Diversity, equity, and inclusion is certainly a hot button issue in the world today, but what does is really mean when it comes to human flourishing and the workplace?
At the heart of diversity, equity, and inclusion, are identity, and belonging. We are all made of many identities, the things that make us who we are. Identity goes beyond just race or gender; it also includes class, education, religion, sexual orientation, language, physical and mental ability, age, size – the list goes on and on.
When we think about “flourishing,” we think of a person who is successful and thriving. And in order to flourish, we must look at the person as a whole, rather than in separate, compartmentalized pieces. Diversity, equity, and inclusion – and therefore, identity – are key components of connecting with the whole person, and show up across all six human domains of Flourishing as defined by SHINE (Sustainability and Health Initiative for NetPositive Enterprise) at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Domains of Human Flourishing:
- Happiness and Life Satisfaction
- Mental and Physical Health
- Meaning and Purpose
- Close Social Relationships
- Character and Virtue
- Financial and Material Stability.
If that still sounds a bit nebulous to you – you’re probably not alone! Here are some questions that will allow you to reflect on and connect with the emotions behind feeling included vs. excluded or misunderstood.
Consider a time when you felt excluded, left out, not understood, or like you didn’t belong.
- Could you control the reason(s) you weren’t included?
- Were those reasons visible to others, or could you hide them?
- How did that impact how you felt?
- How you showed up in the various aspects of your life (home, socially, professionally)?
Now flip that around – recall a time when you felt like your full, authentic self was included, accepted, safe, understood – you truly belonged.
If you can’t recall a time like this, that’s completely ok – simply imagine for a moment how your life would be impacted if you did feel that way.
- How did/would that impact how you felt?
- How did you show up in various aspects of your life?
- What was/is different between the two scenarios?
Think about your answers, and contemplate which of the six domains of Human Flourishing they fall into. Is it just one – or maybe several? When you feel included, heard, and understood, your happiness is elevated, and your relationships with others are closer and more trusting. With that trust comes a sense of ease and safety, impacting your mental health and stress levels in a positive way. Less stress helps to boost your physical health, in areas like pain, sleep, weight and energy. When you feel safe and understood, you can fully live into your life purpose and feel more satisfied because you no longer need spend your time and emotional energy protecting or explaining pieces of yourself.
The absence of fear opens up the possibility of living authentically within your values, staying true to who you are and what you know is right. And it doesn’t stop there. Diversity, equity, and inclusion also touch financial and material stability. Many minority identities are disproportionately impacted in this realm. And, that doesn’t just include race – minority status can be attributed to single parenthood, where you live, class, education, gender identity and sexual orientation, and physical and mental ability (among others).
At the end of the day, we all know what it feels like to not be included; that pit of anxiety in your stomach, asking yourself the question, “who do I have to be today, to be safe and accepted?” Feeling like you belong, feeling included, accepted, and safe, takes you out of survival mode, and into a space where you can truly show up as your true, authentic self. From that comes more creativity, engagement, trust and rapport. So, with this knowledge and understanding of how Inclusion fits in with Human Flourishing, it’s now up to us to weave it into our efforts to create an environment where our employees – and therefore, our organizations and broader communities – truly thrive and flourish.