"I'm Tired" Project Highlights How Exhausting It Is To Endure Discrimination

Suffering through discrimination — even when it's unintentional — can be, in a word, exhausting. But a new photo series that gives voice to the microaggressions people endure every day could help lighten the load for victims while raising awareness about what not to say.

Paula Akpan and Harriet Evans, both 21-year-old graduates of the University of Nottingham in England, co-founded The "I'm Tired" Project to help people air their grievances while still maintaining a certain level of anonymity. A photographer named Ming Au shot each portrait, all of which feature text explaining what makes the subject "tired."

The overall effect of these black-and-white images — paired with Human of New York-style captions — is moving: The statements reflect racism, body shaming, homophobia, gender and identity prejudice, and beyond. Akpan and Evans aren't done yet, either. "We honestly believe that there is no limit to the types of microaggressions we'll hopefully be able to highlight on our page," they shared in a joint email to Refinery29.

The project's Facebook page currently features 16 portraits, and anyone who is interested in becoming involved can email the artists. We'll be checking back to see what images will be added next — there's certainly a wealth of microaggression material in the world today.
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Photo: Ming Au
"I'm tired of being the angry black woman.

"The media continues to draw on tired and irrelevant stereotypes when portraying black people — we are violent, we are criminals, and we appear to have only a basic grasp of the English language. The portrayal of black women is no different; the media persistently choosing to portray that sole black woman as the 'angry black woman.' These women are stubborn and unreasonably quick to anger. They enjoy emasculating the men close to them and are exceedingly upset and irate. It is a creeping stereotype that seems to shape the way we view the black women we encounter. But a black woman’s feelings should not be considered lesser simply because we are maybe more openly emotive or naturally 'sassy' than our white counterparts.

"I’m tired of my feelings being regarded as simply a consequence of my race. The reasons for my rage and my anger should not be pushed aside and belittled simply because of the color of my skin. I am strong, I am opinionated, and sometimes, maybe, I’m a little quick to anger, but I will not conform to your stereotypes."
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2 of 7
Photo: Ming Au
"I'm tired of being perceived as aggressive.

"Growing up in a mostly Caucasian area, I had not realized until I was much older that the image of a black boy or man is often one of anger or aggression. In many ways I can understand this, given the often aggressive media portrayals of, frankly, large black males in music, TV, video games, and films.

"However, what I do not appreciate is the way that this portrayal has come to define the presumption of my character and who I am from individuals who do not know me or who see me in a club and assume that I have an aggressive character. Through my career choices I hope to show them wrong."
3 of 7
Photo: Ming Au
"I'm tired of people asking when I 'turned gay.'

"Over the last two years, I have been asked this countless times; however, this is not a question to which I believe there is a definitive answer — it was not a process of turning, it was a process of falling in love. Fixating on the notion that to be gay, you must have at some point 'turned' from being straight is nonsensical, and society's obsession with forcing people into neatly labeled boxes is unproductive. Everyone should be free to simply be who they are and find happiness however they wish on the basis of who and what they are drawn to, not on the basis of which quaint little box society has decided they 'belong' in."
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Photo: Harriet Evans/ Editing: Ming Au
"I'm tired of being told that I'm too skinny for a guy.

"I have always been naturally slim, never enough to be deemed clinically underweight, yet have heard this statement countless times; largely as just an offhand comment, sometimes as an insult, usually followed up with 'eat more,' 'go to the gym,' etc. Essentially, I'm told that I need to change. And to me, what was initially just my genetics, and indeed something I was very content with, starts to become a source of insecurity. Why? Because I don't fit a particular masculine image? I don't understand it…it is exhausting to repeatedly hear that I am 'too skinny.'

"While I'm sure from this you could infer as to the wider misgivings of society, this doesn't seek to comment on 'skinny-shaming,' the supposed 'crisis of masculinity,' or anything of the like. Rather, I quite simply wish to suggest that nobody, male or female, should be judged on their body."
5 of 7
Photo: Harriet Evans/ Editing: Ming Au
"I’m tired of people telling me to just eat more.

"Having been diagnosed with an eating disorder over four years ago, I have heard these words uttered over and over again. As if it was that simple, as if I didn’t try. But recovery is not just about the physical act of eating more and it is not something I can always control. Each day is a struggle to eat a reasonable amount, let alone that little bit more. Just eat more ignores the fact that it is a mental illness and not a lifestyle choice. It shows the ignorance over mental health that is still ingrained in today’s society."
6 of 7
Photo: Harriet Evans/ Editing: Ming Au
"I’m tired of my intelligence being associated with my ethnicity.

"Too often, I am told that I excel at something because of my race, or I did well at something because of my race. My talents and skills are constantly being degraded into things that are beyond my control, a matter of nature rather than nurture. The tendency of some to reduce my achievements to a mere by-product of my race undermines the level of sacrifice that I, and others around me, have invested into my upbringing. This is just one of the offenses among a long list of tactless comments that are often heard (no, I won’t 'say something' in my language; I’m not your fucking performing monkey).

"Because the stereotypes surrounding people from my ethnic background of 'intelligent' and 'hardworking' are not particularly negative, society seems to deem this particular brand of racism as acceptable. However, people should not underestimate the ability for this persistent subtle undermining to alienate as effectively as aggressive and overt racism."
7 of 7
Photo: Harriet Evans/ Editing: Ming Au
"I'm tired of the unequal opportunities I get because of my gender.

"My dad always taught me and my sister that if we worked hard we could do anything that we wanted to do and nobody could stop us if we put our minds to it. Although he never specifically referred to gender, his words, now more than ever, seem to resonate more strongly with me, due to the number of occasions where I have been dismissed due to my gender. This past year, the attention that the press and media have paid to women and their rights has been phenomenal; however, there is still work to do. Time and time again, young girls and women are told that they can’t — the reason? Simply that they are not the 'right' gender. Girls grow up in a society which, if they are not careful, can teach them that they are a second-class sex; this notion is ridiculous. Men and women need to work together, appreciate one another, and strive to teach the next generation that men and women are equal and deserve the same opportunities."
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