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Practicing Self-Care While Doing the Labor of Inclusion Work

By Seema Rao, Principal Creator of Brilliant Idea Studio

Recently, I was asked by a friend about how they might be better about issues of Diversity, Equity, Access, Inclusion. I have published about these issues, so her question was not out of line. But, afterward, I was struck by an important challenge in the fight for equity. People working on diversity issues face incredible personal and emotional challenges as a result of their work. Their professional and personal lives are interwoven, and often their work and life is taxed by the emotional strain and rawness of their labors. However, their innate desire to make the world better means they push through emotional challenges to keep doing this work.

When a well-meaning person asks for advice, you are faced with a quandry: do you help? Helping this person can increase equity in the world. However, helping this person can place you in the position of doing free-labor and reopening potentially raw feelings. As to the latter issue, most people who don’t do equity work might not understand how their question can feel onerous. However, that simple question is likely one amongst thousands that a change-maker might receive. Answering a question millions of times is exhausting, not to mention sometimes demoralizing.

So, what should you do? First, look out for yourself. Find ways to be sane. Put up an FAQ on your site, for example, that you can direct people to.

Second, think about the outcomes. There are some people, say an executive at your work, who will make huge image if their behavior can be improved. There are other people who will not be easily changed, and these people will likely only cause you more grief. Answer the first person; categorically avoid the second.

Overall, remember people generally mean the best, but that might not mean the best for you. All change-makers need to find ways to live to fight the good fight another day. Placing your own sanity first is as important as educating others.

Stephanie Cunningham