DEIB and the Importance of Self-Compassion

A Conversation with Sydney Spears, Ph.D., CMSC Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging

1. Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you share the story of how you came to your current role?

Ever since I was an adolescent I have been a strong advocate for dismantling sociocultural oppression in its various forms across marginalized communities. My own personal identity as a multiracial-Black woman generated this work as well as learning about the racial and patriarchal trauma that my grandparents, parents and other ancestors endured.  In the past I have served multiple roles in the field of education and social work such as an elementary school teacher, university professor, and administrator.  In particular, within each of these roles I have worked hard to support equity and social justice for many decades. Currently, I work as psychotherapist, coach,  organizational consultant and educator specializing in DEIB and advancing trauma-sensitivity, body-positivity and empowerment. I also teach Mindful Self-Compassion courses for specifically for BIPOC communities and for general communities.

2. How are you working to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in your community?

As the Director of DEIB for the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion (CMSC), I have been able to bring more voice, attention, and inclusivity regarding DEIB issues to the Board of Directors, Executive Director. and the teachers.  I have also been able to facilitate a CMSC-based DEIB committee composed of Mindful Self-Compassion teachers representing culturally diverse identities. This committee serves to assess, identify and participate in organizational equity issues and needs.

3. Can you describe a personal experience that fuels your passion? 

Professionally as a certified Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) teacher and the DEIB Director, I have been able to support several BIPOC individuals in becoming (MSC) certified teachers and opening up opportunities for other culturally diverse individuals to professionally advance.

4. Can you tell us about a DEI win that you are proud of? It doesn’t have to be big, just meaningful for you.

About 6 years ago DEIB was not very present within the curriculum of Mindful Self-Compassion.  However, I feel as though my voice about the importance and deep need of  human inclusivity and belonging, especially for those who have experienced sociocultural oppression had a positive impact which lead to many program-based “culture” changes.

5. Character is so important today in our professional and personal lives. Which character trait do you think has been most helpful in your journey? Can you please share a story or example of that trait in action?

Courage is the primary character trait that has been the most useful in my journey. Actually, there have been countless times in which I have had to advocate and give voice to a DEIB issue. It would have been so much easier and safer to be silent, but my passion for justice tended to override my fears and potential risks of speaking up.

Deep within my strength allowed me to break the pull to be silent and amplify my voice on behalf of communities who never got a chance to have a “seat a the table.”  This is an expression of “fierce/empowerment” self-compassion.

6. What does inclusive leadership mean to you?

             1. Creating safer and braver spaces for ALL to be valued, seen, heard, understood and appreciated for the diverse perspectives and gifts they bring to “team”

             2. Building and valuing collaborative relationships within the team

             3. All team members feel they are welcomed and appreciated

             4. Sharing power through inviting the voices, perspectives, feedback, ideating and actions of team members

            5. Clear communication and transparency about organizational challenges, changes, issues and needs.  Provide team members supportive resources in relation to their role/position if needed

             6.  Celebrate team member accomplishments both individually and collectively 

7. What strategies do you use to maintain your personal well-being and/or professional resilience?

Practicing Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) is necessary when engaging in DEIB work. DEIB is highly complex, very exhausting at times and very challenging. MSC supports the times when I am exhausted by identifying my need to rest, take a break and/or set certain boundaries.

MSC also supports me when I need to take action despite holding the reality that the movement toward liberation and social justice has some potential risks. Yet, the journey is the reward.

Sydney Spears, Ph.D., LCSW is a certified Mindful-Self Compassion teacher and the Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) for the Center of Mindful Self-Compassion. She has been very dedicated to advocating for social justice for underrepresented and oppressed groups for many years. Practicing self-compassion and compassion for others are very important elements in her equity work and her daily self-care.

In the past Sydney served as an administrator and professor for the University of Kansas-School of Social Welfare for 18 years. Her academic teaching speciality and research involved issues of diversity, social justice and clinical social work. This work expressed Sydney’s deep passion for advancing social equity for BIPOC and women-identified communities as well as other marginalized communities interfacing systemic injustices. 

Sydney is highly committed to advancing anti-oppressive and trauma-sensitive organizational practices, policies and programs. This commitment also extends into Sydney’s “ empowerment and liberatory” work as a private practice psychotherapist and her organizational DEIB leadership work for the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion and the Center for Trauma and Embodiment in the Boston, Massachusetts area.

Post navigation

Subscribe to our email newsletter

Find an MSC teacher by location, name or training level

Scroll to top