in STAR Project News September 14, 2023
The definition of stigma is described in various dictionaries as… A mark of disgrace associated with a person, circumstance or a quality…A strong feeling of disapproval…Public disapproval and A mark of shame or discredit.
Poverty-related stigma is like a monster…lurking in the shadows, causing us to fear and mistrust, tainting our everyday lives and the decisions we make. External messages tell us it’s our own fault and that we should do better. Newspapers tell us this, the Government tell us, even many TV ads tell us…and when we’re told something repeatedly from different sources, we start to believe it.
This messaging causes division, and anger, and it keeps us, arguably, in our place.
We see it on social media daily: people turning on one another in anger at someone getting benefits and daring to say they’re struggling. “It’s alright for them, they get everything handed to them, “Why don’t you just get a job?” If only this outrage were directed at the feet of those who create unjust and divisive policies or those who make vast amounts of money perpetuating the stigma by marketing products and/or services with an ‘us and them’ feel.
It pays to have you believe that if you buy Loreal hair products, it means you’re worth it. On the other hand, this message also infers that if you don’t buy Loreal…then you don’t believe you’re worth it, that you place less value on yourself, or that others will see you as having less value.
It also benefits the Government to have us angry at each other for there to be such division. After all, if we’re blaming each other, then we’re not blaming them.
Our Get Yer Glow On animation tells us, ‘If you’re not angry you’re not paying attention,’ which is a nod to these messages we are bombarded with daily. It reflects the impact of these messages, that poverty-related stigma causes us to feel shame and despair, and that it can very quickly obliterate hope. It also tells us that we’re not alone in this and that together, we can tackle the stigma, whether overt or veiled.
Get Yer Glow On is also about our wider Community Matters Strategy, how we support people to build resilience alongside tackling the impact of poverty, deprivation and stigma through themes of Wellbeing, Creativity and Connections. We’re well aware of how bleak a picture is often painted of our most under-served communities, but it’s vital to remember this is not all we are. We are so much more than a poverty porn news article or a group of shocking statistics. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian writer, notes that "The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story."
At STAR Project, we believe that every person who seeks support is unique and valuable. Regardless of what they may have done or what happened to them, they are individuals with all the dignity and worth that confers. It is not simplistic to say that people's value and uniqueness are immediately apparent, and can be profoundly known whenever we take the time to look at the richness of human life around us. It should also not need to be said that in ‘human services’, we must accept our responsibility to take this uniqueness and worth seriously.
We all have a wee flame flickering inside…and with authentic acceptance and compassion, alongside dignified and tailored supports to nurture that flame, anyone can get their glow on.