Know your privileges

Fidelity cards, air miles, personalised discount codes and other VIP accesses are all the things that pop into my mind when I hear the word « privilege ». I am Martin’s marketing influenced brain.

Generally speaking, privileges are all the things, an individual owns, that provide advantages over people who don’t have it.

You can read happiness is a privilege, but I don’t quite agree with it. This is how I feel about the relationship between the two of them :

One’s most valuable privileges are the ingredients of their unique recipe for happiness.

I wanted to explore this word further as I recently realized there was a much deeper meaning to it. I found useful to dissect the meaning of privilege into different types. I’d say levels to be more accurate. I have arbitrary chosen 1, 2 and 3 for the different levels but there is no ranking or importance to be associated with each one. Every individual is unique and different privileges would apply to reach personal happiness.

Level 1 are the ones that are shared by many people. The first of ones is Life with a capital L. We’ve all been given this magical privilege to be alive and spend it amongst other living creatures of all sorts.
There are many more from having a place one can call home, a car, live in a non life threatening environment, or even being healthy. See here that some are much more « important » than other from Maslow’s pyramid standards.

Level 2 are the privileges earned and attributed to your person in particular. A job that fits your expectations, a title, a degree or a status within a community are such examples. It’s through our acts and behaviours that we have earned the privilege to be a president, a village’s chief or a doctor.

Level 3 and last I identified are the privileges rooted within ourselves, whether we like them or not. Like greater intellectual and physical abilities, being spirited, having gone through life changing experiences, having been raised by loving parents, having received an education or grown up in stimulating environment, and every external privileges that had a positive influence on ourselves and created opportunities.

 

OK, so there are different levels of privileges, Now what? I scratched my head for a while to come to the personal conclusion that there were three steps towards achieving healthy and happy balance of our privileges:

1- Knowing your privileges.

What are the ingredients to your unique recipe? To me the answer is by far the hardest one. It’ll take a lot of thinking and introspection to become fully aware of A/ the privileges that actually matter to you, whether you have them or not and B/ the ones you wouldn’t be bothered living without, and yet you still dedicate some of your time and attention towards them.
They won’t always be the most obvious and I found that asking yourself the question, “how would I feel without this or that?” is a fairly good indicator of how much it contributes to your personal happiness, and whether it’s worth sustaining or not.

I don’t want to sound to radical and one shouldn’t spend their life focusing on protecting their most important privileges but frequent reminders help to keeps us on our sometimes narrow, windy and bumpy path towards happiness.

2 – What’s there and what’s missing

Amongst them, ask yourself which ones you already have and pay great attention to them, until you have nailed what will keep them in a safe place (working hard to keep your job, allocating time for your kids, practicing to become or stay good at something…).

Then come the ones you don’t have yet but believe would make you happier. Get a degree, plan a vacation, spend more time with loved ones who are still close and alive, etc…

The freedom of making an educated decision to turn down a privilege, is a privilege itself. So it’s not always about preserving or going after what we have or want but being selective on which ones matter and letting some go the ones that don’t.

 

3 – Never take them for granted

The ability to walk, see, speak, hear, walk freely down the streets or having a home to go to are privileges some of us have over millions of people and I believe we don’t work hard enough to preserve them compare to the painful consequences of the loss of one of them. At least I know I didn’t, and that’s what lead me to think and write about it.

Most of us tend to take these privileges for granted, and I’ll use again the most valuable of them : LIFE.
When was the last time you woke up in the morning saying « Fuck yeah I’m alive, let’s get on with today! »? If your answer is « this morning », then you’re one lucky mofo, or maybe you’ve danced with death in your past.
Indeed, I have started to notice that people who have come extremely close from loosing one of their most important privilege, were forced to envision the pain of living without it. After that, they do not only care about this privilege to an unparalleled level, but also fully embrace that privilege daily.

 

I recently lost a privilege myself, and I’m guilty for loosing it in at least two ways. First I hadn’t identified it as one of the most valuable to me – even though it was pretty damn clear. Second and result of the first, I didn’t protect it enough to preserve it even when I had the chance. Now it’s forever gone and without this ingredient, my happiness has become tasteless.

All I have left is to ensure I don’t accidentally, or out of a bad decision, loose any more of these fundamental ingredients, or the recipe could end up making lethal poison…

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A friend told me that sometimes though, you can be well aware of your most important privileges, cherish them vividly, you could still end up loosing one.
Well it turns out to be true and as 2pac was singing, that’s just the way it is. None them will last forever, even the ultimate privilege of life will eventually give up on us.
But don’t get me wrong, all important privileges are most definitely worth fighting for. Because if you do and happen to lose one of them, you’ll be able to let it go with a much lighter heart and no regret. It just was meant to go.

I on the other hand will most likely beat myself up for times ahead for having had underestimated the importance of that one privilege. I have failed to fight hard enough for it, even though it widely contributed to my happiness. Today it’s gone and all what’s left is excruciating pain.

I do regret it bitterly but trying to get a little something positive out of it, I’d say it gave me the opportunity to think about all the above and start identifying which other privileges contribute to enlighten my life. Some were obvious, other became obvious, and some are still to be found. One thing for sure, when the dark days are over, I will pay the greatest attention to the privileges I have left.

Friendship

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One Comment on “Know your privileges

  1. Nice thoughts Martin. It takes courage to write these thoughts and feelings and that is another privilege you have; your strength and desire to be your best self. If you didn’t have that in you, you wouldn’t be writing this. Perhaps the recent loss of your ‘privilege’ has also come with a reminder of your strength of character. Use that as a ‘gift’. Stay strong. Live well. I have written along similar topics on my own blog: (ryanjohnscott.com) and it is very good to see more men talking about their thoughts and feelings. It is the stronger man who does.

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