Differences matter in life. Sometimes we need them to make life better, sometimes they make life awkward or uncomfortable and unfortunately sometimes they make life worse; but ultimately: they matter.
We live in a world that isn’t very accepting or accommodating to people that are different and so it is very easy to assume that simply ignoring differences makes things better. It doesn’t, differences need to be embraced. Unfortunately, other people won’t always embrace our differences, sometimes there isn’t really anything they can do about it; but we need to make sure we are loving and accepting of our own, regardless of how others respond.
You may have heard the phrase ‘Representation Matters’ being used often on social media; it was a phrase that I supported and agreed with before developing any form of emotional connection to these words and their meaning. I grew up in a multicultural city full of people that all looked completely different and such differences were accepted. I grew up with family members in professional roles, pursuing their dreams and developing their careers and it never occurred to me that to some, they were doing the unimaginable. But as I continued to grow and I branched out, creating my own path and truly beginning my own development journey, I ended up in environments where there weren’t so many people that were different let alone people that looked like me.
It was easy for me to agree that representation mattered just for the sake of being a part of a growing movement, without any proper understanding because I had never been in a position where my kind wasn’t represented. It didn’t occur to me how difficult things would become if I was in an environment that didn’t represent me. I believed that as long as my differences weren’t frowned upon or abused then they didn’t matter. The truth is that differences do matter and representation matters even more. When you are in the midst of a culture that isn’t yours, the desire to belong increases and the willingness to simply blend in consumes every single thought and action.
So what do we do about these differences?
Do not conform! Your differences make you special, your discomfort or loneliness is only temporary, regardless of the situation, stick it out and learn more about what makes you different along the way. Be proud of your being, yes, your uniqueness may be slightly more obvious than everyone else’s but this isn’t anything to be ashamed of!
Don’t isolate yourself. If others haven’t isolated you because of your differences, don’t shy away and exclude yourself. Embrace that for a period of time, you may be out of your comfort zone, but try new things, be open to new ideas and make the best out of every situation!
Keep the bigger picture in mind. I believe that there are many in my generation that are in my position, I have so many friends that share similar experiences. I have learnt to take such challenges on as an honour, because I may not be the first of my kind to be where I am doing what I do, but I contribute to one day making sure that it is the norm: I contribute to the representation that we currently lack.
So, as a person who has inherited these wonderful differences, I want to encourage you to keep pushing through all the feelings of discomfort and cultural struggles- your differences are bigger than you!