Guiding principles

Relationship- & trust-building. To effectively and genuinely support youth, we have to work on building individual relationships and trust. This is especially true for youth who have experienced exploitation, as they have often had their trust taken advantage of and broken. Relationship-building requires service providers to embrace flexibility, empathy, understanding, and a good sense of humour. Service providers should provide youth with ample time, care, and patience so that youth may develop trust through their own process and in their own time.

Sitting with discomfort Module 3 invites participants to consider their biases, and the impacts that bias can have if they go unchecked. Reflecting on biases can be uncomfortable – it is difficult to come to terms with ways we may be unconsciously hurting or oppressing others. Instead of pulling away from discomfort, we can all benefit from feeling our discomfort and using it to learn about how we can bring more care into our work. When considering discomfort, it’s important to understand it in comparison to feeling unsafe, as they are not the same thing:

  • Systemic oppression ensures that those who are oppressed are consistently unsafe, as the systems in place are built for them to remain unsafe. Consider Canada’s laws which target Indigenous women as mentioned in Module 1 – these laws are built around controlling Indigenous women and therefore contribute to an entire system that makes Indigenous women unsafe.
  • Sitting with discomfort should not require anyone to feel unsafe. And the opposite is true: if someone feels unsafe, it should not be treated as though they are simply uncomfortable.
  • Often, the things that make us feel most uncomfortable are the same things we need to do to help others feel safer. For example, being told “that thing you said is racist,” and learning from that, may feel uncomfortable. However, racist statements can make racialized people unsafe.
    • Sometimes, in resistance to discomfort, people who are privileged with safety will claim they feel unsafe when asked to address their personal prejudices (ex. claiming “reverse racism,” or, in response to the example above, believing that “they are only saying that what I said was racist because I am white,”). The idea here is that if we can find a reason to avoid addressing our biases, we can avoid discomfort. It is essential to connect with the feelings in our bodies and genuinely decide if we feel unsafe or uncomfortable.

Openness to making mistakes. Although we can all have bias within us, with time and conscious, consistent effort, we can learn to recognize, challenge, and grow away from our biases.

Part of challenging bias, and deep learning processes in general, is being open to making mistakes!

It can be scary to be wrong, it can feel discouraging and uncomfortable (see above!), and sometimes we feel embarrassed or ashamed. A great way to overcome these feelings is to embrace making mistakes. This can include:

  • feeling the uncomfortable feelings and telling yourself these feelings are okay!
  • understanding where the pressure of ‘being right’ comes from
    • Tema Okun and Kenneth Jones identify how the need to be right, or a desire for perfectionism, is rooted in white supremacy culture. We will explore this in an activity engaging with their work in a later module.
  • gradually shifting our personal responses to making mistakes to ones that feel good in our body
    • instead of beating ourselves up over a mistake (ex. “that was so stupid/embarrassing of me to say”), be compassionate with ourselves (ex. “I feel silly, but it’s fine, I’ll do better next time”).
    • instead of being defensive (ex. “I didn’t say anything wrong!”), be open-minded (ex. “I should read more about this topic”)
  • be curious! Take mistakes as a learning opportunity. If someone disagrees with your perspective, work to learn more about theirs – maybe you’ll change your view, maybe you’ll develop a better understanding of why you each view something the way you do.
  • appreciate the ability to endlessly learn as a valuable skill in all aspects of life!
  • appreciate the knowledge and growth of those around you!

Making mistakes and embracing them with curiosity only opens up opportunities for growth and connection.

To support your own learning and processing, consider keeping a “surprises journal.” When events happen that challenge your bias or where you feel you were “wrong,” practice being open to making mistakes and seeing these events as surprises. Some questions to ask yourself when writing down events:

  • What happened?
  • What was surprising?
  • How did the event make you feel while it was happening?
  • How does the event make you feel now, on reflection?
  • How does recognizing that you were surprised about this event make you feel?
  • How can this surprise inform your perspective going forward?

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