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  • Emerging Ally

Mental Health

May was Mental Health awareness month. I’ve wanted to talk a little about this for a while but haven’t found the right words ... actually struggled to find is more like it.

Mental health is not easy to discuss ... especially one’s own. There is the ever present fear that people you know will turn away from you ... your job will be put into jeopardy ... countless other fears. But in some ways it wouldn’t be honest of me to have this blog and not mention it. My experience with it when it comes to diversity and inclusion and being an ally.

I mentioned in one of my first posts that early in my career I was told I would never succeed because of my religion. That as a Quaker... a pacifist... I wasn’t “aggressive” enough to pass the actuarial exams or be able to succeed in business ... (Why is D&I Important to Me)

While I was stunned at the time and struggled to work thru it in the moment it had a deeper and lasting impact.

Some folks might view it as a wonderful story of overcoming ... those after school specials where Billy gets told he will never join the team then shows everyone up and scores the winning point in the final montage ... yeah .... not like that at all.

That moment started years of pain and suffering. See it wasn’t like one door was closed and I merely had to find a new one ... it was like ALL the doors closed.

I mean if I couldn’t succeed because of who I am ... how the hell could I change that? ... I could learn new skills ... but I can’t learn a new me.

I tried though.

See I thought if I could try to be someone else I could get around that. But that caused more issues.

When I stopped trying to be me ... well... who the hell was I?

And every time the mask fell off ... as it inevitably would ... I would hate myself more.

Thats a horrible cycle.

A horrible depressing spiral.

See being told that you can’t do something because of who you are is different than being told you don’t have the skill or you couldn’t execute. You can learn to change skills or execute better. You can’t stop being you.

That’s what DI is about. People have been denied opportunity because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc.

And that isn’t a closing of one door. It’s saying to people you can’t do this because of who you are. You aren’t even allowed to try. Not even allowed to knock on the door… Any door.

So as an ally I also try to make sure those doors open and people on the other side see those skills regardless of the hand that knocks.

I try and advocate.

When someone I know is applying for a role I will reach out to the hiring manager and give an endorsement. Encourage them to open the door and consider a candidate.

I often try and understand what the hiring manager is looking for in the role. Try to open eyes to a different perspective than they might be thinking of for the role. Try to expand their field of vision.

I do that because I want the door to open. So that they hear the knock. See the talent on the other side of the door.

It’s difficult for white men to understand generally. No one says they are unqualified because of WHO they are. The hurdles for white males are skill based generally and so can be solved by education, experience, training ... things that can change through hard work.

But you can’t train to be a white, heterosexual male if you aren’t one. Kinda doesn’t work that way.

I was fortunate. I have an amazing wife and family that provided me support. And friends that I leaned into even though they never knew it at the time... fantasy football can be very therapeutic ... even if you finish last!! LOL!!

That support helped me a great deal.

So as an ally I try to be that support. Listen. Encourage. The mental health aspect of Diversity and Inclusion is real and sometimes just listening is helpful. Helping people understand they are good enough to knock. And I encourage people to knock. I make sure they want to knock and support them when they do. Help prep them for the conversation maybe… but mostly moral support.

Knocking is terrifying.

I know.

Every time I knock I have to overcome that fear of being an unaggressive Quaker.

As always I hope this helps. I look forward to continuing the conversation. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments.

All the best,

Dave Terné

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