Do you want to feel included? Do you think you will feel more included if the circumstances and people around you change? One of the first things I learned about inclusion is; if you want to be included, you have to become inclusive. Inclusion must start within you, but how?
Look in the Mirror
When I initially began leading inclusion, I was very into changing the externals. I believed the answer to inclusion was to create more laws and systemic change. My perspective, which was heavily skewed toward changing everyone else, began to change as my son with multiple disabilities taught me what inclusion really was. My experiences with him forced me to take a deep look into the mirror and ask, “Am I inclusive?”
Perceptions impact your actions
The first place we have to start is to be brutally honest with ourselves. Without realizing it, through my actions, I was making my son feel excluded. If I saw him struggling with something, I immediately got involved and did it for him. My actions conveyed to him, “You can’t do it so move over because I can do it better.” Talking about supremacy in all of its glory! The problem was not my son or his disability; the problem was me. When we pass judgement on others or feel superior, the doors to inclusion close. Pay close attention to how you perceive others. Do you have a tendency to judge and close doors or does your heart open to invite people in? You have to continuously take a careful look at your actions and ask yourself, “Am I being authentically inclusive?” Your actions mirror what is inside of you.
The impact of Cultural Biases
When I began to realize my actions did not align with my values, I took an honest look at my perceptions about inclusion. Many of us have been educated to think a certain way as a part of our culture. You will be amazed how filled your brain is with unconscious biases that impact you every day. For example, do you judge people based upon outward appearances? It is as simple as saying to yourself, “I don’t like that person because of their weight, the color of their skin, their cognitive or mental health status, their sexual preference, or the way they do their hair.”
What causes you to feel this way? Is it real or is it a cultural bias that was stamped in your brain that you accepted but never thought about? Dig deep into these biases and sincerely ask yourself why is it there? If you decide to keep the bias, what purpose will it serve? Pay attention when you see others. What is the first thing that comes to mind; judgement that closes doors or inclusion that invites them to open?
Authentic inclusion is not easy. It takes a continual awareness of what is going on inside of you. You will never be perfect at inclusion, but as Maya Angelou once said “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better!” Share below how aware are you about the judgements going through you mind toward others? How can becoming more aware make you more inclusive?
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