Equity, acceptance, discernment, integrity and growth are the values that guide and ground me in work and in life. In early 2022, during an extended experience of hypomania, I>we came to understand my>ourselves as plural. As such, plurality has emerged as a key value, though we are still exploring what it means to us and where is sits in our value hierarchy—not only are values significant, how we prioritize them can significantly shift their consequences. At last consideration, Equity and Acceptance come before plurality.
Fundamentally I believe that all human beings are equal in worth no matter what our background, abilities or station in life. This is an early and enduring value that has not shifted. Equal worth invokes an imperative to treat people fairly based on consideration of our differences, and the consequences of those differences. I strive to recognize and respect the dignity of all people equally and believe and seek to act in accordance with principles of social justice and anti-oppression in order to make this value real.
A disposition of acceptance towards all people based on equal worth is one of my strategies for practising equity. Acceptance of someone’s value as a human being is not the same as acceptance of their behaviour. Acceptance is also a strategy for practising compassion towards self and others (including what is commonly known as being non-judgemental) and for facing uncontrollable situations with equanimity.
Difficulty explaining what plurality means to me (and it is me, not our system, writing this) seems integral to the word. Plurality is an embrace of things and the distinctions between them such that the value of each is respected according to its own terms. It occurs to me as I write this that “respecting each according to it’s own terms” is an integration of equity and acceptance. Plurality names my>our inner experience. In so naming, I>we find meaning, self-affirmation and self-recognition within a dynamic, emerging diversity of expressions of multiplicity. Insofar as pluralities include conflict they demand a skillful operation of boundaries and a careful navigation of the space in which those boundaries arise. Inner personal plurality can offer insight into relations and community in the outer world.
Life requires us to practise judgement but judgement carries with it connotations of shame and rigidity that conflict with acceptance. Discernment to me evokes supple and subtle distinction. Discernment is a more refined and less emotionally fraught form of judgement. I value the process of distinguishing and clarifying my understanding of all experience while striving to be open and accepting to nuanced perspectives, including embracing multiple possible interpretations in situations of uncertainty.
To me, integrity is about acting with profound honesty, being consistent and coherent in my behaviour, and following through on commitments to myself and others. While honesty and moral consistency have always been almost intuitive to me, follow-through can be deeply challenging while living with a major mental illness. As such integrity is both a natural and aspirational value for me.
As someone who first fell in love with plants at seven years old it is only natural that growth has been a longstanding value. Growth in personal awareness, understanding and character have tremendously assisted me in living with serious mental illness. I also value and enjoy supporting the personal growth of others. Feedback is a tool that I value in enabling growth. Regular, formal feedback was part of the culture of one of the organizations I led, Serve, and it is a practice I continue to use.