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Privilege Vs. Opportunity

I recently heard the comment, “I was raised privileged.” The intonation behind this statement was not one of feeling good, rather it was filled with a sense of guilt.

This caused me to consider how difficult it can be to work your way up to the top or to be successful professionally and/or financially; only to have others try to tear you down because they don’t like that you are privileged. The ability to feel proud of accomplishments, advancements, and achievements that perhaps others may not have attained can be stripped from us through the influence of others.

If we consider someone to be privileged, then are we saying in some way, there is something wrong with where we are or where they are in life? There can be the feeling that those who are privileged are “better” than us and it is not fair.

Consider opportunity as the twin of privilege; whereby, when we work smart, put effort and energy into our passions and reach levels of success that society considers above and beyond the average, we have taken advantage of an opportunity. Would this not be a reason to celebrate and take the time to encourage others to do the same?

The key is, how to train others and ourselves to think differently. To recognize when we are judging and perhaps skewing our view of others based on a concept that man has created to label a behavior, action or end result.

Just as a knife can be used by a doctor to save a life or by a criminal to commit a crime; it is still a knife. So, whether we call it a privilege or an opportunity, in the end, it is success. It is all in how we see it in our view of ourselves and the world.

According to Webster Dictionary, the definition of privilege is a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage or favor. The definition of opportunity is a favorable juncture of circumstances.

For me, both privilege and opportunity are the same things. However, we have given each a meaning that can be deciphered as either negatively or positively.

Do you feel privileged? If so, do you view how your life has evolved and that it is okay to have more than others, to have experienced a full life? If not, what good would it do you if you had held yourself back only to please the societal thinking that being privileged is a bad thing?

Everyone has the ability to tap into the infinite doorways of opportunity life has to offer. We can strive to reach goals, set our sights on dreams and aspirations and take the proper steps to get to where we want to be. The challenge is dealing with those along the way and once we reach our destination who criticize, admonish or demean us because of what we have accomplished.

How can we overcome our dichotomy of the constant stream of information and encouragement to be successful, yet when we have it, we are not able to enjoy the benefits? Or, we must face each day fending off those who are jealous, angry or dissatisfied with their own lives taking it out on those who have more.

Sometimes we may prevent ourselves from reaching the best version of ourselves because we have been taught that having more than others is not good. Yet, aren’t we always given opportunities? There are guideposts along our path in life showing us what can help us to see opportunity when it is knocking on our door.

Fears of what others may think, and feeling guilty about the success attained only creates resistance for you and keeps others from reaching their own potential.

In relationships, if someone says it is a privilege to meet you; this is their way of giving you a compliment. Sometimes, you may hear the comment that they are glad to have had the opportunity to work with you or to meet you. In this case, privilege and opportunity mean the same.

In the world of communication and consciousness, we can twist and turn the meaning of words, which has a huge impact on how we view ourselves, our situation and our interactions with others.

Whether you are privileged or have taken the road of opportunity, be sure to appreciate and give gratitude for all you have; and inspire others along the way to realize they too can be, have and attain all that is available to us today and into the future.

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Eileen Bild
Eileen Bildhttp://www.corethinkingblueprint.com/
EILEEN holds a Masters in Transpersonal Psychology and is a published writer, Certified Life Coach, and Producer/Videographer/Photographer. She is creator of Core Thinking for High Achievers and works with Entrepreneurs, Business Owners, CEOs, Entertainers/Professional Athletes, and C-Suite Executives. Ordinary to Extraordinary Life transforms your professional and personal life from the core for success by assessing how you are currently maximizing performance, communication and drive for growth for your highest achievement. Eileen is a contributing author to the inspiring book Chaos to Clarity: Sacred Stories of Transformational Change.

19 COMMENTS

  1. Powerful!! I struggle with this because intellectually it makes sense. Emotionally I have had bad experiences with privilege. In high school we were considered farm trash. I dared to show up at a party in the rich part of town and when I got there the biggest football player in the school beat me till I passed out just for coming to his side of town. The irony of that is much later in life we served on an advisory board together. While I certainly remembered him he didn’t remember me. It was hard yet we did amazing things together. I can’t say we were friend but we worked toward a common goal. Thank you for making me revisit my feelings on this and rethinking them. As always I love what you write.

