Constantly dealing with a feeling of guilt is a default emotion for many of those on the path out of poverty. Why me? Who am I to spend money on what I want but don’t need? Am I changing into someone my family can’t recognize?
Many of these questions play on a constant loop in the minds of those who are attempting to dig their way out of the struggle.
We live in a country where pulling yourself up by the “boot straps” is glorified but we never talk about what happens in the attempt or the success for those who do.Those who come from humble beginnings to become first generation college graduates, business owners, or successes in their ideal of a better life often internally wrestle with the psychological impacts of feeling unworthy of their achievements.
Living misunderstood isolates many individuals; as family or loved ones can’t relate to where they’re going and friends can’t relate to where they’ve been. I’ve dubbed this mindset Survivor’s remorse as it reminds me of an individual who is lucky to survive a tragedy but they feel guilty and undeserving of life. Many articles call it Survivor’s guilt. In the case of someone from a low income background they suffer from feeling undeserving of all the things they now have that others still go without. Let me explain.
I have this “friend” who has just gotten financially stable and is self sufficient. She enjoys traveling to see another friend out of town. Every visit is an adventure because she finally has a stable car and money to enjoy herself. While visiting said friend she has gotten exposed to different ways of life, foods, and activities she had never been able to afford before. Every visit lead her to thinking she should bring one of her family members with her one day because she felt guilty for experiencing such joy without them.
She feels guilty whenever she treats herself to dinner and shopping. She feels guilty at her job she loves and when she gets home to her sweet little apartment. She feels guilty when a new opportunity to move upward financially or otherwise presents itself.
Why me? Am I changing? What makes me different? They’re better than me, why not them?….
But the thing is we all have choices, paths, and people placed in our lives.Those entering into a phase outside of poverty or low income circumstances have a combination of all three working in their favor.
Good, knowledgeable choices about who you are and what you want lead you to the right path. On the path you may meet people who will give you better direction (mentor ship); or people who expose you to things outside of your normal upbringing. These new experiences all contribute to your eventual achievements.
You are determined enough to attempt the journey out of poverty.
So why feel guilty for putting in the work and getting the result you were working towards? Often, those who find themselves in a different position outside of friends and family feel undeserving because others they know work just as hard.
Young adults from low income households always feel they owe a debt to family and friends who may not have the financial stability or career upward mobility that they now possess. I struggle with this.
My hard work ethic comes from my mother and sisters. So how is it that I’m experiencing trips around the world but they are still in our hometown? Is it fair that I’m getting more and more financially stable while those I love still live paycheck to paycheck? So, I got into the habit of down playing my hard work. “Yea, God sure is blessing me way more than I deserve,” I’d say. And while every word of that is true I just inadvertently denied any helping hand in the blessing.
Opportunity presents itself. You can choose to seize it or not. Push through when it’s rough or hard; because faith without works (hard works) is dead. Can I get an Amen from the Deacon corner?! AMEN! God blesses you with opportunity and freedom of choice but it’s up to you to take those chances presented to you. You have to put in work in order to reap the benefits of your blessing.
Living misunderstood isolates many individuals as family or loved ones can’t relate to where they’re going and friends can’t relate to where they’ve been.
So I chose to go to college and chose to graduate because goodness knows I wanted to quit several times. I chose different paths outside the norm in my family. I discovered that I wanted a career more than a marriage or kids. I wanted to explore helping others in a different way than I had seen.
Every choice is then an ingredient added to your personal recipe for success. Whatever that success may look like. For my mother and sisters, being wonderful mothers was their desire. They’ve mastered that recipe.
Mine is a little different because there was no ready, tried n true recipe I could go off of in my attempt to build a career, alleviate inter-generational poverty, and help others in the community. So in the process of navigating uncharted waters I discovered so many other possibilities that could help me accomplish goals. The guilt I feel stems from my misunderstanding of what success means for others in my family. We do not share the same definitions.
Although, it is worth pointing out that low income families would benefit from more financial stability. Young adults who are just getting to a point where living paycheck to paycheck or stressing over bills is no longer the norm may feel guilt.This stems from being able to indulge and focus on other things in life. Knowing that you can indulge a little leave many feeling like a fraud because those still struggling don’t have the same luxury.
I feel you.
I wrote this blog because I realize that many others battle with themselves every day trying to find a comfortable balance of where they come from and where they want to go.
Desiring more for yourself doesn’t mean you’re rejecting your past but rather you see a different way of living that would bring YOU joy. You are determined enough to attempt the journey out of poverty.
It is hard to explain the complex emotions you feel to someone who doesn’t share your past experiences or the difficult transition. I offer this blog as a platform to share your stories below so that you can enjoy your life guilt free and happy.