I recently wrote a blog post about vulnerability and imposter syndrome. Okay, that may seem like a shameless plug for my post, but I promise, it is extremely relevant. Anyway, I write this blog post, and I'm pretty happy with it. I'm so happy with it that, after it goes public, I send a Slack message to my team letting them know it's up. The team is very supportive, giving me virtual high-fives for speaking publicly about a personal experience with imposter syndrome and then it comes, the dreaded, "Hey, do you mind if I offer a small bit of feedback on your blog post?" message.
I absolutely want feedback, but I also want to be right and get scared in that moment I realize I'm not. Learning trumps self-righteousness, so feedback wins.
If you go back and read my post, you'll see a sentence that reads, "The perceived issue is that you have somehow ended up in a room full of geniuses who, at any moment, will realize you can't even operate an automatic door." That sentence is the result of the feedback I received from my coworker. The original sentence was, "The perceived issue is that you have somehow ended up in a room full of geniuses who, at any moment, will realize you can't even operate a pen cap."
If you can't quite tell why the switch was necessary, as we say in the South, bless your heart. Thank you for seeing my good intentions. When I wrote the original post, I was trying to come up with a quippy way to explain a scenario everyone can relate to. It was very graciously pointed out to me that there are people with physical or neurological reasons for not being able to operate a pen cap.
Cue the pouring rain all over my parade. My heart sank, I felt like a jerk for not realizing this on my own, and I typed and deleted five fixes before coming up with an alternative that's not a form of ableism.
Make no mistake, my coworker's feedback approach was fantastic. They were polite, gracious, and understanding from the start. They even made it a point to say that it was a small thing in a great post and that they knew my intentions were good. Bless their heart!
What it did teach me is that even as someone who feels pretty confident when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), I'm going to mess up. Why? I'm human. We all make mistakes. What counts is that—like any other mistake—we own it, apologize, and correct course.
Was it easy to do this? No! DEI has a significant emotional component. This is why my heart sank when my mistake was pointed out. It's why many of us shy away from discussing it. But avoiding diveristy, equity, and inclusion will never improve it. In a world where DEI is being brought more to the forefront, avoiding it will only leave you behind.
What this has also taught me is that it is important to build up enough DEI rapport that people feel comfortable engaging with you—in this case, providing feedback. My coworker could have said nothing, they could have assumed I was trying to be a jerk. But they didn't. They chose to engage. When we try to be more inclusive, when we try to learn and improve, people notice. Yes, you'll probably mess up at some point, okay, at several points. But that's how we get better, bless our hearts.