In Selfistry we begin our exploration of what it means to be human with getting to know ourselves, as we each have a self to know. However, being this self, identifying as this self, acting as this self — good or bad — are all very different from becoming aware of this self.
Given my orientation in this regard, I was deeply touched by reading White Fragility by Robin Diangelo. She’s helping me become self aware — bringing to light my unconscious bias and internalized racism. Since awareness is often the first step to change, I’m super grateful.
Self awareness is the difference between nodding your head, rolling your eyes, and claiming, “Yes, Sarah, I’m aware that I’m sitting here holding my phone and scrolling through your blog,” and the self that is aware of you being conscious that you are scrolling and rolling.
The intersection between self awareness and our habitual conscious or unconscious patterns ignites a power to transform the future into something other than a continuation of well trodden ruts.
Cultivating self awareness may be the most radical move we can make in our lives — and it takes practice. White Fragility underscores why this skill is so needed in our world today.
Our world is terribly messed up with regard to how we treat one another and life on this planet. It’s true there’s a lot of beauty and goodness out there. Still, it’s pretty obvious that if every person were able to step back and see themselves in a larger context and stop the behaviors that are conditioned by reactive patterns, the world would be unfolding in a very different way.
Self awareness is the first step to change.
White Fragility masterfully brings us to this first step — identifying the building blocks in world history and our psyches that have resulted in all sorts of disturbing ways of being human together.
Diangelo is not simply highlighting an essential element of our unconscious bias and our harmful and despicable behaviors, she’s helping us learn how to see.
Here are some takeaways:
If, as I learn how to see myself, I’m not uncomfortable, I’m likely not seeing.
The process of unraveling our inherent biases — conditioning from generations and possibly lifetimes — takes tender care, perseverance, and humility.
It can be terribly confusing and disorienting to feel the intensity of our shame, guilt, and defensiveness, for on some core level we all mean to be good. But this discomfort must never be an excuse for us to turn away.
If we think we have arrived when it comes to self awareness, this is a sure sign we have not arrived. Hint: There is no such thing as arriving. We never stop growing.
We need one another. Polarizing into victim and perpetrator, right and wrong, guilty and innocent —within ourselves and among ourselves — only deepens the systemic sickness in which we all, as one global family, are presently swimming. The more we can view the gestalt of these times as a shared systemic enterprise, the more skillfully we can deal with micro aggressions, macro attacks, and convoluted relationships.
The speed at which most of us are racing through our lives assures us that we will go on autopilot. Self awareness will elude us and so will change. After all, we cannot work on our self awareness right now … our kids need to be fed, we have to pay the mortgage, etc. — all the while not recognizing that how we are feeding our kids and paying our mortgage is perpetuating the systemic dysfunction.
It’s not like we’ll get to a perfect day or time to begin the hard work of taking responsibility for our actions. That day must be today. There will be no better day.
Again, if we are not uncomfortable, we are not growing.
Get used to discomfort. It won’t kill you.
Thank you Robin Diangelo for helping me see.
Now, if only someone would unpack the same truths regarding the systemic dysfunction at the root of monotheism, then we might really succeed at changing the course of human history.
Maybe I’ll write that one.