yourself, and when they do compliment you, you’ll take it to heart.

Society is always going to have someone thinner, clearer, and taller than you. The trick is to love yourself enough that you realize that their just that: Thinner than you, not prettier than you. With clearer skin than you, not prettier than you. Taller than you, not prettier than you.