Dr. Sarah Moon is a licensed clinical psychologist, DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) consultant, educator, and writer who works with marginalized communities, including people of color, immigrants, and folks who identify as LGBTQIA2S+. More specifically, she is dedicated to helping her clients move from just surviving to thriving in the world.
“For a lot of these folks, there are aspects of life that have gotten in the way of them really thriving in this world, in this society,” she says. “Whether that’s racism, homophobia, transphobia, being an immigrant and coming to a country with nothing and trying to build a life in this country. And that way of life becomes about survival.”
For many, life is about striving for status, academics, good-paying jobs, or financial stability because they believe that those things will provide safety. But even when they have achieved these things, they still function in the world as if they’re surviving.
“So they’re always working, always doing something, always trying to perform, continuing to climb this ladder they’re trying to climb up. They have never learned what it means to relax, to slow down, to rest, to feel grounded in what they have accomplished,” Sarah says. “A lot of my work is helping adults understand why they were in that survival mode and have empathy for themselves around that. There’s a reason why.”
She also helps her clients understand how they can have a meaningful life that doesn’t include a constant drive to accomplish these things.
“Because those provide a false sense of security,” she says. “So boiling it down, it comes down to, how can I live while not driving myself into the ground?”
One of the important factors to address is the lack of validation in the struggle that many people from marginalized communities experience. The first step, Sarah says, is sharing your story in a vulnerable way.
“It requires a lot of vulnerability to share that. Because we’ve grown up thinking we need to put up this idea of ourselves to other people that we have it all together,” she says. “But we don’t want people to see this imposter syndrome within us. Then they’re gonna see it as weakness. So we’re so accustomed to feeling like we have to prove ourselves in different contexts.”
Starting the healing journey or process requires you to let your guard down a little bit. Though opening up to someone may be scary, it’s the best place to begin.
“When you find the right people to open yourself up to, share your journey, share what you’ve been struggling with, share what you went through growing up, and to feel validated in that, I think that’s the first step,” she says. “Because we haven’t gotten that validation a lot as people of color.”
It’s also important to recognize that this is the first step of a long-term healing journey, not a quick fix.
“We might not see what we want to see immediately, but oftentimes it gets [worse] before it gets [better],” she says. “It will feel like we’re bringing up a lot of past trauma, a lot of past pain, but that’s what might be needed in order to heal and move forward feeling more empowered and more grounded.”
For those who may not belong to these communities, one way to help with this journey is to ensure your work environment, even as freelancer or entrepreneur, is diverse, equitable, and inclusive. This means understanding who is “at the table,” with space, a voice, and power there.
“I think the work of DEI is not just to have, on the surface, different kinds of people, external characteristics, but people who actually value and are wanting to work towards sharing power,” she says. “So I think one thing that I would recommend for people to understand is, what does it mean to have power? What does it mean to yield power? What does it mean to use that power to enhance equity and inclusion?”
You can find tons of books and answers online, Sarah says, but how you read them is important too.
“But when we read these books, it has to come with critical thinking. We really have to reflect on specific situations or circumstances within your own life. Make it personal. And challenge yourself, challenge the way you’re doing business, challenge the way you’re in relationship,” she says. “Question whether there are power dynamics that you have not recognized because of race, ethnicity, sexuality. Start there.”
Get a full story here, where you can hear me and Sarah discuss our personal experiences, how to deal with burnout, and tips for challenging norms.