Self-inclusion: a Part of a Whole
Self-inclusion is the ability to see yourself a part of a whole. There is a reason why seeing yourself as a part of the equation matters. By equation I mean relationships, situations, and environment, and generally anywhere and everywhere you are. This also includes your relationship with yourself. Seeing and understanding that you are a part of your surroundings and circumstances can have implications for you as well as others. First let’s look at how self-exclusion can put the person and the society – family, community, and organization – at a disadvantage. From there, we will move to what can self-inclusion change personal and social experiences.
Welcoming Individuals, But Not Individuality
As an individual, every person carries beliefs and experiences from their unique point of view. No matter how much people have in common, there are always circumstances under which they feel and act differently. What matters is that both common ground and differences serve the community, not limit them and their options. We all know that trying too hard to become a team player can lead to losing ourselves as a person. While a degree of compatibility can lead to strong bonds – personal and social – overcompatibility will risk the benefits a person can bring to the table using their specific way of thinking.
Conformity at the Expense of Individuality
Overcompatibility can result from external pressure by the society and peers, or personal pressure to adapt and conform. In the previous article, I discussed the basics of self-awareness and explained about the two general aspects that characterize an individual: emotions and beliefs. If we accept that personal emotions and beliefs are unique to individuals, we can understand that ignoring or pressuring either one for too long may result in self-ignorance and in turn self-exclusion. This means that people who force themselves or are coerced by others to behave and think like the majority, gradually lose themselves in the process.
Overcompatibility overtime reduces self-value, leading to lack of the genuine inner-motivation that drives people to act. We usually conform to feel as a part of the society and feel accepted as a member. This could be the organization we work for, out family and friends, or the community we live in. Yet, if we feel that our self-adjustments are more prone to receive acceptance than the idiosyncratic traits – characteristics unique to us as an individual – it is probable to feel rejected as the person we are. This is the complete opposite of what we had intended. Now naturally, we may become distant, retaliate by criticizing others for their idiosyncrasies, or in the worst case become indifferent.
System Faces Self Defeat
These environments tend to dismiss or frown upon personal ideas and opinions. Under such circumstances, few speak and more stay silent or even approve. While this may be considered as acceptance, it may not be genuine. People simply may lack the motive to speak up and express their feelings or thoughts due to previous experiences. The more the experiences of being shut down, the less the attempts of self-expression. Such environments inevitably lead to weakened personalities, and therefore fewer authentic and sustainable innovative experiences. Status-quo is reached and intends to stay for a long time unless something happens.
Self-exclusion Leads to Conflict
Considering the situation I portrayed above, external and inner conflicts may rise. If you decide to defend your individuality, interpersonal conflicts are inevitable. A few might be okay, while too much leads to serious relationship damages, and loss of energy in an unproductive way. On the other hand, forcing yourself to adapt too much and for too long, triggers inner conflicts, which again leads to loss of productivity. These conflicts may run deep and become harder to address and solve overtime. Even in this situation, rather than blaming others, it is important to stay mindful and aware of our role in escalating or improving conditions. This is one place where self-inclusion matters.
Acceptance: Welcoming You and Your Individuality
Self-inclusion, is the foundation over which acceptance is based. Self-awareness brings about successful and sustainable change. Even in the environment explained above, awareness of one’s existence and role within the system is key to changing it. Let us see how it changes us and the system.
Seeing ourselves as part of the system affects how we behave in and around it. In the example above where self-inclusion is not encouraged, reactions to the environment, society, and self becomes passive. Actions are the result of learned behavior, and behaviors are formed through conditioning by the environment and self. Seeing yourself as a part of a whole leads to growth of both.
Self-inclusion Benefits the Individual and the System
when the system values its individuals based on their differences as well as common grounds, people feel welcomed as who they are. This also reinforces their individuality that increases self-value. A person whose feelings and opinions are validated by its surroundings tends to become more active and more successful. Acceptance is a reinforcement critical to growth. Moreover, it encourages inclusion and acceptance of others in the process. People who feel accepted and are allowed to see and express themselves, are more likely to accept others and include them in the system. The behavior rewards itself by teaching others to do the same.
In an accepting environment, people value themselves as part of the society, making the society valuable to them. The society is more likely to have the support of its members in under these circumstances. The system’s success and growth is seen as theirs. In addition, they feel a sense of responsibility that originates from personal motive. Internal motives are more long-lasting in compare to external incentives, and the sense of responsibility as well.
What can I do to be able to see myself a part of the system?
As a person on their journey to become more self-aware, you can try to understand yourself as an independent individual, then as a part of a whole. Allowing yourself to feel or think the way you do regardless of the number of people who feel or think differently. Acknowledgement is the first step. Next comes evaluation. The more you become accustomed to reevaluating yourself, the better you become at self-awareness and self-improvement. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
1.Are my feelings, beliefs, and actions beneficial to me?
2. Have they been harming me and my relationships without my knowledge?
3. Are they serving me while hurting others? What can I do to change that?
4. Am I forcing myself to feel or think a certain way for their advantage?
5. Am I forcing others to feel or think a certain way because of my preferences?
See yourself as a phenomenon, study and understand yourself, then make improvements you feel necessary. This is an ongoing process and mistakes are inevitable. The goal is to become more mindful, not perfect; perhaps a human, all-too-human.
The right answer can be found through the right questions.
This post was inspired by a course I took by Dr. Otto Scharmer, offered on EDX. Dr. Otto Scharmer based the course on “theory U: a method for awareness-based systems change”. The course is titled ‘Leading change in the times of disruption’, but as theory U clarifies, its foundation is based on awareness and seeing yourself as part of the system.
I took this course while I was struggling to find my place in the world and the community. I learned how to see myself as a part of it, and how to find answers to my questions. Thanks to Dr. Sharmer, who asked the right questions, I found answers that lead to the creation of this website. To those who are interested to know themselves better, I recommend this course.