When Freedom Of Choice No Longer Sets Us Free


I’ve been thinking this week about privilege.

Because, the fact is, I’m privileged. Everyone I know is privileged. So goddamn, sickeningly privileged. Privilege creates discomfort within me. Because while so many all over the world live in fear, violence, oppression, control and persecution, we live with privilege, affluence and freedom.

And yet, we aren’t satisfied.

We’re restless, agitated, impatient, unsettled, disappointed.

Why? In a world where women are banned from wearing a burkini or forced into arranged marriages, and children are trafficked into slavery, and thousands die of malnourishment and disease every day — why are we, the privileged, so unsatisfied?

Nobody dictates us, controls us or oppresses us. We are blessed with choice. So much choice it’s ridiculous. Which of my five pairs of jeans shall I wear today? The ones with the buttons or zip fly? Skinny or boyfriend? The black coat or the grey? Should we buy a house or rent? Where will we holiday this summer? Two kids or three? Which restaurant should we eat at tonight? Red wine or white? Latte or long black? Private school or public? Go back to work or stay at home? Stay married or go our separate ways? Which of the 78 cereals in the breakfast aisle should I buy? Public health or private? Gel, shellac or acrylic nails this week?

And suddenly, there are 28,496 different choices laid out before us, choices that attach to us like strings, that pull us every which-way until we can hardly think straight anymore, until we feel compelled to consider every choice and weigh it up in its entirety. Until we’re frantic with choice. Until there is so much choice, we are overwhelmed and no longer know which choice to make. So we just don’t make one. Instead we become indecisive and apathetic.

We are no longer set free by choice, but paralysed by it.

See, with freedom comes choice. But the paradox of choice is when we’re given too much, we lose our freedom, and instead become captive to our dissatisfaction.

For how do we know, in the face of so many choices, we made the right one? Could we have made a better one? What if there was a better option, and we missed it? How do we know we didn’t settle for less than we deserve? Suddenly the other choices begin to look more attractive. No matter how great the choice we made was, we somehow still feel let down, disappointed. We should have made a different choice, one that would have made us feel more fulfilled. We are no longer satisfied, but restless and without content. There must be a better choice out there.

Thankfully, we still have 28,495 choices to choose from until we find that satisfaction we so desperately crave.

My head hurts with it all. I’m tired in the face of so many choices that distract me, preoccupy me, consume me. I long for a more simplistic life, to find the balance between extreme oppression and extreme privilege. I long for contentment in what I have and where I live and who I am. I long to come to a place of rest, a place of stillness, where I am not lured by choice and swayed by its fickle promise of unattainable satisfaction.

I don’t believe the answer is found in more. More choices don’t enable us more freedom, but imprison us to the endless pursuit of supremacy. We come to believe what we have isn’t enough, and we must strive for which we are entitled — more choices, more money, more possession, more of what we’ve been told we deserve. More, more, more.

More is not the answer. The answer is less.

For here in this place of less, we find simplicity. We find gratitude and appreciation in what we have. Less clutter and more space, more peace, more contentment. No longer plagued by the seduction of choice, we find fulfillment and satisfaction in our lives exactly as they are.

We must be mindful in our life of privilege, affluence and freedom. For yes, with these things comes choice. But having choice isn’t synonymous with needing more. If we allow choice to control us, it will. If we allow choice to breed dissatisfaction in us, it will.

Instead, we must allow choice to once again liberate us. To learn to live in balance and harmony with the freedom of choice we have. To never forget that choice is a privilege denied to many. To make the power of our choices count.

To live more simplistically that we may be less overwhelmed by choice, and more overwhelmed by the satisfaction and contentment we find in this life we are so blessed to live.

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