Diversity and inclusion. In recent weeks, these two words have made their way to the forefront of every news channel, conversations with friends, and even conversations with strangers.
In today’s social and political climate, people are divided. We are witnessing the world change in a drastic and dramatic way. Not only are we trying to stifle our fears and worries about a worldwide pandemic, but we are also now dealing with a divided and often volatile political climate.
The world is changing, and so are we.
As I write this my mind tells me I have no business talking about diversity and inclusion and how we can come back to harmony, equality, and oneness.
I am a white woman who has never had to worry about being seen or treated as less than. Never had to worry about going into a store with her own bags and feeling like a thief with suspicious eyes watching her every move. Never had to worry about feeling unsafe with people in positions of power.
I profess humbly that I know nothing of the experience of others.
I can only speak to my own in an effort to understand why, after decades of incremental improvement in people’s consciousness around diversity and inclusion, that our evolution (according to current events and political climate) has taken a drastic step backward.
Diversity and Inclusion in My Own Life
I grew up desperately wishing I was not white, because being white meant that I was different, and therefore, not accepted and not liked. I grew up praying that others would not notice I had nice clothes or more toys. I was bullied, hit, and called white trash during my formative years.
All I wanted was not to be noticed and disappear into some form of acceptance if I just managed not to do or say the “wrong” thing at the “wrong” time.
That experience has led me to a lifetime of thoughtfulness around what it is like to be seen as different. And also why it is that people see a difference in others.
Very young children don’t see differences in their playmates. They see playmates. So what happens to our minds (that few people talk about) that leads us to see differences or sameness? Is there something in our own personal minds, or our own personal upbringing that is causing us to see and think things a different way?
Is it our upbringing (our environment) that leads us to see differences or sameness in others? And what leads us to believe that being “different” or being “the same” is good or bad?
It All Starts With the Ego
I began to study the nature of the personal mind, that part of us that some call ego, and realized that the majority of us feel safe with “same” and threatened by difference.
Threatened by what we do not know or do not understand. Threatened that someone or something else will tamper with our ideas of how the world should look.
I began to realize that for most people, the need to be right about themselves, others and the world is a BIG deal. This need to be right feeds the desire to control. And it has always been this need for control that stops true change and positive influence as it comes from deep-seated fear.
When I’m speaking at an event, I explain that this deep-seated fear, which comes from our ego, causes us to feel threatened by change or by things we don’t understand.
So, how do we encourage the personal mind to move away from “sameness” as safety? How do we deal with differences in a way that creates unity and kindness and equality?
I believe that it all starts with observing the personal mind.
When you look at an object, for example, your mind will want to place that object as the same or different than other objects, rather than simply being present to the object itself.
Not only will your mind immediately try to categorize into same/different, but it also will want to grab onto a story connected to the object, and then place judgement (negative or positive) on the object itself.
For example, you may look at a kitchen table, and notice it’s bigger than the one you had growing up.
Or you notice it’s made of glass, not wood, and you remember a friend’s child scratching the surface of the glass with a favorite toy and being scolded, so you judge it as being impractical for younger children. You may even judge the owner (your friend) for having a table that resulted in the unnecessary scolding of a child for something children do naturally.
Funny how the brain works, right?
There are a few things you can do to catch yourself in these moments of judgement. You’ll be surprised by how often these types of thoughts creep into your mind.
For the next week, simply observe your mind and how it reacts to the world. Notice if it wants to repel from difference and move towards sameness, or repel from change and move towards a static state. Notice if it judges any type of difference, and notice your need to be right about your judgement, assessment or opinion.
As we step back from toxicity and take a good look at how we try to stay safe by moving to “sameness”, we can choose another course of action. Let the thought go down the river of a myriad of unhelpful thoughts that are trying their best to keep you safe. As you practice this, do one small action towards embracing change, embracing differences, and embracing the oneness that supports the survival of our planet and people.
For more practical lessons about diversity and inclusion, visit www.KarenMcGregor.com and pick up a copy of The Tao of Influence: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Leaders and Entrepreneurs today!
For more tips on how to be a powerful influencer in a world full of anxiety, click here.
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