No One Can Make You Feel Guilty Without Your Consent

Oh, Kate Menendez. Oh, honey, I used to feel sort of the way you do. When I was younger and inexperienced, I had a similar chip on my shoulder. My family was never as well-off as yours, and I didn’t go to grad school, so let’s say I had a smaller version of that chip riding around next to my sheltered, tunnel-visioned head. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about the world, and here’s something I’ve discovered about privilege:

No one hates you for the advantages you have in life. They hate you for your attitude.

Your article begins on an explicitly defensive note: “What do you suggest I do about it?”

For one, you could stop lying to people about your lifestyle.  When someone asks about student loans, it’s okay to answer that you’re debt-free because your parents are paying for your education. That’s fine. I was debt-free soon after completing my BA; my parents took out loans to pay for most of my education, I took out loans to pay for the remainder, and my grandmother wrote me a check for most of my debt soon after I graduated. I paid off the rest within the year. That my family paid for the overwhelming majority of my college expenses makes me extremely lucky, and I know it. I’ve never lied about this, and I’ve never gotten a bad reaction from anyone.

You don’t have to lie about the suits you buy for your internship. Don’t tell people they’re hand-me-downs from cousins. There’s no reason you can’t say thank you after a compliment. If anyone asks where you bought them, there’s no reason you can’t answer honestly. If they want to know how you can afford to dress well, you can say your parents pay most of your expenses. Really, it’s fine to put that out there. If you admit you were born on third base, then you’ll be appropriately called out when you act like you’ve hit a triple. Is this what you’re afraid of? That your accomplishments of partial scholarships and part-time jobs won’t look so impressive?

You don’t need to impress anyone. Just live your life. Accomplish as much as you can with the tools that you have.

Another thing you can do is to stop assuming that someone else’s bad mood is a personal insult on you.

Why are you so quick to assume your doorman is giving your dirty looks because you ordered work clothes from J. Crew? Could it be that he’s giving you dirty looks because you behave like an asshole to him? Or could it even be that he’s just not super-friendly when he sees you because he’s exhausted from acting cheerful all day? Your doorman does not owe you a smile, and his crankiness, whether perceived or actual, might not be about you. Your assumption that people working for a meager hourly wage owe you a smile is probably bugging people a lot more than the professional highlights in your hair.

But all that said? Sure, there may be some people who’ll act like simply having privilege makes you part of the problem. If the difficulties you face consist in being told that living in a highrise apartment makes you a bad person, your life is in a pretty good place. Maintaining some perspective about the degree of difficulty in your life is a vital part of checking your privilege. You are not morally obligated to prove wrong every person who exhibits a bad attitude for no good reason. You are free to walk away.

And below, I have screen-capped the original article, in case Thought Catalog decides to make it go away.

Oh, honey. You're embarrassing yourself.

Oh, honey. You’re embarrassing yourself.

That happened.

That happened.

6 thoughts on “No One Can Make You Feel Guilty Without Your Consent

  1. Where does she go to school that she is the only “child of privilege ” there? It is such an absurd post, and if by “public service ” she means politics, she just drafted a post that will hurt her when she runs for any office.
    Sounds like she is not wealthy enough to be with the “rich students” and not struggling enough to be with the norm.
    Your post is spot on, when you state that if you are forthcoming and honest, people just say cool, lucky you. People in the service industry are usually very nice to those who are nice to them.
    I live a few miles away from where Mitt Romney got caught on tape in Boca and I use the same Starbucks that neighborhood uses, I saw a jerk mistreat an employee this morning; the hardworking employee was extremely polite, as I was walking out with my coffee I overheard the jerk telling his friends how rude he had been with great pride and acting like the post above…entitled to be … not a nice person.
    Polite wealthy people in any country are treated with respect, really easy to see that in the movie “The Butler”

    • Where does she go to school that she is the only “child of privilege ” there?

      Meh, I don’t know. I get the impression that she sees all these other young people who do just as much as she does, and more, with a lot less support, and she feels inadequate next to them. She’s not used to feeling inadequate, so she’s convinced herself that she’s under attack for having wealthy, supportive parents. She needs someone to tell her she’s okay, her hard work totally counts, and that’s welcome at the self-made cool kids’ table.

      Unfortunately, whining that you’re forced to lie about where you get your clothes is NOT the way to get a spot at the table.

      I haven’t seen The Butler, but I know what you mean; we respond well to NICE rich people. It’s a question of how you use the power you have in life. In order to use your power for good, first you must own it.

      • We went to see it, assuming (foolishly)that it was more about the HUGE public personalities, about the presidents (Alan Rickman did a great job with Reagan ) but it was more about the perspective and reaction of service and about civil rights. I am old enough (54) to remember water fountains that said colored in Louisiana, but many things surprised me. I sincerely hope the school system has my son watch it in a social studies class, he is 15andoften comes to the cinema with us often, but that day he did not.
        The storyline and acting were fantastic I was one of the few who clapped at the end….. maybe as a Latina some things resonate more but I only notice that in the past few years, my world had always been so ‘white’ America and I have never felt ‘out of place’ per s, but I think the divisions today in the US have had ripples that are deeper than I have ever witnessed.
        I have a Blog called IS HISTORY THEAGREED UPON LIE? I welcome one guest per week,. I would love to invite you for a week in December. I just request one post on the subject and then I am happy to add any promotional material you wish.

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