Diversity is a subject to which I give a great deal of thought. I am involved with several groups through my company which are in existence to empower and give voice to people who don’t always feel that they are included or are perhaps ashamed to be their authentic selves at work. These are groups which celebrate those often in the minority with regards to race, gender and sexual identity. As part of the women’s group, I have gained strength and empowerment I would not have otherwise had, and the impetus to finally begin to write this blog.
Through my musings on diversity itself, I have come to further conclusion that this concept goes far beyond the inclusion of the minorities listed above. Bias shows up everyday in far more ways than we’d like to admit. I️ think of it as snap judgements born of our desire to rank ourselves above others. And when you actually start paying attention, we do it all the time.
Both our personalities and our experiences shape our beliefs and thought processes. That’s nature and nurture playing games with us all day long. It is within that space where true conflict sits. It’s also the domain from which true connection blooms; when someone comes from the same place as we do, i.e. “That person really gets me.” But it is also the abyss where prejudice resides as well.
Part of being mindful is being aware of the thoughts, feelings and judgements that pop up in our heads and understanding their somewhat fleeting nature and the roots from which they grow. Past that, it is our responsibilities to check ourselves when we get out of line, even if only in our heads. Everyone has a story. We can not allow our bias to get in the way of collaborating with others to solve real problems. When we truly open our ears, to even those who entertain thought processes far different from our own, we grow. And our growth as human beings collectively is our only true hope for enriching humanity as a whole.
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Living authentically is truly a difficult path. One reason that it is so challenging is because it takes so long to even discover oneself. At the age of 42, with most likely half of my life spent, I am still discovering surprises about myself. Things that used to be important to me now pale in comparison to matters that I consider are of far broader scope. Foundations I had built an entire life upon still shatter beneath me below the very ground I walk on today.
One obstacle along life’s road can often be all the forces around us trying to pigeonhole us into cultural norms. The circles we frequent, the families we grew up in, those we surround ourselves with, the influences that helped to shape our very being, can place shackles on us even in ways we don’t often fully recognize. It is the reason so many of us carry secrets tucked away in dark places. The shame of admitting to those things is frightening and so we keep them down and only showcase our infallible outward selves.
But I have experienced no greater connection with others as when the secrets come out and we admit to being the weak, imperfect, struggling human beings that we truly are. There is no greater turn off to me than someone pretending to be perfect out of a need to elevate oneself and push others down. We are all flawed my friends and we need to support those around us by turning on the light beam of forgiveness. It is warming, it is supportive and it is necessary.
As human beings, we all strive for deeper connections; we can not live a happy, fruitful or secure life without them. As we defeat noxious behaviors like shaming others to make ourselves feel more significant, we begin to destroy self-importance and boost each other up despite our shortcomings. True love then becomes not just a notion projected by films of Prince and Princess-type romanticism. But true love will emanate in all possible forms with all possible genders through self-love, love of others, forgiveness and authenticity.
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As many of you know, I have spent 45 minutes, once a week, over the last year and a half, on a therapist’s couch. Those collective hours have been tremendously helpful in leading me towards a full and complete understanding of myself. I will forever shout at the top of any mountain that everyone on the planet deserves that same experience. I have resolved so many points of contention within my own head and pounds of guilt and anger have evaporated into thin air. I truly believe mental well-being is at the very foundation of any happy and healthy person and that none of us can do it alone.
As I think back on the last year, the truth of the matter is that it has taken far more than the 45 minutes per week on that couch. My transformation has occurred because of all the additional time I have spent contemplating a lifetime of behavior and all the possible motivations behind it. I have thought about my influences and my idols. I have deconstructed all of my traumatic events and the lasting impacts they still have on my reactions today. I have discussed possible behavioral theories with those closest to me and listened to their perspective on formative events throughout my lifetime.
Much of my contemplation is done in the car, as I drive many miles per week for my job. One of my thoughts today specifically was about how self-indulgent I have been throughout this process. I couldn’t believe how much time I was spending thinking about why I had done certain things and from where those impulses were coming. I judged myself for spending so much time thinking about me, me and more me. How could I be so conceited as to be constantly analyzing my own life history and the subsequent consequences. I was supposed to be writing about how we have become too self indulgent and how we need to turn our eyes outward to solve more collective issues that face humankind.
But I have come to the empowering realization that self-indulgence for the right reasons can be the greatest catalyst in existence for helping others. I liken it to the airplane safety manuals telling you that you have to put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting others. Removing the blocks inside of your own head opens you up to being less angry and more cooperative. Once you understand the reasons why you feel depression or anxiety and come up with a plan to deal with them, you can be the best version of a helpful human being and come very close to being your true and ideal self. The journey of finding oneself could be the best formula we could ask for in bringing true hope to humanity as a whole.
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