Pressure, privilege and perspective

Reading time: 3 minutes

I think it was Billy Jean King who said, “Pressure is a privilege”. It works in reverse too, privilege brings with it a pressure and I’ve been working with both privilege and pressure in recent times.

I’ve been with people who are paid well, do interesting work, help make and sell cool stuff, work in great environments, with good people and have great opportunities. They’re privileged. That privilege brings with it a pressure. Pressure of expectation. Pressure to get it right. Pressure not to get it wrong. Pressure of time. Pressure to deliver results. Pressure to add value. Pressure to do a quantity of work. Pressure to do a quality of work. Pressure from home. Pressure to conform. Pressure to stand out. These are some of the pressures of privilege.

Many people experience a different kind of pressure. And theirs is much more pressing. Pressure to find enough to eat. Pressure to find shelter. Pressure to avoid abuse. Pressure to escape repression. Pressure to find refuge. Pressure to stay safe. Pressure to stay alive. These are not the pressures of privilege. They’re different. And they’re sadly still too common. They’re the pressures that often result from deprivation, usually as a result of factors largely out of the control of the people who are experiencing those pressures.

My point is this…

Pressure depends a lot on your perspective. It’s something we perceive. From a position in the world. The pressures of deprivation are often based on basic survival and safety needs. They are very rarely pressures we face by choice. While not impossible, it’s unlikely that anyone facing the pressure of deprivation is going to be reading this.

If you’re reading this you’re far more likely to be dealing with the pressures that result from a privileged position. These pressures are still real, but they’re less pressing. Your survival and safety needs are likely to be very well taken care of. Your pressures relate to psychological and social needs for connection with others, meaning, to feel valued, to have freedom of choice, to achieve a status, to achieve success.

So stop for a minute. See your privilege first. Now look at your pressures. Does it change your perspective and perception of the pressure you feel? If it does, here’s some advice to follow when you start to feel the pressures of privilege…

  1. Pause. For just a short time.
  2. Look at your situation.
  3. Observe the privileges. Take perspective. Absorb a sense of gratitude.
  4. Take 5 deep, slow breaths.
  5. Now look at the pressure you were feeling and the challenges in front of you.
  6. Choose the first thing you need to do… “What’s right now?”
  7. Choose your attitude.
  8. Go do what you need to do – to the best of your capability.
  9. As you do the thing you need to do, keep remembering how fortunate you are to be dealing with this kind of pressure.
  10. Go back to step 1 and repeat.