Updated: Apr 25, 2021
Why wouldn't you want to make people feel included?
Black Lives Matter mural in Saint Petersburg, FL
It means a lot to me to be able to bring a feeling of belonging to everyone I meet. I want to make sure they know that the way they feel, think, and express themselves is acceptable. I don't want them to feel judged but instead, understood...especially people that usually don't feel this way. It is just dear to me to be able to give this to someone, this feeling of inclusion...to make everyone feel equality.
Treat Others the Way They Want to Be Treated!
For centuries, people with mental health "issues" have been shamed, shunned, rejected, and pushed away. They are most often misunderstood...or maybe others have not really tried to understand. It's possible that people who are engaging in these exclusive behaviors are doing so because they are pushing away a part of themselves that they can't bare to look at. In order to show acceptance to another person who is different than them they would have to take a deep look within and accept a part of themselves that they don't want around. This leaves other folx feeling rejected and like there is something wrong with them.
I say: There is nothing wrong with you! It is ok to think and feel the way you do. Some of the most creative, multi-faceted, talented, imaginative people I know have mental health issues. These individuals are such assets to have on any team and should be treated well and honored as an integral part of the whole. Maybe they need a little help to find balance so that they can work to their potential, and that is not a lot to ask for...especially when we all get to feel the effects.
I believe we all have trauma to some degree (especially after the year 2020), whether very minor or to the opposite extreme. And, I believe that we all struggle mentally to one degree or another, as well. If we unconsciously reject the parts of ourselves who are having the struggle within, not only do we isolate those parts of ourselves, but we push others away, inadvertently shaming them for having the same struggle that is unrealized in ourselves. That's a lot to think about, isn't it?
We have heard, "Treat others the way you want to be treated", "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"—that's the Golden Rule, right? I can see the intention; if something is hurtful to you, don't do it to another person. Yes, I am in agreement with that.
However, people are often mean, cruel, and hurtful to themselves (some more than others), shaming themselves all of the time within their own minds. We all do it to one degree or another and, many times, we are unaware of it. We beat ourselves up and we have thoughts of unworthiness. If someone feels like it is ok to treat themselves like this, then why would I want them to treat me in that same way? "Treat others the way you want to be treated"? No. Unfortunately, they don't even know how they want, or deserve, to be treated. Let's look at this from another perspective. This is important so let's lay it out.
Why would I treat others the way I want to be treated? That doesn't really matter much. For example, I want people to use the pronouns 'she' and 'her', which has been the norm for people born as females for eons. Just because I want to be called that, why would I call other people 'she' or' her' who do not want to be called that?? I would not want to do that because I desire for everyone to be included and to feel welcomed. I say, "Treat others the way THEY want to be treated!" or, "Do onto others what they want done unto them!!" That is a much more consensual approach that can increase feelings of safety and belonging.
Ask yourself these questions:
Why wouldn't you make a little adjustment in your language to make someone feel safe and like they fit in?
Do you mean to tell me that you can't say something a bit differently because you are so stuck on the way you say it now...because it is such an huge inconvenience to your life to change it?
Do you really think you are the only one who is right and the way you think and feel are the only important factors?
Just because someone is not like you, do you want them to feel attacked? Is it a crime to be different than you are?
Do you feel attacked? That's ok. I understand. I do want you to know that self inquiry is important! You are going to be making a big difference in someone's life if you treat them the way they want to be treated. It's what we all deserve! You are going to make them feel like they fit in, like they are included, like they are wanted...maybe even safe...just ALLOWED, in general, to exist. That is huge!
Maybe you don't have any idea what it feels like to not be included. It is important to feel inclusion and acceptance because then you have the space to express yourself. If you feel judged it sure is hard to be yourself...it is a very awkward energetic space to be in. Why wouldn't you want to give others space for self-expression if you have the choice? Do you really just not care at all how others feel? Even that is ok. Ask yourself why, though. Why is that?
