How did I find my way on a road to self-inclusion? It all started with exploring the world of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging as a whole. As I was getting more and more involved in these topics, I had an aha moment… How could I be inclusive towards others when I wasn’t truly inclusive towards myself?

That suddenly shifted my focus from purely outwards to inwards and so I embarked on a path of winding roads not really knowing where or what was the destination. More often than not, I wasn’t even able to even see beyond the next turn.

This definitely didn’t help with my anxiety – and anxiety, it turns out, wasn’t the only thing I was carrying on my back… I realised that I was buried under bags of limiting beliefs, fears, self-doubt, and the list goes on and on and on.

It was heavy but I didn’t want to put any of it down at first. I thought… I’ve been managing these well enough until now so they must be either useful or at least part of who I am. Plus, I didn’t really know what was deep inside each of them and I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to find out. What about you – what are you carrying and do you still need to?

After realising that I was buried under all this excess baggage, the first step along the road to self-inclusion wasn’t yet to open these bags but to first look at the person who was beneath it all.

Step 1: Know Your Self

When I was little, I was bullied and excluded at school for being overweight. It was a very traumatic experience and had a significant impact on my mental health. It’s still difficult for me to talk about it now.

Anyhow, it was then, at 7 years old, that I remember making the conscious decision not to be myself anymore. From then on, I decided to observe others and do my best to imitate their popular behaviors. In other words, I tried to become a chameleon.

Over time, I had created so many different versions of myself – to the point that even I didn’t really know anymore which one was me, which one was partly me, and which one wasn’t me at all.

Where to from there?

Think of an onion, I started peeling back the layers to reconnect with my core. It’s something you can explore doing too: draw an onion on a piece of paper and write down adjectives in each layer – from who you are all the way to how you intend to show up and how you do show up to others and to the world.

There are lots of helpful resources to begin getting to know ourselves: strengths tests, personality profiles, unconscious biases assessments, value exercises. It’s worth mentioning however that these are all external views and snippets of who we are.

The most important step in getting to now ourselves is to spend time with ourselves. Have a quick think: when was the last time you spent time with yourself and how long for? No phone, no TV, no chatting with a friend, just you and yourself hanging out together.

Being able to slow down and spend time with myself has been one of the blessings I’ve found during these lockdown times – something very different from my usual approach of buying a plane ticket and heading off as soon as things got tough.

There are many different ways to spend time with ourselves. Personally, walking and writing are my go-to and have been for a long time. Through curiosity and exploration, you’ll be able to find a few that work for you. When you do, I’d love to hear about it so I can have the chance to try it out too.

Coming up next will be Step 2: Grow Your Self

To find out more about my journey, order a copy of my memoir Where to Next?