I’ve written before about my love for inclusion, and how it all began with a little program in Connecticut called Unified Theater. Since I began my inclusion journey in 2004, Unified Theater and I have both worked hard to spread inclusion far and wide. This month, Unified Theater is running a campaign called #LOVEinclusion, asking people to share why they love inclusion. In the past, I have written about how inclusion changed my perceptions of others and their abilities, but I do not often take the time to appreciate the ways inclusion helped me celebrate myself.
I got involved with Unified Theater at the perfect time. I was in middle school, and my self esteem was about to plummet as a teenager. In middle and high school, we struggle to find ourselves. We struggle to find friends who accept us and want to see us succeed. We struggle to feel welcome and secure. We struggle to love ourselves.
I found a safe haven in Unified Theater because I had friends who wanted to celebrate my successes. Instead of feeling like I needed to earn acceptance, I had a built-in community that already accepted me. That allowed me to thrive.
Part of #LOVEinclusion’s celebration is writing valentines to ourselves. We need to love our own abilities. This piece is just as important as loving the abilities of others. In this practice, I brainstormed five abilities I love about myself. So, here goes…
- I am a good listener.
- I don’t quit. I commit!
- I can (almost) always sing on pitch and not go sharp or flat.
- I give thoughtful gifts.
- I am very organized and have a system for everything.
Without Unified Theater and inclusion, I am sure that determining the abilities in myself that I love most would have been significantly more difficult. Society trains us to be hypercritical of ourselves and others. It is necessary that we give children and teens the opportunity to escape the criticism and immerse themselves in self-love. And that is why I #LOVEinclusion.
What do you love about yourself? Write yourself a valentine in the comments section below!
–Written by Elise Hopkins, KIT Blog Editor
Kids Included Together (KIT) is a non-profit located in San Diego, CA and Washington, DC. We help make the world a more inclusive place by providing live and online training to people who work with kids. We teach strategies, accommodations and best practices to include kids with and without disabilities in before & after school programs. Inclusive environments create stronger communities. Learn more about our work at www.KITonline.org.