    • Larry….sorry to hear of your struggles in high school, but I find it significant and interesting how you came full circle with the football player. I would think your experience has been pivatol in the strengths you achieved to be who you are as an adult and as a leader/manager. Perhaps teaching others respect and value of a human being regardless of social status. You are welcome….glad you love my writing. :)

      • The paradox is precisely what those who lived in difficulties and faced them with courage can be said to have had more opportunities than those born in privilege in all senses.
        But in everyday reality we also see that even those who have courage, values and vision are continually rejected by selfishness, overpower, prejudices, local traditions that are far from pleasant to preserve simply because they produce pain, marginalization, impossibility to grow, even to know, which is very serious because it is culture and learning that save us.
        We all have great potential. The problem is that sometimes we are not aware of it, we deny it for fear of making mistakes or we get discouraged if we perceive the road ahead of us as long and tortuous. I believe that the commitment of every individual must find its roots in inner peace and in the authentic development of one’s own potential, in being at the best of oneself, in doing and giving the best we can, in living a life full of meaning

          • Thank you for the attention to my comments but above all to always propose stimulating topics. Among other things it was really a pleasure to be able to discuss with many valuable people from whom one can only learn-
            Really thank you!

            • I have a tendency to stretch the thought processes and go beyond the surface. :)

              It is always empowering to engage with like minded individuals/professionals who think outside the box, are willing to explore and eager to learn with the opportunity to grow/expand their knowledge base.

              Feeding off each other makes the conversations more stimulating, fun and enjoyable. I am glad you appreciate my topics and you are most welcome.

              Looking forward to more of your insights as I continue to publish my writing. Cheers!

  2. I was born into privilege. Certainly not in the financial sense. We had a well out back and an outhouse in the chicken yard. No central heat and only limited electricity. But I was privileged in that our lack of wealth created in me a desire to gain more financial security. A motivation if you will. I was privileged in that I was taught early on a work ethic, morals, right from wrong and to respect the rights of others. I was privileged in that I had no physical handicaps, and yes I was born with white skin, which some consider a privilege.

    I’ve seen many born into financial privilege that frittered it away living a meaningless life. Given a choice, which none of us get, I would take my privileges any day over one of financial wealth.

    • Ken…thank you for sharing. It would be great if we did not define people by a scale of privilege. As you have pointed out, born into financial privilege does not guarntee a meaningful life, while a simple life can be priceless as there is much that can be gained in many ways.

      The ability to appreciate and value what one has, regardless of the status it represents, goes a long way in living a bountiful life.

  3. “If they are not valid for each and for everyone, rights become privileges” !!
    Perhaps this phrase makes it clear that there are people who have neither the privileges nor the opportunity to get any.
    The reflections of the article are interesting and stimulating and I agree with the always lucid comment by Ken.
    Of course, much depends on our inner strength, determination, perseverance in pursuing a privilege of whatever nature it is and in seizing the opportunities to do so. We can cite cases of unfortunate circumstances in life in which people have been able to transform them into opportunities and reach goals that they perhaps did not even think before that circumstance occurred.
    However, there are people who fight every day for their survival and their children in a society where the lack of resources, geographical distance, architectural and social barriers, even awareness, make it difficult, if not impossible, the very birth of opportunities to build a still labile form of some privilege.
    It would be nice if these people had at least some opportunities-

    • Aldo, thank you for sharing. As I live longer and spend more time as an observer of life and people, it becomes more evident that as much as we would like to see the world in a better place, I am not convinced it is possible at the level we would like to achieve. (at least not in my lifetime). Just as you have pointed out, many fight every day for survival, not necessarily because of lack of effort to get ahead in life, but because of the circumstances through which they are surrounded by. Suppression of societies, the distance between the haves and have nots, and the lack of prgrams/workable solutions to assists those who could use a hand up, keep people stuck.

      This subject can be a forever conversation that has no beginning and no end, rather a trail of success for some (as you have mentioned) and continued strife for others. Humanity may try on some levels to ease the gap, but in my awareness of the patterns of humanity, we have a long way to go.

      For those of us who have compassion, the desire to help, and the ability to create opportunities both for those who we view as privaleged (to helps others less fortunate), and for those who we view as not privaleged (to assist them in finding ways to improve their lives), we can lead by example and hope to be a positive influence. However, keep in mind, there is another side to this coin. When we “judge” others, we may not know what is underlying in their thinking/belief systems/desires. There is so much between the lines, to look at things from just the surface, we are excluding other variables that could shine a different light onto what we visibly see. Too much to go into here, but I will sum it up with this:

      Life is a master teacher, day by day, we are exposed to experiences for the human spirit to learn, understand, evolve and transform. With the polarity of living, the heart mind and the mental mind weave together the tapestry of life. There is a global connection we all have, both known and unknown/seen and unseen. The element of emotions/feelings is the catalyst through which we take action, or not, with the ultimate goal of feeling good and universal love. The mass conscious is struggling to find a foothold in the vastness of the breath of life without fear, distrust, control and jealousy. To rise above the pendulum of chaos, the heart must discover itself, turn inward in order to expand outward. At some point, in the evolution of mankind, the lessons we have learned, and the ability to transform will be our way of being. Until then, we must keep on keeping on in light, love and living life to the fullest as best as possible for the sake of future generations.

