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The Tragedy of Safe Spaces

Updated on August 27, 2016

Designated safe spaces on college campuses started out as a good idea: provide a place for people to go where they won’t be attacked over their identity. Unfortunately, this simple concept has morphed into something that does more harm than good. Safe spaces across college campuses have come to mean a place people can go where they won’t “feel” attacked. The problem being that what is defined as an “attack” has been stretched to mean whatever the supposed victim wants it to. A simple eye roll or raised voice can be enough to make someone in a safe space “uncomfortable” (speaking from personal experience).

And by definition of a safe space, that which is considered unsafe has to get out. This isn’t just limited to rude or offensive behavior either. Opinions must also conform to an established set of beliefs. One can still disagree on how to address a certain issue so long as there is general agreement the issue exists and needs to be fixed. And once dissenting opinions are out, groupthink comes in.

And once everyone agrees something is true, there is the general belief that everyone outside the group better feel the same way. Their personal truth is confused to being the one ultimate Truth and must be believed by everyone. These people are more than happy to share their infinite wisdom with others, but once they are met with skepticism or disinterest, they get aggressive and frustrated. If the skepticism/disinterest continues, they go back to their safe space to complain and receive reassurance before trying again.

This is horribly dangerous. One cannot control the thoughts or actions of anyone else. We do, however, have control over our own (though many people would insist otherwise). In fact, I argue the people who try the hardest to control the thoughts and actions of others are the people who feel the least in control of themselves.

The tragedy of safe spaces is that they are unwittingly fostering a group of young people who are closed-minded and have low self-confidence, all while promoting the illusion of love and acceptance for one’s self. Thing is, true confidence and self love are not dependent on any outside forces, they are created entirely from within. By nature, safe spaces encourage low self-esteem because the truly confident would not be so bothered by the words of others that they need to go hide in a room filled with people who can offer reassurance that whatever the big meanie said was wrong.

College is supposed to be about preparing students to enter the working world. You can try to bully the administration into doing what you want, it might even work, but it won’t work forever. You’re paying the school to go there; they want your money. So they’ll put up with your crap. The company you end up working for is paying you. If you’re too unreasonable and insist on having everything your way, they’ll happily stop paying you.

Try all you want, but you will never be able to stop everyone from being a jerk. What you can do is control your reactions. So whenever you find yourself being insulted, (by yourself or another) remind yourself that whatever is being said isn’t true. Then follow it up with positive thoughts. If you say anything enough times with confidence, it will eventually become true.

And the simple truth is this, changing the world is impossible; changing yourself is completely possible.

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