Basically, recognizing one’s privilege is an act that is naturally a threat to one’s self-esteem - it requires admitting both a) that our successes are not entirely a result of our individual efforts and b) that we often act out and reinforce systems of oppression without even being aware of it. In other words, it threatens our beliefs in our own competency and in our intrinsic “goodness” as a person. But the problematic effects of hyperbolic self-esteem aren’t limited to those who aren’t willing to acknowledge that they experience privilege - they also manifest in the ways that those who do acknowledge their privilege go about seeking to repair the damage to their self-esteem. The problem of “allies” is one result of this: instead of basing their self-esteem on the sorts of beliefs those who refuse to acknowledge their privilege do, they base their self-esteem in part on their ability to acknowledge their privilege and their willingness to appear supportive of the groups they have privilege against. But unfortunately, because the mechanisms that underlie self-esteem aren’t as intrinsically positive as many psychologists believe, this shift in self-esteem leads people to avoid those who question their support of oppressed people, to pretend that their privilege is not their responsibility (remember “fill the gap”?), etc. In other words, they make their ally status into the “positive illusion” that their self-esteem is based on, bringing all of the unconscious mechanisms those illusions are rooted in to bear on that construct.