Have You Met Yourself?
If you head over to the Soul and Story Instagram page, you'll see that today I posted a meme that reads,
"Yesterday, I was clever
So I wanted to change the world.
Today I am wise
So I am changing myself"
Ummm...while you're on our Instagram, go ahead and like it, why don't ya?! Here is the link again: www.instagram.com/soulandstoryinc. Thank you!!
Back to the story...
Doing social impact work has been extremely reflective for me. I've learned that doing it required me to look at myself. To look at my bias and my privilege, to look at my doubts and fears. If I'm out here working with communities and people many of whom are marginalized on a variety of different fronts I need to be very self-aware so I am not injecting my "stuff" in places and on people who have enough to deal with as is. For me, social impact work requires more self-awareness and the willingness to do the hard work of being in touch with who I am, all my fears and doubts and triggers...especially my triggers.
I think there are certain professions that require you to really dig deep, social impact work is one of them.
For example, there are many people, particularly white people from Western nations who say they want to do volunteer work in Africa. It's usually just a blanket "Africa" rather than a specific country in Africa. And you ask, why "Africa". Don't get me wrong, on its face there is nothing wrong with wanting to give your time, money and energy to good causes. But, we also have to realize there is a paradigm of Western nations evoking pity for "poor Africans". The white savior complex is very real. And so we have to look at ourselves and ask the hard questions. The people of Africa don't need us swooping in with our capes to "save" them. it is undeniable that the Western world is accustomed to looking at the countries of Africa as if they are poor and need handouts. Our media is saturated with negative images of Africans and depicting them as people who can't help themselves. If we act as if that hasn't affected or skewed our view in some way, we'd be telling lies. It has. And so, we need to be very careful that our motives aren't rooted in this idea that we need to "save" these "poor Africans". And this goes for countries and places that have large black and brown populations, not just African nations. That is so problematic. And what happens is that those who think this way center themselves in stories that are not theirs causing more harm than good. Some people go for the photo opp leaving the people worse off than they found them. This also aids the dysfunctional system of charity...and not all charity is good. I almost feel like this topic is a few topics in and of itself. So I'll stop here. Bottom line is that social impact works requires you to really examine yourself and to see yourself in a way that you may never have, the good, the bad and ugly. Because if done right, social impact work empowers others and meets needs in a way that can only be done if those who are working in this capacity does it free of ego and unconscious motives and bias.
If you are in social impact work or considering it please do the work, so you know who you are. Don't damage other more vulnerable people, because you are damaged yourself. And there are so many people who are damaged and don't even know it. I think a lot of the problems in the world exist because people have not truly met themselves. For example, racists who do and say racist things, but will swear they are not racist! We need to examine ourselves. Those people who clutch their bags when a black person walks into an elevator with them don't normally don't understand the pathology they believe that makes them do that. They are damaged. The only way we are going to fix anything, including ourselves is if we admit that it exists. If we live in a state of denial, nothing ever changes. We can't deny who we are and expect to be able to effectively help others. Because the work really is us. I know I have to meet myself to do this work, to be a better person, to understand what triggers me, my fears, understand my emotions. So many things. This is work. Because if I can show up better in the world for me, then and only then can I show up better for others.
We can't change the world, if we are not willing to look in the mirrors and do the work on ourselves first.