Do you believe all people are equal and belong wherever? Do you invite others into your circle each day, regardless of what team “they” are on, where “they” are from, what “they” look like, “their” orientation, or what “they” represent? Why does our world continue to ignore (subconscious acceptance) the oppression of others? Do you see yourself as part of the problem, the solution, or both?
I often hear stories of people being held back just because of differences. Here are a handful of items to ponder. After reading each one, pause and reflect on a time where you have been treated this way or where you may have seen this happen. Be so bold as to self-reflect on if you have ever been the person acting the wrong way in these scenarios.
- Being bullied or mistreated for being different
- Being pulled over for the way someone looks
- Being treated as a lesser-than, for no reason
- Being looked at with shame, doubt, fear …or even inappropriately
- Being passed over for opportunities at work or in the community
- Being overlooked when buying a car with your spouse or partner
- Being someone else (not authentic) to try to fit in at work and/or society
I just never saw it or realized how many people had struggles in their everyday life. It hit me hard when I realized I was ignorant of the oppression happening all around me. If I missed it, you may be missing it too. Read through the list again. Feel it. Stew in it. I am not looking for you to feel shame. Instead, I encourage you to be open to see we all have work to do and jointly own the responsibility to do the right thing going forward; To get involved and elevate humanity as one.
Once I realized I was unaware of these struggles and seemingly was ignoring what was going on outside of my bubble, I saw myself as part of the problem and I decided to become part of the solution. As part of my journey, I have been enlightened to see the beauty in differences through authentic inclusion. Consider taking the following steps to begin embracing life with an authentic approach to inclusion that helps to illuminate the world all around you, starting with your internal spark.
Key Facets to Unlocking Authentic Inclusion for You:
- Check What You Believe In– Where you put your attention and focus, your behaviors and actions will follow. Take a look at how you answered the questions above. Assess your beliefs and what is ingrained in you that is not inviting or uplifting to the larger world. It takes intentional focus and purposeful steps to expand beyond our little bubbles. Identify a group you may subconsciously treat differently and begin to align a positive belief or association with this group. Note: when our beliefs are aligned to the greater good, our world expands.
- Listen to Hear What You are Missing – Dig into your surroundings and inquire what people different from you are struggling with. Share your intentions to learn and attentively ask others, from the identified group above, for what holds them back from being their full selves. Try not to react with ideas, to fix things, or become defensive and just listen to the struggles that people are willing to share with you. Also, consider joining groups or putting yourself in a position where you are the minority (this comes in the forms of thoughts and beliefs too). Take time to intellectually and emotionally marinate in your findings and just feel what it might be like for others that are different from you. Note: the very people that you are subconsciously holding back will be there to pick you up when you genuinely open your heart with positive intentions.
- Identify and Own Your Part – Openly accept you are part of the problem. Nobody is exempt from the problem, however, some have more to recognize than others and everyone can choose to be part of the solution. Embrace your vulnerability as a way to learn and not as a means to beat yourself up. You need to feel it, not get lost in it, to move forward. Accept your imperfections to get better. Being vulnerable with genuine intentions will help you leave the certainty of your ways behind and find a deeper consciousness. Note: significant growth comes with discomfort and struggle.
- Commit to Being the Change – Be different to make a difference. Be your authentic self and let your uniqueness shine. Accept you are different, be that person and this will help you welcome the beautiful differences all around you. Note: setting a positive focus on differences creates discoveries and connections while the fear of loss or messing up is overcome with discovery, joy, and awe.
- Get Curious Again – See what you are missing out on. Live in this world, not our subconscious one. Our world is vibrant when we see all the colors in it. Seek the good and help to bring out the best in others. Learn what brings people joy and how others make our world better. Connect on the many similarities and graciously appreciate what new ideas you learn from these interactions. Note: as your experiences become plentiful, so too will the abundance of amazing connections that follow.
- Take Daily Actions and Self-Reflect – Practice the actions in the previous steps with each group or person that you are aiming to learn from by being authentically inclusive. Repeating daily steps and self-reflecting at the end of each day to continuously get better will help you achieve real success. One other tip for you to experience growth is to create an accountability partner and/or reminder mechanism. For example, identify a person as your accountability partner, that you will check in regularly with on your commitment. Ideally, you will both be tackling a similar goal to be more vulnerable. Share experiences and encourage one another through the ups and downs. Another thought is to identify a symbol, a reminder mechanism, that you will see everywhere and remind you of your commitment to be part of the solution. Ideas could be adding a symbol on your phone case, using a different color pen, or add a sticky note to your mirror that says “practice authentic inclusion.” Note: I will forever use a pink pen as a constant reminder of my commitment to embrace differences with the intentionality to be different to make a difference through authentic inclusion.
Being open to new things and seeing things from a different perspective opens up more connections and possibilities for you and everyone around you. Not only will this light you up, it will also allow you to illuminate others. Relish in the joy you feel once you reach this point of serving others. I believe in you and the light inside you that will become a difference-maker through living with a renewed authentic inclusion.