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Let’s Talk About Privilege

July 24, 2017
Let's Talk About Privilege | Tiny Ambitions

This should have been my first post here on Tiny Ambitions. And I say ‘should’ because it would have put into context everything I’ve written since then about minimalism, simple living, and tiny houses. However, it wasn’t until listening to recent episode of the Let It Be and Budget and Cents podcasts that I was able to clarify my thoughts on the controversial ‘p’ word.

P is for Privilege

This topic might make you uncomfortable and it might even offend you (but that is absolutely not my intent), but I’m going to have to deal with that. In fact, the topic actually makes me very uncomfortable too. And that is precisely why I wanted to write about privilege – my own privilege specifically.

It’s easy to look around my real and virtual life and find something lacking in it, in comparison to others. However, by virtue of a number of factors, most of which I had no control over, I have ended up with an immense amount of privilege, whether I want to acknowledge it or not.

By virtue of where I was born (Canada), my ethnicity (Caucasian), and my family (lower middle class), the trajectory of my life has been different than if even one of those factors had been different. What this all adds up to, is that my reality isn’t going to be everyone else’s reality.

What is my reality?

I’ve never had to worry about where my next meal is coming from or how I’m going to pay my rent. I have had my fair share of ‘starving student’ days, six years worth in fact. But, at the end of that six years I had not one, but two degrees to my name. I even managed to graduate with a small but not insurmountable amount of student debt ($20,000), because of grants, scholarships, summer jobs, and contributions from family. Some of these things I did have control over, but some I didn’t. And all of this has set me up differently than someone who didn’t have access to the same resources.

Of course, my understanding of my own privilege was not clear to me until recently. And it became crystal clear for two reasons.

a) I blog. Which means I have a certain amount of free time to spend how I wish. That time is a gift I know I’ve taken for granted in the past.

b) I literally blog about things I don’t want or need in my life. And I have the ability to make those kinds of choices.

That is what I understand privilege to be – the ability and opportunity to have and make choices in life.

I now recognize that a certain amount of privilege is part of my minimalist experience. Without it, Tiny Ambitions wouldn’t exist.

Possession Privilege

To paraphrase what Cait said during the above Budgets and Cents episode, how lucky am I to have stuff to get rid of in the first place? I have accumulated so many material possessions in my life that I can actually get rid of MOST of them and not feel any real hardship. If that’s not a privilege, I don’t know what is.

I’m not writing this post as a humble brag for how amazing my life is. In fact, compared to others, it might not seem amazing.

But that’s the point.

There will always be someone more and less privileged than myself. But recognizing my position in that hierarchy is important. How else can you draw attention to it and change it, if you don’t even know what ‘it’ is?

G is for Gratitude

I’m writing this post to express my heartfelt gratitude for everything I’ve had in my life up until now because I know so much of it had not a whole lot to do with me, but rather, with the luck of the draw.

Now, I absolutely believe that people can transform their lives (and many of the people reading this are evidence of that). But everyone has a different starting point that affects how their journey progresses and how smooth or bumpy that road is for them.

I can’t write this blog and pretend my current life situation is owed to only my own, direct actions because it hasn’t. That’s how I know my gratitude is important.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Honestly, I don’t know how to end this post. I wish I had a grand solution to make the world a better place, but I don’t (I sincerely wish I did). All I can do is try and contribute something positive to the world and the blogosphere I currently find myself in. All I can do is not take my life for granted because this life is not a privilege afforded to all.

Thanks for reading. I hope something here resonated with you.

Image Credit: Tiny Ambitions

  • raggedlyrich July 28, 2017 at 1:54 pm

    Hey Brittany, this really did resonate with me too. I’m a Canadian as well, born the first year my parents immigrated here with my five-year-old brother. It’s always eyeopening when we go back home to Poland, and the exact houses and streets that my parents lived. I know without a doubt that the only reason I’m able to pursue my passions and do the things I do today, is because of all the hard work and all the sacrifices they made for my bro and I. My parents are the reason I’m who I am today, and I like that person, so I’ve got a lot to be grateful and thankful for. I’m in the unique position of having amazing parents, and that’s a privilege I try to stay conscientious of.

    I try and do my part, whenever someone comes up and asks me for help, usually food. When I see someone struggling I try to help. I did a verbatim show about homelessness, and one of the things that really stuck with me was a quote that was something like, “I don’t need your money, or your charity. Sometimes, I just want to smile at you, and have you smile back at me, no strings attached – that’s all I want. Just a smile back.”

    All we can do is try though. Earnestly, and honestly. And be open to improvement and communication.

