Difference and inclusion

I want to belong, be accepted, be one of the group. I’m as human as anyone else, with all the commonality that entails. I’m also an individual, different from everyone else who is now, ever has been, or ever will be alive.

I think feeling accepted, included, belonging, requires an acknowledgment of difference as well as an acknowledgment of commonality. If commonality trumps difference, I end up feeling like bits of my real true self are expected to be cut off so that I can be made to fit the commonality box. If difference is acknowledged, I can feel that the box has room for me as I really and truly am.

That said, sometimes having that sense of expected conformity and concomitant attenuation makes me defensive about my differences; I suppose sometimes I sound like I’m trying to exclude myself, trying to make it difficult for others to include me. (Which makes me think of Amy the other day saying, in one of her fussy fits, “I’m TRYING to make you ANGRY, Mom!” Or all the times she says “But I keep arguing with you…” or “But I’m never going to stay in my room” or other things that seem calculated to make it as difficult as possible for me to like her. If we can find someone who can tolerate even our most hideous attempts to show our evil side, then we can KNOW we’re loved. Is that it? And / or, knowing that if people don’t get my differences now, but think they do, things could blow up in a nasty way later in the relationship — I want it on the table, plain to see, so that doesn’t happen.)

The kids’ book version:

Me: I’m different!
Others: No, you’re the same.
Me: No, I’m REALLY different.
Others: No, you’re the same.
Me: No, look, see how BIG this difference is!
Others: Okay, yes, you’re different.
Me: That’s right, I’m the same.

The semi-related witty facebook-status-worthy aphorism:

There’s not enough room outside this box for both of us.

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6 thoughts on “Difference and inclusion

  1. Yes, I feel that I don’t trust people to accept me when I am different. And it is hard to feel that people are really seeing those differences. I go back and forth between feeling I need to be more trusting and feeling that people are not trustworthy.

    • Yes. To what extent do we require trustworthiness before trusting, and how do we measure trustworthiness, and to what extent do we trust anyway, because trust is good and cringing is no way to live. It’s completely not one way or the other, but it would be nice to find the “right” balance or mix.

  2. I tend to think of people in different categories and become more or less ‘me’ accordingly. For super-close friends and family, I usually allow myself to be totally and completely me…differences and all.

    However, for more casual friends I’m usually the ‘me’ they need me and expect me to be, and for the most part that’s okay. Not everyone needs to know me totally, as that is (in my mind) more intimate. There are only a handful of people who get to really see all of me, differences and all, and I think that’s a good thing. Not everyone needs to know our quirks, good and/or bad. It is probably healthy to hold some of ourselves back and ‘fit a mold’ within a casual relationship, that is precisely what makes it casual.

  3. Missy, I think I’m better at that in casual relationships. I think the challenge is unbalanced relationships, where one person wants more closeness and openness than the other.

  4. This is why we develop social-faces I guess. Not everyone can cope with all of *us*, so we modify in order to appear similar. The few people who do get to see the true *us* need to be chosen carefully, I think.

    • Maybe this is semantics — I want everyone to see the true me. Not all of me, in depth and detail, but not hiding the depth and detail behind a modified mask. I have long felt that one of my childhood “lessons” was that there is too much of me for the world (as you said, not everyone can cope with all of us) and that the world therefore required that a good bit of me be cut off and discarded.

      I want to live centered and grounded in my real true self; that’s one issue in terms of my personal psychology I suppose, and maybe a distinct issue when it comes to my interactions with others or how they see me. Or maybe it’s all the same issue. If they’re separate issues, that might be a worthwhile avenue to explore.

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