By: Richa Sharma*
How comfortable do we feel with ourselves? Are we too harsh, too judgemental to our own rough edges? Do we feel that we tend to get too intolerant of our own imperfections? How do we hold and create space for others? What does inclusion really mean? Let us explore more!
(Artwork by Richa Sharma)
Our Actions Define Us
Inclusion is a verb, not a noun. It is an act of hearing, seeing, understanding, and equally, being heard, being seen, and being understood; to be able to form connections with fellow humans, with our environment, and with our own selves.
Inclusion is something that we need to practice actively through our ethos, to have it be ingrained in the everyday choices that we make, interactions we have, in our ways of relating with those around us, and to a great extent, our very own selves.
One can say that inclusion begins at home, it begins with our own selves.
This makes us ponder over the question of how tolerant we are of our own rough edges, the parts of our own selves that don’t really “fit in”, that we hide from what we perceive as the larger societal scrutiny.
Falling Into The Trap Of Labeling Is Easy
We may be quick to brush under the carpet any traces of differences from the societal “normal” that we find within ourselves. Our entire popular culture, the media, the social media, and the influencers thrive upon this in the current scenario, where we are trying to chase a coveted ideal, much to the peril of our genuine authentic selves.
There are often cosmetics to hide our “flaws”, and clothes to cover the parts of the body that might not seem “desirable”. The culture of toxic positivity and productivity inhibits us from being vulnerable or going after what we really desire.
When the self is under such rigid and brutal scrutiny, it tends to feel suffocated. At some point, this scrutiny, this gaze becomes internalized. It becomes a lens to selectively point to the parts of ourselves that appear to be “misfits” and inadvertently, a lens through which we look at others around us and are quick to label them.
When we cannot hold space for ourselves, it is unrealistic to expect that we will ever do so for others across the spectrum of human diversity, race, gender, abilities, or sexual orientation.
Inclusion, therefore is an active process, a matter of practice. It entails developing acceptance towards our own selves, first and foremost, and simultaneously, increasing the radius of this acceptance towards others, rough edges, differences, warts, and all.
Therefore, we must endeavor to deepen our understanding of our own life narrative, the highs, the lows the continuum of life experiences that make us what we are today. When that happens, we could feel emancipated from the guilt and the pressure and are able to extend the same to others.
Inclusion Is A Mechanism For Survival And Evolution
We are all on our respective life journeys. It is not a race because fundamentally, we all have not even had the same starting points and our tracks run through very different terrains. Quintessentially, it is not about getting to the finishing line but about all the fun, joy, kindness, and compassion that we are capable of on this life journey. And during this process, we go through grief, loss, disease, failure, rejection, heartbreak, and a lot more.
What makes one’s life journey bearable and even beautiful then is to what extent we connected with those around us. What were the times when we needed help and got that help? At what moments, did we reciprocate? Our ability to make our life smooth and do the same for others is an act of intelligence. Acceptance towards self and others is something that helps us stay alive and thrive.
Inclusion, therefore, is an act of intelligence, an act of courage, and most importantly a mechanism for survival in the midst of an arduous world. It is a filter, an active choice we need to assert through our decisions, through our very way of life!
Tips For Practicing Inclusion: Questions To Self
We can apply inclusion, by breaking it down from an abstract notion into simple everyday practices.
Can I Unlearn?
We often operate with a great amount of conditioning, do’s and don’t’s, “goods” and “bad” that are often just handed down to us. When we engage with our thought process and find out that we often belittle ourselves or others or blame ourselves or others, we must pause to reach the root of these beliefs. Where do they come from? What is the validity of this belief? Is there any other way to look at and evaluate a certain situation apart from the way I am doing it currently?
This can often equip you to be an agile thinker and take into consideration diverse perspectives on a single issue or situation. As pointed out earlier, understanding the narrative that led up to a particular situation or action can help us really understand it for what it is, instead of merely looking at the tip of the iceberg. Remember, there’s often always more than what meets the eye in any story.
Am I Reacting or Responding?
The time gap between a stimulus and our action is something can exercise discretion and agency over. So, instead of arriving at snap judgments or engaging in knee-jerk reactions, it can be immensely beneficial if we take some time before we pause before we act. If we find ourselves in situations that might feel emotionally loaded or we have conventionally responded to without much thought, simple techniques, such as taking deep breaths, counting backward from 20, or practicing grounding techniques can make us feel less emotionally dysregulated and more in control of the situation. This allows gives us time to make better-informed responses to any incident.
Am I Well-Informed?
One way to deepen our practice of inclusion is simply by being better informed about something we don’t know much about. While there may be plenty of opinions about a certain subject, nothing beats solid facts. Educating ourselves better about the things we grapple with in our own selves and frown upon in others, can help us understand them better and eventually develop acceptance.
How Aware Am I About My Strengths and Limitations?
How often do we sit down to evaluate things we are good at and things that challenge us? From time to time, we must take stock of our strengths and vulnerabilities. This helps us define our skill set and also draw boundaries when a vulnerability is concerned. Being open and vocal about these two aspects of ourselves can help us relate when others come up to us with their own strengths and vulnerabilities. This in turn can help us deepen our practice of inclusion.
Being Different Is Okay!
Imbibing inclusion as an ethos that we are committed to can be a slow process and come with a lot of pruning. It is important to be patient with ourselves during this process and to find the right support mechanisms.
We may falter along the way, however, one reminder that can keep us going is, “Being different is okay!”. [Being Different is okay- is the tagline of Ginny’s Planet- a social enterprise, building an empathic, diversity-respecting, and inclusive world]
*Richa Sharma is a mental health professional and founder of an NGO, Ekaant Foundation. She works on the promotion of mental health and prevention of gender-based violence using different forms of art. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
About Ginny’s Planet
Ginny’s Planet is a social enterprise Co-founded by Dr. Shweta Verma in 2019. The brand runs on the core value of helping our teachers and parents to teach their children to become independent, smart, and better leaders by equipping them with a deep understanding of empathy, diversity, disability, and inclusion. Dr. Shweta and the team design events, workshops, and products to help guardians & schools to develop kids’ mindsets and evolve as adaptive and flexible human beings. They work with schools to organize workshops for children and teachers.