woman doing yoga


I’m Not Being Too PC, I’m Being a Good Role Model for My Kids

Sep 22, 2020

I’ve always been aware of the power of words.

And actions, because they speak even louder than words — so the saying goes.

Now, thankfully, I think there is more opportunity for education on how words and behaviours can impact others. I’ve tried to be much more aware of consciously selecting all of my language and actions, and being more careful about what I share. This is less about being politically correct because it is mandated, and all about what I believe is right and genuine.

Read about all the reasons why this mother doesn’t like when her kids do fake accents here

I’ve made mistakes in the past. In some instances, I didn’t pause to think clearly, to educate myself or to be mindful of my words or actions. And I still make mistakes, although I know that they come from a lack of thinking rather than caring. I try to admit it when I make a mistake and pledge to try harder. With that in mind, here are some of the things that I don’t say or do anymore. Because my children are watching and learning from me.

Someone’s Culture Isn’t My Costume

I was, up until very recently, a yoga teacher.

As my knowledge of the discipline grew, so too did my consternation over culturally appropriating far too many things from Hindu and Vedic cultures and religions. I used to wear a mala necklace. I no longer do that, because they’re prayer beads, not fashion accessories.

“Was any happiness or peace that they brought me worth possibly offending others?”

This was brought home one day when I was wearing my mala. I was sharing the elevator with a South Asian man. He pointed at my mala and said, “That type of necklace is from my people.” He said it very nicely, conversationally, even, but it sparked a maelstrom of doubt.

Why was I wearing another religion’s prayer beads? Did I need to? Was any happiness or peace that they brought me worth possibly offending others? In my mind, there was no question. I haven’t worn my mala since that day.

Someone’s Rituals Aren’t My Home Decor

Similarly, I have never smudged, whether at home or during a yoga class. I see smudging as very sacred and special to Indigenous people, and I’m not going to pretend I could perform such an action with anything close to the knowledge and respect it deserves.

If I wanted something special for the yoga class I was teaching, I’d diffuse some essential oils or lead participants through a meditation I wrote just for that day. I didn’t feel the need to smudge. And if a new house needed a little refresh, I’d light a candle, not perform a smudging ceremony. These are just my beliefs and my values. I’ll pick the air freshener over deciding it was OK for me to undertake an Indigenous ritual any day.

David Robertson is an Indigenous father who wants you to know why his culture is not your costume. Read about that here

Someone’s Culture Isn’t My Jargon

Perhaps as prevalent as smudging are the multitude of ways potentially offensive catchphrases are tossed around. It’s fairly popular in social media speak, and even in parenting or women’s forums, to talk about “finding your tribe” or how “your vibe attracts your tribe.”

But I’m not Indigenous. I don’t have a tribe. A group of like-minded friends is not a tribe. Having the same values or interests as others doesn’t make me part of a tribe. There are so many great words in the English language to use — I think I’ll skip “tribe” and flex my mental thesaurus to come up with another pick. Along those lines, I see no reason to say “having a powwow” when referring to discussing something, or holding a meeting. It’s not an Indigenous coming together of family, friends or tribes. You just need to discuss the budget with Anne from marketing, for crumb’s sake.

Their Mental Health Language Isn’t My Everyday Language

After spending time in a psychiatric ward with a family member, I no longer use the word “triggered” for anything other than serious mental health issues. When therapists and psychiatrists use the term "triggered," they’re talking about conditions like depression, anxiety, potentially self-harming behaviours and all-around nasty stuff coming up. So I don’t use “triggered” to mean that something irritated me, or ticked me off.

I don’t use “triggered” when what I actually mean is annoyed, upset, reminded or set off. Similarly, I try to avoid using the term “crazy” when what I’m trying to communicate is “hectic.” Crazy may have a place in the mental health realm, but I don’t think it’s a good example of how busy you are. Overworked, overwhelmed, overscheduled, or fast-paced — perhaps these could sub in for “crazy”?

I don’t think it’s so hard to become more mindful of words and phrases. Yes, there are habits that need to be unlearned. Our minds like to find the path of least resistance and slip into a comfortable rut, using language that has been in use for years. But just because they’ve been employed in the past certainly doesn’t mean that they’re fit for the present, and certainly not the future. I think the least we can do is try to make sure that words and actions do no harm. Added bonus: searching out and using all of these juicy new words is good for your brain.

And that’s why you’ll find me over here, trying out my newfound vocabulary on the latest crossword puzzle.

Article Author Janice Quirt
Janice Quirt

Read more from Janice here.

Janice Quirt is a yoga teacher and freelance writer who lives in the beautiful hills of the Headwaters in Orangeville, Ontario, with her blended family of seven. With kids spanning a decade in age, there are always some shenanigans on the go, and she loves being in the middle of it all. Janice loves sharing nature, eco-living and new experiences with her family and friends, as well as a fine cup of coffee and a good book.

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