I cannot change where I come from.
Let’s get this right out in the open, right up front. I am a white male. As a child I got a fair share of toys, always had my own room, and even with my parents’ divorcing when I was five, I got to spend time with both.
As a teenager, the money my grandfather left me for college allowed me to attend school and not work in those four years. After college, I made both smart and poor choices with my monies; despite bouncing around jobs, I never was in danger of losing out on a home or other necessities.
Nope, I can’t change that. I have always had a certain level of privilege that, I know, I have taken for granted at times.
Why am I putting this out there? Because I feel it is important to acknowledge my own background in the context of the things I write about. I put a lot of focus on mindfulness, conscious reality creation, and developing and using positivity to improve lives. Because of where I come from, I have not had certain experiences that others have and do, which could, in theory, cause some to point out limitations in the value of my viewpoint.
Over the years I have read or listened to numerous self-help, inspirational, high-minded, new-agey, hooky-spooky stuff. The Secret, The Four Agreements, a couple different things from Tony Robbins, Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, and the You Are a Badass books by Jen Sincero are just a few examples. Each of these has numerous similarities in addition to the various approaches they take. When all is said and done, they focus on empowerment.
Easier said than done
As I have been preparing to publish my newest book along this same line, I began to look for reviewers to possibly entice to read and review You Are Amazing. In doing this, I looked at some of the above authors’ reviews. One reviewer gave a single star to an author because the reviewer felt the place of privilege the author came from invalidated their ability to write about this notion.
This got me to thinking. Does my own privilege have this same impact? Maybe. Whether or not it does, however, I believe doesn’t matter. This concept is not just for the privileged, it is for everyone. EVERY SINGLE HUMAN BEING can be empowered to consciously create their reality.
Yes, some people are born into poverty, slavery, war-torn nations with little to no opportunity. Even in the United States, people struggle differently depending on where they come from. A white man from the Midwest in all probability has a very different origin than a black woman from the south.
The question is, does privilege invalidate one’s position to expound on conscious reality creation, mindfulness, and choosing to get more control over one’s life? Given my own privilege, am I qualified to answer this?
Well, it’s my blog, so I am going to say yes. To qualify that, I am going to add this: The real issue when it comes to privilege is not recognizing it. Moving past that, the issue becomes validation and worth in regards to points of origin.
What is privilege?
This is not an easy question to answer, and because of where I come from, my answer is going to be affected by my perspectives. From my experience and understanding, this is how I define privilege:
Privilege is certain benefits and experiences based on where you come from colored by certain superficial and artificial divides. It involves not experiencing certain struggles and issues that others not in your position experience.
In layman’s terms, it is an inability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
Here is where it gets complicated. While it may well be completely impossible to actually know all the nuances and experiences you might have in some else’s shoes, recognizing their existence and making an attempt to be sensitive to that is where there should be, in my opinion, more understanding.
In other words, because I can acknowledge and recognize that due to privilege I am unable to be a true everyman. Since I recognize this, I can still teach and coach others about this concept.
The real problem when it comes to privilege is when people do not recognize privilege. From their lofty position, they are unable to not only see the plight or struggles of others, but clearly do not care.
Which is the real problem. Privilege, in its most negative connotation, is all about a lack of kindness or empathy. Meeting it with the same changes nothing, however.
Like attracts like
When you meet obstruction and indifference or disdain with the same, it creates more obstruction and indifference. Meet it with kindness and empathy, you empower yourself to build better.
What I would caution here is being mindful of not being a doormat. Being kind and empathetic is not the same as being weak and permissive. In other words, you can call someone out for bad behavior, but don’t use similar, negative tactics to do so. Further, in your own efforts to be kind and empathetic, resist being bulldozed in the process.
You have no control over how anyone else may react. You being kind and empathetic is more about you than the person to whom you are expressing kindness and empathy. Why is this important? Because you get back what you give out, and that does not change no matter where you come from.
Life is full of choices. No matter where you originated, you can choose to be mindful of your place in the world and the impact you and your actions have, or not. When you are not, it should come as no surprise that life is going to happen to you more often than happen for you. Privilege does not alter this.
I cannot change where I come from, and the privilege being a white male gets me is not trivial. However, in recognizing this, I do the best I can to give back to the world at large. In working to make myself better, it is my desire to make the whole world better, no matter where anyone comes from.
Lofty, maybe…but I still find it worthwhile. All of us are worthy and deserving of as much good as we can create. Be the best you that you can be, no matter where you come from.