I remember wanting to fit in.
I didn’t want to be a coconut, you know? Brown on the outside and white on the inside. But I did want to fit in.
My sister had talked my auntie into giving her a haircut with bangs (fringe) to fit in. She wanted to be cool. At first, I believed my 501’s would do the trick. Later attempts included drinking at parties, letting loose, swearing and so many other ways to be one of the cool kids. To get a pass and belong.
Growing up a child of immigrant parents I was acutely aware and constantly reminded of how we were not “them”. They were the white neighbours, teachers, and friends, all of whom seemed to move with the ease and confidence of knowing they belonged. England was home to them and their ancestors. Their stories had a continuity connected to the place they called home.
I wanted to feel and look like them. I believed they didn’t have to face the struggles and challenges that were a common reality for me.
It doesn’t surprise me that we are drawn to mimicking the practices, mores, and the ways of those who are successful or seem to be mastering survival. Currently, global homogenization – driven by marketing wizardry focused on our fears of scarcity and not belonging – is hitting home run after home run.
“You need this Apple watch to be cool.”
“You need to look thin, have straight hair and drink Patron to be sexy.”
“You need to have all these apps, mods and hacks if you want to be cool like your friends.”
“You need “likes” to feel better about yourself.”
It seems to me that our deeply ingrained survival instincts lead the way to some degree in who/how we choose to mimic but it is heavily influenced by what we see on tv, ads in magazines and the repetition of those messages.
For example, in many Asian, middle eastern and African cultures fairer skin is now deemed more desirable, or kinks and curls are forced straight as we attempt to belong with those we believe to be successful. I don’t even want to mention butt surgery but thank you Kim Kardashian and family.
However, what happens to our individuality when consciously or unconsciously we become just all the same? When beauty, body shape, identity are homogenised to such a degree that we can’t distinguish nor appreciate different cultures and values of let’s say, having a flat chest, or wearing head scarves or turbans?
Is there something to be said for valuing individuality or uniqueness? Can we belong and be unique? In order to achieve sustainability, we are going to have to.
I would like to propose that we look at ourselves through loving eyes and choose to be ourselves: dark or pale skinned, bony or thick, English speaking or not, flesh-baring or covered. That we allow others the same freedoms to be themselves. Let us not harm ourselves or others through the exercising of our right to be ourselves, but in order fulfil our rights and dreams: we must all choose to be who we are and fit in with ourselves.
How do you fit in your family, community or country? Do you value yourself just as you are or do you feel you have to acquire goods or make changes to yourself to fit in?
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