"You're so lucky" is sometimes a case of paying it forward
"I was slap in the right place at the perfect time
Filled a gap, I was lucky
But one thing I'll say for me
No-one else can fill it like I can"
(Evita - Andrew Lloyd Webber)
I'm not the only person who has heard the words "You're so lucky..."; "It's ok when you're privileged..."; "You always land on your feet..."; "It's great if you know people..." used in place of a simple "well done". Many people I coach - especially those who admit (like me) to having a twinge of "imposter syndrome" have reported similar experiences.
I lost 2 stone over 6 months last year. It's not that much when you think about it - not compared to people who have achieved more in less time. But people always acknowledge that I worked very hard for that (and still do!) Maybe it's because I documented the journey with a series of photos, maybe it's because I post pictures of myself drenched in sweat after running for nothing other than "keeping fit" (and hating every second), maybe the "before" and "after" shows the work. Yet, whenever (some) people comment on my career achievements, the "win" doesn't always get acknowledged as mine.
Sometimes it feels like "Dr Audrey Tang" appeared fully formed...she didn't it's only because I can now afford decent headshots!
I went fully self employed in 2014. I started by scraping for drama workshops (something I was qualified in) charging £10-20 for up to 3 hours - if I was lucky, and I went into my savings (I had some through my teaching job). I got the odd training workshop from people who liked my style, and those built up into a programme. Then I got my book opportunity...not the book I'd been trying to pitch - but because Pearson liked my writing, I am forever thankful they took a chance on my writing one of their titles. (I'd had 30+ other knock backs over that month alone). After the first book came more training, and then my TV opportunity when The Chrissy B Show were looking for a psychologist, then the next book, then being flown to conferences, then a PR Team and psychological consultancy and that whistlestop brings us to 2019. But this isn't the full story.
Neither is this, but it covers some gaps!
While I was working full time as a teacher I was writing my book pitch (as well as doing as many reviewing jobs as I could to get publication experience). While I was preparing drama sessions I was also trying to get into companies as a trainer, and doing 'extra' (background) work to pay bills. Now while I am meeting my media commitments I'm budgeting - because I do some things for free (partly because I love them, I'm grateful to have them, and they help me get where I want to go). I've learned who is helpful to connect with and who is not quite what they say on the tin(!); I'm also always making sure my training programmes are up to date because different streams of income mean I'm both delivering and licensing them; when engaged as a consultant - I'm continually learning more about the professions I'm supporting so I can do it the best I can; and I'm also ensuring I am building my knowledge as well as pushing myself out there - I don't have a social media team, a website team, or an administrator (can't afford to) - I do it all....and I reguarly support charities - first through my theatre productions and now through fundraising plus I have a husband and a dog to give quality time to (and a weight to maintain)...and I fund everything I have personally.
Hmm, but I'm still lucky right...
Yes of course. I acknowlege that. I'd also say I was grateful. My parents came to this country with nothing, and as teachers sent money home each week - my father worked hard, and now has a property company (which I manage on the side). I've had the best education, every opportunity open on offer, AND I'm an only child.
But this is what I urge you to think about - I could have squandered every single penny.
I could have chosen not to go to work because, realistically, I didn't have to. I could have stayed at home because it was easier rather than live independently. I could have chosen to travel on daddy's credit card rather than start as an unqualified teacher and save up so I could be financially independent. I could also have gone into a job my parents arranged and just kept all my money for me.
But my parents, while giving me privilege, taught me hard work, responsibility and kindness - and still do. They taught me that you help others when you can; that when you are fortunate give help without expectation of return (when you can afford to); that if you have talent - use it. Most importantly - give back! As my grandfather said "...leave the world a little better than when [you] came into it." I may not be doing it on a large scale yet, but I'm working on my corner.
My "talent" if I have one, is probably for finding opportunities to do this - to try and make things - people - better, happier, fulfilled. That's the psychology dream! And I work to meet each new chance with panache. Why? ...not always for me, but because I know I've been given so much in the first place, and I want to live up to that investment.
All I'm trying to say with this blog is sometimes people with a high level of privilege also have a high level of responsibility - not even that which they acquire, but which they place on themselves. They themselves question - did I really do that, or was it who I knew? They DO get it. Not only that but sometimes privilege has brought other issues - perhaps parents have worked so hard they couldn't be there for everything...including expressing love in the way a child wishes, perhaps it has brought fair-weathered friends hoping to get a slice of the pie rather than the cosiness of the table? Trust - or even over-trust (affection craving) issues aren't helped by dismissive 'companions'.
This is not a "poor me" - I've LOADS to be grateful for - I know that, and I acknowledge that every single day. But because of the work ethic instilled alongside what has been given, things I desire don't simply "fall in my lap" - I go looking, I build, I create - I work hard - and this is important for any dismissives to know for their growth too: If you constantly dismiss others as "lucky" - for whatever reason - you may not see how hard they work...and you may live your life waiting for the same "luck". This will only hold you back.
More often than not people with privilege are keen to help, ask them honestly - but like them - if you get a hand, make good their investment. Then, pay it forward.
Audrey is a Chartered Psychologist (CPsychol), and the author of "The Leader's Guide to Mindfulness" (Pearson & FT series) and "Be A Great Manager - Now" (Pub Pearson, 2016 and Book of the Month in WH Smith Travel Stores). She is a CPD Accredited speaker, trainer, and qualified FIRO-B, DBT and NLP Practitioner. She is the founding Development Coach and Trainer with her consultancy CLICK Training, and the resident psychologist on The Chrissy B Show (Sky191), the UK's only TV programme dedicated to mental health and wellbeing. She presents at National and International conferences in the fields of leadership and team cohesion, and is part of the Amity University conference panel. She currently lectures in Personal Development and Mindfulness at Brunel University.
Photo: Nick Freeman Photography