MINDFUL MUSINGS

What is cultural sensitivity? I looked it up… it means having the skills to learn, understand and accept people whose cultural background is different to yours. It means an awareness and acceptance of cultural differences – that they aren’t seen as positive or negative, better or worse, right or wrong.

I live in Australia, a country where multiculturalism is celebrated and promoted in our society. This notion is reflected in our diverse communities and largely positive social cohesion. People with different backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities call Australia home. Suffice to say, cultural sensitivity is important for effective interactions and a peaceful society.

I found myself thinking about cultural sensitivity yesterday after a session as a classroom volunteer for literacy and computer skills. There were people from different origins – Iran, Ethiopia, China, Hong Kong to name a few.

As I was assisting several of the women with their computer tasks, I found myself touching people on their backs. I’m not sure why I was doing this as I’m not generally a tactile person. Usually, I feel uncomfortable with people in my personal space and touching me. So when I noticed myself being handsy, I made a conscious effort not to touch, which somehow made me touch even more!

Reflecting on my interactions with the women, I wondered if I had acted in a culturally insensitive way. A touch to the back could be seen as a friendly gesture to some and a disrespectful or inappropriate gesture to others. Not knowing or understanding their background, values or life experiences, makes it impossible to tell. 

So you know what I’ll do in the next lesson? I will ask instead of making assumptions. I will take time to get to know the students as individuals. I will put into practice the words of wisdom that I like to impart to my children about being culturally sensitive.

Because for me, being Australian means: respecting one another, embracing cultural diversity, respecting differences, valuing each other’s contribution and giving people a fair go. It also means practicing cultural sensitivity through my willingness to change my behaviours and communication styles to meet other cultural norms.

 

Copyright © 2020, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

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THE CALM AFTER THE STORM

It has been seven weeks since I had an emotional breakdown at work. It was bound to happen. I was a pressure cooker, at a dangerously high boiling point, needing a release to avoid catastrophic results. Instead of finding a solution to my ever growing anxiety and stress, I filed them in the ‘To Re-Evaluate Later’ box. I was too busy and tired to take pause, at the detriment of my mental health.

Returning to work after maternity leave, I struggled to re-assimilate into my old role. I felt inadequate and redundant, having to re-learn old processes and familiarise myself with new changes. I didn’t feel worthy to contribute to team efforts or discussions. I felt replaced by fresh faces proactive in voicing solutions to challenges, confident in their capabilities to create value and eager to seek further opportunities. Feeling anxious at my lack of ability, I hid in the shadows and made myself inconsequential. It didn’t matter that it was a toxic work environment, tainted with stressors of unreasonable and excessive workload or the constant looming cloud of job insecurity. I didn’t feel like I belonged anymore.

It didn’t help that I was struggling at home too. I was suffering, both mentally and physically, grasping at the threads of my diminishing sanity. Sleep deprivation was wreaking havoc with my ability to function. My two-and-a-half year old son was a poor sleeper and couldn’t self-settle. I was too tired to rectify the situation, choosing to kick the can down the road. I felt overburdened with responsibilities of running a household, even with lots of help from my husband.

I had become a poor man’s version of a parent; a cheap imitation. I had no energy to engage with the kids. School readers were neglected. Dinner was whatever I could throw together at the last minute or leftovers, often opting for take-away. I was prone to being snappy, and yelling was my default means of interaction. This led to feelings of mother’s guilt and overcompensating in other ways. More TV, more junk food, anything to lessen my guilt. I was a freaking mess. I was drowning in my misery.

It took only one simple email at work to push me over the edge. One small request. I had reached my upper boiling point, there was nothing left but to self-implode and decompress. I was mortified at letting coworkers see my vulnerabilities, showcasing them like open wounds, and admitting defeat. All I could do was call a time-out. I was spent.

In hindsight, it was the best decision I could have made for myself and my family. I started seeing a counsellor, and working on improving my mental health. By allowing my mind to take a break from the constant noise, giving myself the opportunity to self-reflect, and talking to a complete stranger, it has given me the strength to finally admit and face a few hard truths.

I am sh*t at being alone with my thoughts. It opens my mind to many unwanted and self-criticising mental abuse. I loathe my own company, and I fear the unknown. I’ve let the judgements of others influence and dictate my life choices. I am flawed, indecisive and insecure.

BUT, today I had an epiphany. One that smacked me hard in the face.

I no longer feel ashamed to admit that I have mental health issues; that I battle with debilitating anxiety and suffer from depression.

I no longer feel the heavy chains of societal expectations weighing me down. I am NOT a superwoman. I don’t need to ‘have it all’, and I’m okay with that.

I am ready to commit to the journey, making that arduous climb away from the dark pits of depression and anxiety, with one step at a time.

“When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

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