The Tension Between Struggle and Privilege

personal values

It is the tension that ensure we make progress. When it is healthy and not given a dictatorship, that tension inspires curiosity, new ideas and movement.

My definition of success is not the same as yours
Yet I constantly hold myself to your standard.

- adii (in Motion)

I have often felt ashamed when I have struggled - especially in my business - knowing that I am actually in a very privileged (and often envied) position.

There is a feeling that this experience should not be so tough for me, because I have the "resources" to navigate it. Yet I'm overwhelmed by the need to just rant, complain, suffer; even if just for a moment.

This is however probably a healthy tension of sorts. Every muscle has a natural tension for example; if it's too loose or too tight, it won't function optimally.

What first revealed this idea to me, was when I realised that - as an entrepreneur, artist and maker - I'm always putting myself out there. Imagining some version of better. And then trying to bend the status quo to move towards that future vision.

The result of this is that there will always be a difference - a tension - between expectation and reality. What is now and what could be in future. Being content and feeling discontent. Ego and no ego.

Neither necessarily good or bad. But at least recognising that we only understand light, because we also know what dark is. Two truths, depending on the context.

Books have been a great guide for me to explore more parts of myself and growing an awareness of where these tensions exist in my life (mind, heart and body).

Considering my historic and current privilege (topic for another day, but I'm a white, cisgender male that grew up in an upper-middle class family home), I needed to learn more about the "other side". Like standing in a mirror and seeing what is there and what isn't there.

Two books that had a profound impact on my understanding of privilege and struggle was Rupi Kaur's "Milk and Honey" (also the book that got me into poetry) and Allie Michelle's "Explorations of a Cosmic Soul". Both books are written by female poets and I believe that this is a big reason why it has such an impact on me.

Beyond a subtle nudge to think about my own feminine energy (again, another topic for another day), both poets paint a picture of struggle that I had simply never experienced. Some parts read like a dystopian, alternate reality that I didn't know or realise exists (and wish it hadn't). Yet within the same lines, their respective stories and journeys there is a narrative of becoming and power:

if you were born with
the weakness to fall
you were born with
the strength to rise

- Rupi Kaur, Milk and Honey
Always keep your shadow in front of you
Where you can see it
Make peace with the darkness in you
And you will find clarity beneath the mind’s mist

- Allie Michelle, Explorations of a Cosmic Soul

In both the above poems, the contrast of the two parts of tension is highlighted. Weakness and strength. Shadow/darkness and clarity.

We all have our own narratives.

Part of that narrative is shaped by society, our location, our community, our families, our friends. Other parts are about our identity, how we feel and which of our thoughts we hold onto. In the present moment and the past.

Good or bad, the narrative never ends. It evolves. It is sometimes more prominent than other times. And it's always there.

It is the tension that ensure we make progress. When it is healthy and not given a dictatorship, that tension inspires curiosity, new ideas and movement.

If you want a sense of my current struggle narrative, just have a look at the Twitter thread below from earlier this week...

An entrepreneurial journey.