Saturday, 13 January 2018

Rethinking Privilege Through A Self-Reg Lens

Growing up, I was taught the moral lessons that have been part of society since the Victorian era:
If you work hard, then you will succeed.
If you set your mind to it, you can do anything.
If you don't succeed, then you have no one but yourself to blame.
It was very much an individualistic, self-control paradigm and I realize now, horribly wrong.  Because some people, through good luck, or karma or whatever, have a huge head start in life. And some people, quite frankly,  seem to succeed without really having to work very much at all. This video illustrates the point beautifully:

The facilitator tells a large group of teens and young adults assembled at a starting line that they will be having a footrace and whoever reaches the finish line first will win $100.  But before they begin he makes a few statements:
If you have never had to work to help your family pay the bills, take two steps forward...
If you have never had to worry about having your cell phone shut off because the bill isn't paid, take two steps forward
If you had access to a tutor, take two steps forward....
and so on.  By the time the race is ready to begin, some participants are almost at the finish line and others have not moved at all. 
Then he makes what I think is the most powerful statement and the one that really connects with the whole self-control idea that 'you are the master of your own destiny.  If you are a failure, no one but yourself to blame.'
He says, "Every statement I have made has nothing to do with anything you have done or any decision you have made."
Some people in the race have a huge head start, not because of their amazing willpower and self-control, but just because of the hand that life or fate has dealt them.  And others, through no fault of their own, are still standing back at the starting line, with no hope of winning.  
While this is billed as an exercise in privilege, it is also an exercise to rethink and reframe our ideas and our beliefs about the importance of self-control and self-regulation.  From a self-regulation lens, think of the countless stressors in multiple domains that are present and have been present in those teenagers lives. How can we as caring supportive adults help them to reduce those stressors that are not a result of their actions or decisions but yet are having a profound impact on their lives and their futures?

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