When I started school in Australia at the age of 11, I noticed that I was different to most of my classmates. My school lunches were not cut into neat triangles, but jammed into a thermos, and eaten with a set of disposable chopsticks. I spoke with a funny accent, and didn’t get what “bring your bathers and thongs for sport class” meant. When the time came to get into said bathers, I seemed to be the only one who felt awkward about the open-plan change rooms at school. I felt my difference acutely, and saw it as a real hindrance in my pre-adolescent search for acceptance. In my mind, the solution was achieving “same-ness”, and I worked diligently towards this goal for most of my teen years.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to see that the differences between people aren’t problematic in themselves. Rather, it’s the way that we view difference that is the problem. We are all unique beings, with different life experiences, cultural backgrounds, religious beliefs and ways of navigating the world - and that is what makes life interesting! If we could all learn to love ourselves, and celebrate the diversity in our communities instead of fearing it, we just might achieve a need that we all share - the need to belong.