No more special snowflakes

‘Special snowflake’ is a term I particularly hate. It’s used to designate a person who is felt to be making a fuss or wanting special treatment in some way – because it is to be understood that not fitting in with what’s offered makes you an object of ridicule. I find this unacceptable in so many ways.

Firstly there’s a power imbalance here. The person who has expressed a need for things to be different, and the person who uses the term ‘special snowflake’ as a way of not honouring that need for difference, are on a totally different footing. The person asking, needs. The person knocking them back, has the power to do so.

Why are they asking? There could be all manner of physical pain and disability issues in the mix – these are not all self announcing. There could be issues of mental health or trauma. Again, these are not discernible to the casual glance. Even at their most annoying and least justified, people who ask to be treated differently may well be feeling vulnerable, fragile and uncertain for all kinds of reasons – they may be new to this, scared, insecure, and at this stage a few kind words and pointers make worlds of difference. Knocking them back may teach them to shut up and stop inconveniencing you, but it doesn’t solve anything.

There are a great many things that can cause a person challenges. More than any of us could hope to know. These are not all things we want to discuss with relative strangers. If you have a bowel disease, or a recent bereavement, a cancer scare, a heart condition, a nightmare at work, a panic attack… all these and more are not things you are necessarily going to feel easy about discussing in order to establish why it is that you need something to change. And how incredibly rude and inconsiderate it is to pressure a person into disclosing the nature of their vulnerability before you will take them seriously and help them!

Failure to conform to the standards of normality set by someone else should not be a reason to negate anyone as a special snowflake. Yes, it may be inconvenient to change things to accommodate people. Yes, other people’s issues can be perplexing. When we start from wanting to take care of each other and make things work, the outcomes are very different from when we wilfully put down anyone who doesn’t fit with our preconceived, self-serving ideas of what is allowed and what isn’t.

We have a culture that still feels put out if those who have relative power and ease are asked to flex a bit to make more room for people who lack those things. ‘Special snowflake’ is a manifestation of this, and it assumes you can look at a person from the outside and form a reasonable opinion about whether their issues are real and whether they deserve taking seriously. There’s an arrogance, and a lack of compassion at play any time this term is used, also a use of power and control. It silences people who need help, reinforces very restrictive notions of ‘normality’, and it excludes and humiliates those who are labelled this way. We all have times in our lives when we need to be treated with care, and no one should be shamed for asking for things to be different.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

8 responses to “No more special snowflakes

  • Pauline

    I’ve never heard this term before but really agree with your post. Everybody does have times when they need to be treated with that bit of extra care and not because they are attention seekers.

  • caelesti

    Agree with what you are saying here- though I think I’ve mostly seen “special snowflake” used differently. I’ve heard it to mean euphemistically “that person’s kinda odd” as well as in Pagan/New Age contexts things like “I was a priestess from Atlantis in a past life”.

  • grimmorrigan

    That is not the common usage of the term.

    Special Snowflake is a derogatory term widely used on Tumblr to describe someone who often whines about deserving special treatment or sees oneself as exceptionally unique for no apparent reason, similar to the use of the expression check your privilege in the social justice blogosphere.

    For example: The 24 year old genderfluid, otherkin, Atlantean Druid, furry brony who demands that folks call them by their full title of Xir, Rainbowflame Defender of the Happy Pony Kingdom or be called cisgendered racist scumbags would be a special snowflake.

    A Genderfluid person who politely asks that folks use the appropriate pronoun is not.

    • Nimue Brown

      I get where you are coming from with this, and I know that I would find the behaviour you describe as annoying, but my experience is that once people feel easy about labeling, that can knock on in all kinds of ways. It can be used to silence and knock back – anything can. I think when people are annoying, shrugging and quietly moving away can be very effective, whereas name calling can encourage people to dig in in all kinds of unhelpful ways.

  • Sheila North

    Great post, I wish more people felt & thought this way.

    Love this: ” …it assumes you can look at a person from the outside and form a reasonable opinion about whether their issues are real and whether they deserve taking seriously.”

    Compassion costs nothing except time, and patience. It also makes sense. A simple, quiet conversation along the lines of “What’s up?” or “Are you okay?” could also save time, and patience,later on.

    Blessings.

  • juliebond

    I hadn’t come across the term until you mentioned it but ‘special snowflake’ does seem to be a particularly nasty put-down. it dismisses difference which, for people intent on control, is always difficult.

  • Vincent in Ireland

    I heard this term used recently, repeatedly and now I understand a little better the bigger picture, and it adds to my understanding of the personalities and diminishes them a tad.

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