      • To build a society and a better world it has to start from the present. It must be clear what you really want to change, without the usual ideological abstractions, which often have little to do with reality. Keeping in mind that society, and therefore the world, also changed thanks to our personal choices, the way to take the personal and social relationships, protecting and enhancing kindness and sensitivity, reflection and creativity, what is balance, harmony and beauty. The revolution we need is to start first of all by the individual and must point to a real improvement and change in society as a whole. A conscious revolution aimed at a real paradigm shift, and the building of a society truly balanced and harmonious. A better world is made of better people. And each of us can be the best person.

        • Aldo…so true. The challenge I see is the values you present are not necessarily embraced in today’s society. Those who do adhere to them and strive to be the best person possible, are up against such an enormous wall of resistance, fracture and imbalance that it will take many miracles to turn things around. This is not to say there isn’t hope for our future, but until the leaders of the world, including any person and/or entity that has influence, shifts their way of guiding the masses, we have a long way to go.

          I do believe though, those of us who can influence within the micro of the macro, our little pie of the world, we can make a difference. I experience it every day with my clients, family and friends, and see first hand the ripple effect. The key is for every person who prefers the brighter side of life and are forward thinking, action takers, to keep on doing what they are doing to be that spark to raise the world to another level of greatness.

  4. There are two ways to become what some would consider “privileged”. One can be born into it, or earn it by taking advantage of opportunities. When we tag someone as privileged it rather implies envy or even a touch of jealousy.

    I’ve known many that were born into privilege. A nurturing family, wealth, and the power that comes with wealth. Many of those with that inherited a “leg up in life” never learn to take advantage of the opportunities that come their way. Consequently their inherited privilege is wasted.

    One of the core flaws of socialism is the belief in homogenizing all members of society so that all are equal. That process destroys privilege and removes the incentive to take advantage of life’s opportunities.

    • Ken, you are spot on! Those born into privilege can miss opportunities in which they have the ability to inspire, uplift and make a difference in the world from a place of encouragement not entitlement. I would like to think many who we would consider privileged do have compassion and sincerely want to help others, do what is best and do not see themselves better than the rest.

      I agree with you regarding a core flaw of socialism and the desire for all to be equal. Without the polarity of the differences in “status,” those who are in the victim, poor me, doom and gloom paradigm would not be given the chance to transform. If we were all equal, then would there be any reason to strive to become better today than yesterday? Or, to see the capability of excelling beyond what “is” and stretch our beliefs, imagination and capacity to create?

      In my understanding, there seems to be a core aspect of humans in general that revolves around desire, perceptions, beliefs, environment, influence and self awareness that causes the idea of separation, ultimately creating the friction between those who are privileged and those who are not. Perhaps some day we will find a healthy balance…. take away the labels and ask, “what’s alive in us/me/you?” and “what can we do to make life more wonderful?”

  5. Being a white cis male, I hear “check your privilege” quite a bit. There are many today that play the victim because they can gain and assert power through guilt. Today, inter-sectional feminism, black lives matter, and many other victim oriented ideologies are exercising their power to gain wealth, build political power, and terrorize people; terrorize through public shaming, legal action, and employment termination.

    This is beyond just tearing someone down for them being successful. This is destroying a person utterly without remorse.

    • Chris….thank you for your comments. I agree with you in regards to the victim mentality causes a reaction to life that can destroy others without remorse. The key for the others is to be in a state of strength to withstand the onslaught. Fortunately, success/privilege and power can be harnessed for the good and create extraordinary experiences for all involved.

      I am curious….do you have a response to those from whom you hear “check your privilege?” And, when you hear this, what comes to mind for you?

    • Bob, thank you for sharing your thoughts. Blame does seem to be a way not to take responsibility for one’s position in life. It is easy to point the finger; whereby, the person is coming from a victim mindset. Shifting perspective is one way to move away from blame and instead see value in privilege/opportunity. Would you not agree that although it is easy to blame, the person doing the blaming stays stuck, not able to expand their ability to see the positive in life and continues a pattern of self fulfilling prophecy from their current thinking?

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