Why Inner Well-being is Foundational to Race Equity Work


By: Kate Loving, Manager

In our last update back in May, ProInspire Director Bianca Anderson discussed our strategic shift from competencies to leadership practices to build inclusive work environments. Feedback from partners and advisors helped us focus on how and why leadership practices can be a transformative tool to support race equity impact inside social sector organizations. As we dove deeper into the practices we began to notice that each Window of Leadership (Self, People, Organizations and Systems) starts with a foundational value or a value that is fundamental to and embedded within every practice in the corresponding Window.

Foundational Values

Windows of Leadership is our term for the perspectives or levels from which leaders can create impact — namely leadership of Self, People, Organizations, and Systems. Windows of Leadership provide a transparent reflection of the leadership skills needed to advance race equity. These windows are interdependent; they do not work in isolation but instead connect and support each other. We also understand that aspects of social identity, environment, and socialization will inform how our leadership shows up. 

For each Window of Leadership, we identified the foundational value that is essential to its practice– Cultivating Inner Well-being in the leadership of Self, Centering Relationships in the leadership of People, Aligning Values in the leadership of Organizations, and Understanding Inequities in the leadership of Systems. These foundational values serve as both the outer frame and internal support for the practices in each window. Leaders should focus on developing and expanding their commitment to these values before and during their work on the practices in the correlating Window of Leadership. 

Why Leading Self requires Inner Well-being

In our work with leaders and organizations, we almost always start with Self because it is so core to leadership and race equity.  When examining race equity impact through the “Self Window,” leaders see themselves as active learners on a journey of identity development. This process works to understand how different aspects of one’s identity is privileged and/or marginalized in society. 

In the Self Window, leaders:

  • Consider their holistic well-being, mental models, and internalized racial oppression/superiority in their leadership decisions.  
  • Actively discover how they have been socialized and strive to heal internalized trauma that is passed down generationally. 
  • Intentionally cultivate practices of wellness and self-compassion that extend to and support members of their community. 
  • Are accountable for learning and unlearning limiting or inaccurate beliefs and ideologies; they pay particular attention to how internalized beliefs impact their behavior and how they show up. 
  • Support measures and processes of accountability that evaluate their impact on others, particularly how their individual leadership does or does not work to advance race equity.

At the heart of the work in the Self Window, leaders must cultivate Inner Well-being to authentically and courageously practice Sense of Identity, Conscious Communication, and Radical Self-Love. 

Inner Well-being allows leaders to interrupt patterns of isolation, separateness, and internalized racism through mindfulness

Inner Well-being means intentionally committing time and energy to deepen one’s personal  awareness through self-reflection and self-compassion. This commitment allows leaders to foster and demonstrate more joy, harmony, and fulfillment in their work. Cultivating Inner Well-being supports leaders by building the capacity to address the fears, anxieties, and trauma that often accompany race inequities. Inner Well-being allows leaders to interrupt patterns of isolation, separateness, and internalized racism through mindfulness

As a white woman, cultivating Inner Well-being has always felt crucial to me as I deepen my knowledge and skills to build equitable organizations. The brilliant Ericka Hines* encourages and pushes us to, “be humble and ready to fumble,” through race equity work. I have found that intentionally committing time and energy to deepen my personal awareness through self-reflection and self-compassion gives me the knowledge, capacity, and courage, to be vulnerable and ready to fumble.

How I cultivate Inner Well-being while working through the Practices in the Self Window:

Sense of Identity

Deepening my  Sense of Identity helps me  foster an understanding and acceptance of my own unique self and also helps me acknowledge how my understanding of self is shaped by social, economic, and historical contexts. By intentionally finding time and committing energy to self-reflection and self-compassion, I am able to recognize and name which aspects of my identity lead to experiences of privilege and/or marginalization and work through these experiences while building a sense of ease and self-acceptance around these identities.  

Conscious Communication

As I work to build and sustain honesty, vulnerability, and trust through communication, I commit time and energy to deepen my personal awareness by maintaining a sense of curiosity and intentionally focusing on my own and other’s words, tone of voice, and body language. I set aside time weekly and monthly to reflect, create space to receive feedback, and take time to recharge while strengthening my Conscious Communication muscle.

Radical Self-Love

In this practice, I work to suspend judgment of myself and others by demonstrating empathy and compassion. I also create self-care routines recognizing that caring for myself allows me to better care for others and my community. I practice self-reflection and self-compassion when celebrating my strengths, creating self affirmations, and prioritizing rest and rejuvenation. Centering my Inner Well-being in this practice isn’t optional, it is essential to inspiring and motivating me on my journey to create more equitable organizations.

Cultivating Inner Well-being through self-reflection and self-compassion is how I work through my fears and anxieties, especially those that come with the insecurities and inadequacy I feel as a white woman doing race equity work. Cultivating Inner Well-being is foundational to each of the practices in the Self Window because without it you are not able to truly deepen your Sense of Identity, practice Conscious Communication, and support Radical Self-Love. All of these help me show up in my work and in partnership with BIPOC and White colleagues everyday. 

When you begin to work with these practices, I encourage you to think of Inner Well-being as the outer frame and internal support of your Self Window and to use it to get back up from those fumbles and continue the work.

*We encourage you to check out Ericka’s new Black Womxn Thriving research fund.

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