Today, I discuss how to avoid the need for performative suffering.

Table of Contents

  • What Is Pefomrative Suffering?
  • Why Do People Need Performative Suffering?
  • What Can Be Done About Performative Suffering?
    • How Can The Individual Avoid The Desire For Attention?
      • 1) Do not overvalue your identity
      • 2) Set meaningful goals and be serious about accomplishing them
      • 3) Familiarize yourself with true suffering
      • 4) Push back against performative sufferers
  • Be Grateful For Your Life
  • Actionables

What Is Pefomrative Suffering?

Performative suffering is despair that seeks sympathy, attention, and resources from others. Unlike genuine sorrow, performative suffering is rarely discomforting, painful, or inconvenient. It has the outward appearance of being challenging, but there is no pain involved. Similar to acting, the goal is to siphon resources and attention from others instead of discovering solutions to the issues the individual might face.

Why Do People Need Performative Suffering?

life is not wretched | actress crying

Your life is not terrible. Count the blessings and you will see.

The greatest struggle modern man faces is his comfort. He has no actual dangers. All the risks that plagued his ancestors have been minimized or resolved by men and women far more remarkable than him. Thus, he is left only with himself to fight and his addictions to overcome.

Suffering makes us better. It strengthens us. If we can endure suffering, no matter how large or small, we prove our strength when future challenges arise. A man who can endure suffering honorably is a man who can achieve good things.

But modern man is afraid of pain because he is not used to it. He only knows comfort, and even the slightest deviation from convenience terrifies him. But he also knows life has to have meaning to be enjoyable, and suffering is the only way to earn purpose.

Thus, he finds as many performative suffering rituals as he can. He might complain about racism even though his country is accepting. Or, he might complain about his poverty even though he lives in comfort and could relieve his poverty through smarter financial decisions. He has to perform his “suffering” in ways that are not uncomfortable and that garner attention. He lies about his country being racist because gullible idiots will excuse his behavior and give him resources so they can feel morally righteous. However, his issues are self-created, and his community suffers because of his poor decisions. He could resolve his private matters and improve his life, but personal responsibility is painful and won’t garner him blanket praise for doing nothing.

What Can Be Done About Performative Suffering?

“Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.” – Charles Dickens

On a macro scale, I fear very little can be done. False virtue is popular. Men and women are not virtuous, but they want to seem moral. They are too weak to pursue the good and too arrogant to admit their weaknesses.

You can oppose people’s performative nonsense in conversation. For example, suppose a female director of a major department in a corporation complains about sexism. In that case, you can easily criticize her position through a simple explanation: there is no sexism because you have earned your position and are respected. Push back against performative suffering by simply highlighting how false and misleading it is.

How Can The Individual Avoid The Desire For Attention?

As always, let’s turn to the individual. What can you do, as an individual, to reduce your desire for performative suffering?

  1. Do not overvalue your identity – Most people offer little value to the world. They know they lack skills, virtue, and purpose. Thus, they compensate by overvaluing the things they haven’t earned, such as their skin color, gender, and sexuality. But such things are hollow and help no one. This disappointment leads people to perform to compensate for their lack of value and personality. The less you value what is hollow and fleeting, the less likely you are to seek performative suffering.
  2. Set meaningful goals and be serious about accomplishing them – The harder you work, the more value you build. A lazy man is always afraid for his life because he knows he can’t help others or himself. Thus, work towards building who you are and creating an individual who accomplishes meaningful goals, so you can suffer productively.
  3. Familiarize yourself with true suffering – Modern man has no concept of pain. Very few of us suffer in horrid ways. Thus, when we familiarize ourselves with the pain of others, especially the people of the past, we can escape our egos and refocus on our blessings. The more you value the good things, the less likely you are to pursue performative suffering.
  4. Push back against performative sufferers – Lastly, when you can easily spot people’s bullshit, you will be less likely to pursue it yourself. Once you see how pathetic and embarrassing performative suffering is, you will push back against your desire to perform for others.

Be Grateful For Your Life


Suffering in silence is crucial to personal growth and development.

The problem is gratitude. Most weak individuals are too arrogant and self-absorbed to concede their lives are a blessing. Be grateful for what you have and embrace it. Don’t waste your life. You have opportunities your ancestors could have never dreamed of. You don’t need to perform to feel important.

Be grateful for your ease in life, not ashamed. If you want to reduce your shame, challenge yourself to improve so you excel within your comforts.


“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” – Marcel Proust

  1. Do you crave attention? Who do you crave attention from?
  2. Who are the people in your life who participate in performative suffering? What are they like? Are they interested in solving any of their real issues?
  3. How often do you seek out suffering? For example, do you take cold showers or fast? What are some ways to voluntarily introduce suffering into your life to make yourself stronger?

Please remember that it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.

*Image credit to Unsplash.