    • tinyambitions July 28, 2017 at 1:57 pm

      Thank you for your moving comment! I agree, I think it’s the least we can do to treat others with compassion and honesty. I’m so glad the post resonated with you. Thanks for reading!

  • Lisa | Simple Life Experiment July 26, 2017 at 2:18 am

    Thank you for putting this out there, Brittany. All I can say is, well said! We live in a world of extremes, don’t we? On one hand there are people in this world who are miserable because they don’t have enough material goods to meet their basic needs, and on the other there are people who are miserable because of an excess of material goods. I completely agree about recognising one’s position in the hierarchy of privilege, and I think even just acknowledging in general that privilege exists goes a long way. My general impression is that a lot of us living in the first world have no clue how fortunate we are. Minimalism has seriously helped me to put my privilege in check, since being able to get rid of most of one’s possessions and not feel any hardship, as you say, really puts things in perspective. It’s almost embarrassing. Now that I have really entered into the minimalist mindset, I am much more aware of the extreme affluence (and utter wastefulness) of the society I live in, and the unfairness of the distribution of wealth around the globe. Thanks for another wonderful read!!

  • Brittany July 25, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    I really enjoyed the honesty in this post. I’ve been one to waffle about my privilege. I didn’t like the thought of feeling guilty for the things I have or the experiences I am able to have. At the same time, I didn’t want to be aloof about my privilege either.

    It actually wasn’t until very recently when I read/reviewed Roxane Gay’s book Bad Feminist, in particular her essay Peculiar Benefits, that I came to terms with what I’d been feeling.

    She wrote, “You don’t necessarily have to do anything once you acknowledge your privilege. You don’t have to apologize for it. You need to understand the extent of your privilege, the consequences of your privilege, and remain aware that people who are different from you move through and experience the world in ways you might never know anything about.” And later she goes on, “We need to get to a place where we discuss privilege by way of observation and acknowledgment rather than accusation.”

    Your post speaks to that!

    • tinyambitions July 25, 2017 at 7:58 pm

      What a great quote! I think acknowledgement is the first step, especially for content creators (i.e. Bloggers). Not everyone who comes across our blog will have the same reality as us, and it’s important to acknowledge that. Thanks for reading Brittany! I’m glad the post resonated with you.

  • Satisfied Ghost July 25, 2017 at 11:26 am

    Thanks for acknowledging this so directly. I think this is such an important topic in these movements. I tried to talk about it myself too in this post:

  • Sarah Saverdink July 24, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    Great post. So many bloggers forget about this aspect and tote the “with hard work ANYONE can achieve X, Y, Z!” mindset. It’s simply not true. Privilege plays a huge role and we all need to remember that.

    • tinyambitions July 24, 2017 at 3:49 pm

      Absolutely- I completely agree. I’m glad this post resonated with you! Thanks for reading Sarah!

  • LadyintheBlack July 24, 2017 at 1:42 pm

    Britt, I think on this topic, too. It first started as a way to cheer myself up due to some situation where I was felt lacking or inferior. “Well, I should consider myself lucky. I have more than most,” I’d say. Then, when forced into a situation where I no longer had more than most (except maybe exceptional friends), my thoughts on privilege changed from one of self-pity to one of empowerment. “I DO have more than most” and I AM grateful everyday. I’m living a life many would envy. Sure, I don’t have a big house and lots of stuff but what I have I got for myself. And, it’s true, I continue to pay for my past mistakes. Privilege doesn’t need to be a bad word, or a word that instills guilt. It’s a simple acknowledgement that not all things are created equal and an exquisite reminder to give back. Thank you for the reminder. I see that the Universe has spoken….well, through you and your exceptional insights.

    • tinyambitions July 24, 2017 at 1:56 pm

      I’m so glad this post resonated with you! It’s a hard topic to talk about, but I like the way you’ve described it as ‘an exquisite reminder to give back’. Thanks for reading.

  • diligentdividend July 24, 2017 at 8:20 am

    Most people in America are privileged. If one makes over 30k per year they are in the top 1% of income earners worldwide. Whenever I start feeling I don’t make enough I think of this fact and it grounds me.

    • tinyambitions July 24, 2017 at 8:31 am

      That certainly puts a lot of our lives into perspective doesn’t it?Thanks for reading.

  • MyStrategicDollar July 24, 2017 at 8:10 am

    Great post. I feel incredibly privileged. I know people have it much harder for me and that they need someone helping and fighting for them. This post gave me the warm and fuzzies and makes me want to go make a societal change so thank you for that! 🙂

    • tinyambitions July 24, 2017 at 8:29 am

      Thanks for reading Lance- I’m so glad it resonated with you!

    Hey! I'm Britt. I write about living a tiny, simple, intentional life. Because life doesn't need to be lived big.