What does privilege mean to you?

‘You are some of the most privileged people in the world. What are you going to do with your privilege?’ said Peter Hawkins, on our systemic team coaching module studying for an MSc in Coaching and Behavioural Change at Henley Business School in 2011. I felt myself suddenly split in two. Cognitively I knew I was sat in a room, on a campus, studying a programme that very few would have the opportunity to enjoy. But the other half of me was enraged and furious because she had had to fight hard to get here, she had had her fair share of adversity and difficulty and didn’t identify with being privileged at all. This was the first time I had been called privileged and it was an uneasy, uncomfortable feeling of dissonance inside. These feelings don’t negate the truth that I’m privileged, it just goes some way to explain how difficult it is to become aware of it.

It’s the weekend and I’ve spent much of this last week very unwell. My body tends to show me what I’m avoiding through it’s symptoms and this week my old friend IBS (Irritable Bowl Syndrome) returned with a vengeance. It’s message for me right now is that ‘uncomfortable’ is the new normal.

If you’re not feeling uncomfortable right now about the state of the world; the pandemic and the numbers of lives lost, the global climate emergency, the conversation and education about systemic racism in our culture, the water we swim in day to day, then you’ve somehow shielded yourself from the emotional undercurrent in the world right now.

The pain, trauma and hurt that runs through all these global issues I don’t have words to express. I’ve found reading and working through ‘My Grandmother’s Hands‘ by Resmaa Menakem has emphasised this. A beautifully written book sharing a pathway to mending our hearts and bodies from radicalised trauma.

We are all feeling a lot right now. I know I’m feeling all kinds of uncomfortable. And my body has kindly highlighted it. Whatever level of uncomfortable you’re feeling, it’s important to remind ourselves that everything must change. It is the only constant. The world looks like it’s full of material, solid, fixed things, but in fact, all living things are constantly regenerating. We are always in a state of movement, of things breaking down and being rebuilt. As I was reminded by this article highlighted by my own coach.

Our core capacity to break down or let go and build our resilience muscle is our openness and curiosity. Our ability to listen without judgement. Our capacity to develop our physical and physiological muscles to hold everything, all voices, all points of view, all the dissonace equally. This is why mindfulness and meditation is so powerful for our mental health. This is my focus with my coaching clients from all walks of life.

My privilege means I’ve had the honour of coaching an Art Director transform beyond the degenerative eye disorder he has and a female leader present her BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) initiative to the board. These moments fill me with hope. There is light in the middle of what may feel too heavy right now. It helps when we celebrate the small things like the UK just going two months without coal power!

As difficult and testing right now might be, none of us are alone, even with ‘lockdown’. The lack of physical contact might make this hard to keep in mind. But our bodies hold more intelligence and wisdom than we can ever fathom cognitively. Going inside might be the last thing we wish to do when things are uncomfortable. But now more than ever that’s all we really can do, to allow ourselves to grow our resilience to feeling uncomfortable.

Uncomfortableness rises as we begin to grow in our awareness to the complexity of today’s issues. Tackling complex issues require a different way of being, a capacity within ourselves or a muscle, that enables us to grow into holding more. I’ve been committed to building my own muscle to complex issues since I chose to research systemic coaching in practice nearly 10 years ago now. So I’m taking some time to delve deeper within. To listen. Create space for stillness. To renew, reflect and hear what I’m called for now.

I encourage you to do that same.

Thanks for reading, Kathryn