At a recent dinner party with people I know quite well, we got into some rich conversation on privilege, political correctness and how to navigate what can feel like very sensitive situations, always aiming to care earnestly for others while not always feeling like we know how to actually do that.
This conversation inspired me to share this quite recent piece I wrote sharing some of my experience growing in self-awareness and skills in this area. I feel elementary at best in these kinds of conversations, so this kind of share feels like courage for sure. That said, I am committed to stepping up and making honest effort wherever I can to learn and grow myself and be a champion for positive change and human connection in all forms.
Right on, thank you as always for being here, my friends.
Blue Skies Magazine
Life Coaching Column #97
“Lean On Me”
When I first had the realization of my own privilege, I immediately wept..
I cried at the overwhelming feeling of shame that I could not have seen it until that moment… at the things I must have said.. at all the times I had the luxury to stay small and silent.. at even the idea of what it must feel like NOT having the luxury of that privilege helping me feel so much safer in this world. I have never used my public platform to speak on this, to stand up and share in an effort to enlighten and inspire others in a similar insight of their own because I have always felt afraid of the conflict that could come from engaging such divisive issues.. I have felt afraid of not saying the “right” things in the face of that conflict.. of not saying the “right” things period given I’m very much still waking up to my own deeply ingrained programming too.
Allowing that fear to keep me quiet and small is me enjoying the luxury of my privilege to go on about my day NOT living in fear of so much of what happens in this world.
I share now for the same reasons I share anything ever.. to add value, to grow myself and to live in alignment one of my most core values of courageous self-expression as avenue to our highest contribution. The longer I kept looking away from this conversation, the more it became clear to me that I was letting that fear in me win instead of doing what I preach every day all day about courage.. to speak.. to look inside.. to be seen.. to stand up wherever we feel called.
With that, and only because I have personally had this experience of seeing into my own blind spots, I call to us all to reflect or continue to reflect on what it must feel like to be in the shoes of a persecuted minority… how it must feel walking around genuinely wondering if you will get violently attacked because of the color of your skin.. or your sexual orientation.. or your gender.
If you have never felt fears in these areas, consider why that might be.
In my own realization of my own privilege,
I call us all to acknowledge the blind spots we all have to other people’s life experiences and can only start to access inside ourselves when we make the intentional effort to consider what life could be like, could feel like, from the shoes of others.
The above is a post I wrote online in response to Hannah Betts’s leadership and courage to stand for transformation in the world when it comes to equity and inclusion. Over the last two years, I have made very conscious efforts to learn more… to continue to illuminate my own blind spots… to work to find ways I could grow, heal and begin to more actively contribute to this conversation and effort.
I’m not gonna lie, it feels very uncomfortable to confront this stuff…
Very scary to even think about speaking up… very scary to be seen for something perceptibly so shameful. Inside all those feelings and fears, I have done this with the unwavering support and championing of my best friend, Carolyn Chow, who has spent her entire life and career living, learning, implementing, and teaching equity and inclusion, and continues to tirelessly do so to this day.
One of the things I learned from working with Carolyn is this… The 4 stages of learning, which are as follows:
The story I shared above is the moment I transitioned from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence, and the flood of feelings that came with that. Before this realization, I was absolutely a person who genuinely believed and would state I was “not racist” or “not sexist.”
If you too are someone who has always genuinely believed and stood up for yourself that you are not racist or sexist, I’m talking to you because that was me.
Of course consciously we’re not racist or sexist. I mean, duh. Suppression of another human being for any reason? Fuck no.
But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about racist and sexist bias that is unconscious… racism and sexism that is systematically socialized into us such that we can’t even see it’s there.
We can absolutely, positively know and choose ourselves to be allies of equity and inclusion, AND STILL have deeply ingrained biases driving us.
What happens then is the DZ can become a place where only the privileged can actually relax, feel genuinely at ease and “lighten up.”
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m the first one to joke around and enjoy the lightness and freedom we all want to feel on the DZ, and I also would be lying if I said there weren’t many times in my 22 years jumping where I felt uncomfortable as a woman or heard a racist joke and said nothing, or even told a racist or sexist joke myself.
This is why we want to look more closely at ourselves… at our choices… at our statements… and really consider the potential impact on the people around us. Really hold ourselves objectively accountable to the things we say, think and do. Reflect on how a joke or comment that may seem totally no big deal is actually that unconscious bias coming out and into the culture of your drop zone and the world at large.
Ultimately, I can only speak from my own experiences and I will tell you that having this breakthrough from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence was very painful. Working through the shame of that and learning to forgive myself for the things I’ve done, said and thought over the years, and then walking around in fear that I’ll find myself acting from another racist or sexist blind spot… yeah, that is not easy emotional work. But it is possible. Not only is it possible, in my experience is has been a critical piece to my deeper healing, deeper peace and fulfillment around my role in our collective humanity and the greater good of the world.
Am I perfect at this? No way. Will you be? Probably not. But what we can be is committed to doing our very best to be a part of the positive transition taking place in our era of human history.
“One love” is not just a cool theme for a New Year’s Eve party, it’s the deep work we all must do if we want to clear away the programming that disconnects us from universal love and connection.