Even if you feel like you want to exclude others, that is ok too...there is a lot behind that feeling, and I understand...that's where you're at. But I won't exclude you for that even though I am very firm in my approach, here. I will not tolerate bad behavior, but I will validate your feelings and let you know that I still accept you as a person. I do understand...I have parts of myself that feel like excluding others as well...but I don't have to take direction from those parts if I am conscious of it. If you do, that is ok. I just want to show you that there is also another way to act.
You know, I realize that you may think it is ridiculous that someone asks to be referred to with a non-binary pronoun. There may be a voice in the back of your head that says, "c'mon, really?" I say, challenge that voice! Who cares what you think of it? It is ok that this thought is there. Do yourself (and them) the service of looking past that and honoring the request they have made. The desire to include them can far surpass what the voice in the back of your head has to say. It is a boundary...they are telling you what treatment they want to accept from others. Take heed!
Now, what if someone does not want to be called ma'am? (Those of us from the Northeast are not big fans of that word. It is thought to have something to do with old age in that corner of the world). Can you not respect that because that's what you feel like calling them? It doesn't matter if you see it as a polite thing to say, as many southerners do. If you are still calling them ma'am...doesn't it matter how they feel when you call them that? Why is what you feel so important? It actually isn't. Not when it comes to respecting and including others. It is simple to treat them the way they would like to be treated...especially if they are telling you how that is.
Are you still saying "that's gay" when you think someone is doing something you consider to be stupid? And then, are you also claiming to be accepting of actual gay people? Do you know what you are using the word gay for there? Stupid. That's really not cool. And then you try to justify it by saying, "ooh, not gay—I meant stupid, don't take it the wrong way." No, I took it the right way. You are using my actual sexual orientation to call something stupid. If that's not disrespect, I don't know what is. Gay people take notice. You know who also takes notice? People with common decency take notice. These are people that you may want to like and respect you.
"That's gay" is an old, outdated thing to say...something that I, myself, used to say as a kid before I understood what I was doing...and before I realized that I am gay! That was pretty confusing to realize that a derogatory word I once used to mean stupid could now describe a part of my identity! Unfortunately, it was what I learned from those around me. Now I see that it is a complete lack of respect and takes away the dignity of an actual gay person. So once you understand...why would you WANT to be doing that?
I have this huge passion to make people feel like they are included. It makes me feel so happy to see someone comfortable with who they are and at ease because they fit in. And all it takes to facilitate this is to call them what they ask to be called, to be kind, and to treat them the way THEY want to be treated. Don't you like being treated the way you want? Of course you do! Just because someone (really everyone) is different than you, can you not treat them differently than you want to be treated? How respectful would you be if you truly cared to include them and make them feel comfortable? It is a stunning display of care and respect...to keep one's dignity in tact.
My invitation for you when you meet someone new: Learn the person, get curious, inquire as to what makes them feel comfortable. Listen to people's concerns. Ask for their opinions or viewpoints and let them know it is important to you to understand. Involve them in decisions. Invite them into the conversation. It is all an exchange of energy within a group. Keep the energy flowing...not just coming to a halt when it reaches one particular person. Allow the energy to flow in harmony throughout the entire group! Include others in the energetic exchange...it is much smoother this way. What a beautiful feeling you will have when you do this! You can try it yourself.
There is actually nothing wrong with anyone. (I know, big statement). The ways we think, speak, act, and feel, are simply ways our brains have adapted to conditioning. Our thoughts and emotions are the way they are. You can't stop them. Did you ever try? It doesn't work. We don't have to give a negative thought or feeling all of our attention so that they grow! We can just think the thought...and allow it to pass, feel the feeling...and allow it to pass. We don't have to act on every impulse we have! Just watch it, with awareness, and let it pass. No need to judge yourself, you're not doing anything wrong. You are just human. You are not alone in that. You belong.
Belonging = Longing to Be...be just who we are! Approach all people with respect. Everyone is in!