How Do We Fix The System?

If you change one thing in the world what would it be? Would you end something? Like poverty, exploitation or a Tory government? Would you start something? A new legislation on a social issue? Or maybe something small like world peace?

No matter how attractive any of those propositions sound we know that we will never have the power to achieve them (except for perhaps a change in government). We know how the world works right? We know how messed up it can be. The systems rigged.

What is the system?

A system by definition is a collection of elements organised for a common purpose. However when I think of the “system” I tend to think more of institutions and social norms. How we see people and judge them. Y’know the pillars of society. Religion, politics, social class etc. For the purpose of this blog that’s what the ‘system’ is.

1. Fix the System

Ever since I was a teenager I’ve been a thinker. For better or worse. I grew up in a small conservative town surrounded by religious and political institutions that were sometimes too closely connected. I knew that the faith (religion) and politics (bigotry) I saw was nothing like what I wanted.

I was young and naïve. I had an idealistic view of how the world should work. I was 19 – what would you expect? I was going to challenge hypocrisy. Be a different voice. Aw bless that naïve 19 year old. Insert facepalm emoji...

Fast forward a few years and I guess “fixing the system” was very much still an ambition of mine. In starting a blog at least. I wanted to try and be what I hadn’t had. In being “warts and all” honest I hoped I would start some kind of trend that would make it easier for others to do the same. I wanted young males who struggled with eating disorders to be able to say “here I’m not alone.” I wanted people who felt like they had lost their faith to actually feel like they had space in this world. They didn’t have to be black or white. Their grey was fine. Their grey was completely acceptable.

Not meeting an objective can be incredibly frustrating let’s be honest. We all want to see progress. Want to feel like we’re making a difference. Not so that we can feel good about ourselves. But so that we can have the permission to keep going I guess.

I began to judge my writing by the response it received. Judged its effectiveness by views, likes, comments or messages. In trying to “fix the system” I became bogged down in the system. The system’s funny like that. So my “fix the system shifted.” To a new place. Where did it go?

2. Fuck the System

I'd usually dash out swear words for the benefit of some who still read these blogs but that doesn’t reflect the intensity of feeling. Where did I go after “fix the system?” I became a fuck the system guy. And you know what it was super easy to be a fuck the system guy. To be isolated with my eating disorder, lost in myself and just criticize everything around me. Bash institutions and the people within them. I was incredibly bitter towards “the system.”

I thought f the people who deem me inadequate because I don’t have a university degree. I thought f the people who judge me because I made mistakes and was honest about them. I thought f the people who have it all together and see me as broken.

I think we can all slip into a “fuck the system” mode every now and again right? Even if the word f**k would never leave your lips ;) Perhaps you’re sitting there flipping the system with lots of gusto. That’s fine too. Good on you and your flips!

“Those pharmaceutical companies profiting from the ‘business’ of sickness.”

“Those MLAs sitting up there getting paid to do nothing.”

“Those chief execs in their ivory towers while I’m cleaning the toilets.”

Vulnerable people being exploited by powerful people for profit. Over and over again.

Let’s be honest we’re not necessarily wrong in our fuck the systemness. The whole thing is so, so broken.

Hence why even now, it’s actually weirdly enjoyable to just have a rant. To criticise everything that’s wrong with the world and its institutions. I mean it’s so easy to do. And it’s a heck of a lot easier than trying to fix the system. All it takes is a mouth and the ability to open it and spew out words.

“Fuck the system” though will only ever get you so far.

Sure you’ll be able to call out all the hypocrisy. In that moment you will feel a level of superiority because y’know you’re not like that. You are somehow outside the system. But f the system doesn’t change anything.

The only thing repeated ‘f the system’ (without action) changes is me. It makes me more bitter and more judgemental. It drains my energy, dampens my resolve and doesn’t change a damn thing.

Which is why I want to advocate a third position.

3. Fix Myself

Rather than fixing the system or fucking the system maybe we could flip our perspective just for a moment. We are the system right? We don’t like to admit it but we help make it up. We play its games and conform to its rules more often than not.

So instead of trying to fix or f””k the system why don’t we fix or “f**k” ourselves. I choose fix. Let’s definitely go for fix.

When we start to change we naturally start to drift away from ‘the system’. That’s surely no bad thing. I certainly don’t have a comprehensive list of how to self-improve. Nor am I anywhere near where I’d like to be on that road.

Yet in the past few years there is one thing fundamental thing that I’m at the very least beginning to comprehend and trying in my weakness to apply.


If you usually read these blogs (thank you by the way) you’ll know I’m quite hot on empathy.

During my recovery it was always the empathetic people who had the biggest impact regardless of their status or position. The more I meet and listen to people who are struggling the more powerful I see empathy to be. People want and need to be listened to. They deserve to know that what they feel or experience is ok. And that I or no one else is going to judge them negatively for it.

Empathy goes deeper though than just understanding struggling people however. Empathy involves considering how the chief executive that you hate is actually trapped inside his own perfectionism and can’t see a world beyond money and power.

Empathy involves trying to understand why the person who wronged you actually did it. What was going on for them at that time?

Empathy involves getting your hands dirty and your high standards lowered every once and a while. Real empathy is hard. It requires a lot of you.

“F the system” isn’t hard. In some ways fixing the system can be easy too because you at least have a goal or a target whether you can meet it or not.

But fixing yourself isn’t like that. It takes time. You’ll probably die before you get to where you’d like to be. But fixing ourselves helps make us more empathetic of others.

Surely the more people are empowered to be themselves the less they need to feel trapped in systems.

If enough people in the system change then the system changes.

Because the system is the people

I believe that.

Covid – 19 has been the biggest challenge to the system in my lifetime yet;

Genuine faith continues outside of elaborate Sunday morning fashion parades. Who would have known?

Genuine education continues outside of 8.30 – 14:50 school days.

Politics can be put aside for the greater good. Sort of. Ok well almost.

Families can spend quality time together without needing to go somewhere.

Human beings can show remarkable kindness.

We can survive without instant everything.

Maybe we don't need the system

For anyone here from IG.

tiktok -

i‘m sorry in advance

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Darren Shields

Healing through Honesty

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