We’ve all come across the memes and colorful graphics that shout out –

Emotional Toolboxes - Choose Happy | DJ Ranch


And on and on it goes. And I’m just as guilty. I absolutely believe we can wake up in the morning and CHOOSE our attitude for the day. But after watching the video below I got to thinking about how privilege is much like an emotional toolbox…check it out…

Privilege and Emotional Toolboxes | DJ Ranch

First time I watched the video I was choked up through most of it:

How absolutely true the impact of two involved parents can have on a child’s future.
The significance of knowing your meals, shelter, and bills are handled by two loving parents.
How access to quality education is imperative to success in adulthood.

But then the narrator circled back to the reality of life.  We simply do not start from the same starting line.  Most of the time that fact has nothing to do with us – it’s a matter of circumstances.  And that’s what got me thinking about the similarities between privilege and emotional toolboxes.

Emotional toolboxes

We all have an emotional toolbox – it’s just that some of us have a hammer. Period.  And others of us have a few more tools.  And then finally, you have your master handy people that have more tools than most of us can imagine.  But I think it’s along the lines of privilege – if you were raised in a home of hatred…you’re going to struggle with hatred in adulthood.  If you grew up in a home where being the victim was encouraged, then you’ll struggle with victimhood.

When it comes to choosing our emotion or attitude we do not all have access to the same toolbox.

And here’s the irony of choice.  First of all, we have to be aware that we can make a choice to be different.  Anyone that’s spent any time with children has heard “they made me do it.”  As children, we think it’s absolutely natural and even imperative to react to someone’s action towards us.  We’re shoved so we shove back.  Something is taken from us so we take it back.  We’re yelled at so we yell back.  Not to respond is a ridiculous proposition.  But as we grow up, we learn that responsibility is RESPOND – ABILITY.  We have a choice on how to respond.

More Irony

Okay – so we’ve made a CHOICE to be HAPPY.  We think that once we make the CHOICE – it should be easy, yes?  But MAKING a CHOICE and LIVING a CHOICE are two entirely different beasts.

“Anyone who says he wants to be a writer and isn’t writing, doesn’t” – Ernest Hemingway

And lest you begin to think this entry is just about happy – it’s about any emotion.  It’s about bad mental habits.  It’s about accepting our starting line and making a choice to still show up for the race.

And yeah, it’s hard and it feels impossible some days…but you do indeed have a choice.

Personally, on that line in the video – I was pretty far back.  Divorced parents, deceased dad, family alcoholism, dysfunctional relationships, etc.  I’ve done my best as a parent to break most of those patterns but my children are still in the middle somewhere.

But is it such a terrible thing?

Dallas Willard writes “It’s not what you do [accomplish] – it’s who you become”

There’s something to clawing your way out of a hole.  It’s the butterfly phenomenon.  If you don’t have to struggle, you never strengthen the muscles needed to succeed.  Depending on your personal toolbox – you might have to choose to learn some new skills in order to make changes in your life.

And then there’s the relationships, small groups, and support groups.  If we all have it together all the time then we wouldn’t need each other.  Humans, even us introverts 😂, were designed to live in community with each other.

And then finally, I think back over all of my struggles and how they have softened me – I am so utterly imperfect – how can I even begin to judge your walk, your struggles, your toolbox? We’re all in this together.

The legal stuff – I’ll never write nor promote a product I don’t believe in…with that said, this post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a small commission – we’re talking small – like less than a dollar – these small commissions simply help me finance this blog.  Thanks for being here.

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Donna Matthews is a blog writer at the DJRanch where she strives to remain authentic while not taking herself too seriously. She is also the creator of Slay The Chaos (, where she writes about productivity and organization. She is a member of The Writers Guild and Write Space in Houston and is currently writing her first book.