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A change of perspective on diversity: Being inclusive of self

Reflection and key takeaways from the September 2018 Semester Saturday on-campus session, themed “Valuing and Appreciating Diversity.” ​

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Our first speaker, Chi Chi Okezie, focused on the benefits of diversity and the difference between tolerance and appreciation. Her presentation was very insightful and offered a unique change of perspective to the discussion of diversity and inclusion.

Key takeaway #1: Tolerance v. appreciation

In a similar fashion as Ms. Okezie’s presentation, I believe it is warranted to first take a moment to reflect on the emotional response elicited by the terms tolerance, competence, and appreciation as they relate to diversity and inclusion. [I’ll add the term competence here, as I believe it serves a role as a middle-ground concept on the continuum of tolerance to appreciation.]

To tolerate, or to accept or permit, diversity, conjures an image of being isolated. If you only tolerate the existence of diversity, you limit your potential for growth. This is because you remain closed off to the thoughts and ideas that can only flow from having a complete change of perspective. Moving further on the continuum, competence connotates a bit more attentiveness through learning more about different cultures than your own. However, competence still generates a feeling of being removed. Finally, we arrive at appreciation. Appreciation reaches beyond competence by being immersive and inclusive. To appreciate is to respect and value; it elicits a real sense of engagement. Through being engaged, you can open yourself up to see the world differently, and, then, the possibilities are endless…

Key takeaway #2: Diversity includes respect for self

What does diversity mean to me? This is the first question posed on the worksheet provided in the accompanying materials following the presentation. So, what doesdiversity mean to me? The first answer that comes to mind is respect for others. I continue to reflect, and, I realize that in every response I come up with, I never once include self-awareness or appreciation of my own individuality.

I review my notes from the presentation, and I see the asterisk I placed next to a salient point Ms. Okezie expressed—to be inclusive, you must also be inclusive of self. Of course. Intellectually, this concept makes sense; however, this aspect of diversity had not occurred to me.

So, what does it practically mean to be inclusive of self?

Well, let us review the concept through the lens of the tolerance to appreciation continuum described earlier.

Tolerance of self is to accept that I am an individual, to be self-aware. Competence would then be a bit more introspective, to reflect and be mindful. Appreciation is, at last, the celebration of what makes you uniquely you. Thus, by genuinely respecting, valuing, and being inclusive of self, it is only natural to have a change in perspective towards self-care.

Appreciation of self is the application of self-care.

Alas, when pondering diversity and evaluating how inclusive you are in both your personal and professional life, please do not forget to consider the question, am I inclusive of me?

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#inclusivity #diversity #selfcare #value #respect

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