Brush Your Teeth Moments
Self Reflection in Turbulent Times
Almost everyone that’s heard me speak has heard me talk about those ‘brush your teeth moments’. For those wondering what oral hygiene has to do with equity, diversity, inclusion and engagement in the workplace, bare with me. The world is noisy, busy, and full of conflict and conversation – especially in recent weeks and months. Regardless of the current climate of the world around us, there is always that few minutes of quiet every day… when we brush our teeth. Maybe for you, that “brush your teeth moment” is in the shower, during your commute to work, while you prepare dinner, or some other regular time of solitude.
For me these moments of solitude are when I do some of my most productive thinking – even if only for a few minutes. It’s just me, myself, and I staring at the man in the mirror (MAN, I miss Michael Jackson!). With the buzz of my electric toothbrush as background noise, I can ask myself tough questions and reflect on hard moments and thoughts I’m facing. I can ask myself, What can I do to improve someone’s day? How can I take just a little time away from whatever challenges I may be facing to help impact someone else? It doesn’t have to be major action! But I ask myself, can I just take one positive step forward? I may not always succeed, but I try.
Brush your teeth moments give us space to challenge ourselves every day – to set the stage to be better than the day before.
Real Life Application
This recently came up in an episode of Diversity Straight Up, where co-host Sarika Bhakta and I interviewed local business leader, Steve Shriver. Mr. Shriver opened up about his decision to wear blackface in a Halloween costume over ten years ago and how his opinions on that have significantly evolved since then. “I thought it was okay,” Shriver said. “It wasn’t until later I realized that it was offensive, and that I hurt people in the process. Once I knew that it hurt them, I don’t want to be the cause for hurt. I can’t take back what I did, but I don’t want to be the cause for that hurt.” I stood up for Mr. Shriver at the time of his public apology and I stand by him now. As humans, we are built to evolve and grow. We make mistakes on our journey to be better humans.
It came up again last month on Diversity Straight Up when we spoke to my daughter and global fashion model, Alanna Arrington. Alanna talked about “cancel culture within the fashion industry and how drastic measures don’t leave space for growth and evolution. “You’ve got to give them all a chance to say, okay this is where I messed up… A chance for them to say I see exactly where I messed up and here’s what I’m going to do to change it.” Without that second chance, people don’t have room to grow and improve.
When We Know Better, We Do Better
When we know better, we DO better. Mr. Shriver has evolved from 2007, and would no longer make those same decisions now that he is educated on not only the pain that it caused, but the deep history surrounding his decision. That reflection is absolutely critical when the country is so divided and the community seems so quick to “cancel” someone. For me, it is standing in the bathroom brushing my teeth that my mind often wanders to these subjects.
When is the last time you’ve changed your mind on something? Is your social media feed impacting how you make decisions? Are you making decisions based on experiences from your childhood, or stories your friends have told you? I tell the story all the time of my former bias against white men in leather jackets when I was a teenage kid. When I was growing up, I had this feeling that every man that rode a Harley Davidson motorcycle was a racist–that was just my perception. It took some self-reflection, willingness to learn, and “brush your teeth” moments for me to understand that of course that’s not true. Without giving myself that space and challenging myself to dig deeper, I’m not sure that I would’ve overcome those perceptions.
Self Reflection is Imperative for Growth
If you are honest with yourself, I bet there are biases in your own life that need to be put under a microscope. Do you need to reevaluate those biases based on past and current experiences? In what areas do you most need to grow and evolve?
Starting today, in your time of solitude, I challenge you to ask yourself, What biases do I need to overcome? What opinions of mine need to be challenged? How can I continue moving forward with social justice and acceptance? Can I help someone else and improve the world – even in just a small way? How can I just be a better human.
We must be diligent and allow time and space for our own personal evolution. Never stop asking yourself these sometimes hard, but necessary questions.
Never stop having Brush Your Teeth Moments.
-Anthony Arrington, CDE