First world achievements

Hand holding a TV remote

You’ve probably heard of first world problems.

As the website First World Problems explains, “It isn’t easy being a privileged citizen of a developed nation.”


The sun is too bright for me to read my iPhone screen.


I tried to unlock the wrong Prius today. Twice.

And my personal favorite:

I can’t find the remote.

There’s a corollary that you probably haven’t heard about: first world achievements.

That’s when a privileged denizen of the first world brags about dealing with her first world problems. For example:

I’m so proud of myself for reading my iPhone screen even thought it was sunny.


Even thought there were lots of Prius’ in the Whole Foods Parking Lot, I immediately unlocked my own Prius.


I was able to find my TV remote without help.

Or, my personal favorite:

I am so proud of myself for having an unmedicated childbirth.

As you can see, first world “achievements” aren’t achievements at all. They are what passes for an achievement among privileged women who don’t have real achievements and have to make some up to feel good about themselves. They are all variations on the same theme: Look at me! Here’s how I dealt with the “problem” of the luxuries in my life.

Unmedicated childbirth is the paradigmatic first world achievement. Any woman could do it. Most women who have ever lived have already done it, and most women who give birth around the world do it each and every minute of each and every day 24/7/365.

Do natural childbirth advocates consider unmedicated childbirth an achievement for an Afghan teenager? No. How about for a woman who accidentally gives birth on the side of the road because she didn’t make it to the hospital in time? Nope, not an achievement for her. How about our grandmothers, great grandmothers and other female ancestors who gave birth without pain medication? No, it wasn’t an achievement for them, either.

Clearly, it isn’t experiencing the pain that is the “achievement”? So what are these woman boasting about? They are boasting that they had access to effective pain relief but they refused it.

And not just any pain: It’s not an achievement to refuse Novocaine for a root canal, and it’s not an achievement to refuse general anesthesia for an appendectomy. That’s considered foolishness.

And not just any pain relief: It’s perfectly acceptable, indeed entirely compatible with natural childbirth, to reduce the pain of childbirth by lying in a kiddie pool filled with fecally contaminated water.

So if it’s not the ability to tolerate pain (since women who have unmedicated childbirth because they have no other choice haven’t achieved anything), and it’s not simply enduring pain (since NCB advocates wouldn’t consider unmedicated migraines or kidney stones to be an achievement) and it’s not the refusal of pain relief per se (since no NCB advocate thinks it is an achievement to refuse anesthesia for surgery), what is it?

It’s their own special, carefully defined, easy to accomplish “achievement”:

I was presented with a luxury option and chose to forgo it.

We’re supposed to be impressed by that?

Frankly, I’d consider it more of an achievement if you learned to program the remote.