Loving the difference in you and in me
Ultimately, love of others is rooted in a deep love and appreciation of self. It is difficult to notice and authentically celebrate what is unique about others if we can’t notice and authentically celebrate what is unique about ourselves. It is important to begin a practice of self love and acceptance at an early age and to celebrate this practice as a family. This is especially important for children of color who do not have as many opportunities as white children to see themselves positively represented in the world around them. And it’s also important for white children, who suffer from cultural messages of conformity and superiority and as a result minimize or leave out important parts of their unique and authentic selves.
Where it gets tricky
When we explore the experience of uniqueness, it is important to consider how it feels both in the abstract (I love my elbows!) and within the communities we belong to (I love asking questions; it’s what I do even when I’m the only one doing so). In the abstract, any particular trait might be easy to embrace, but when it feels counter to the norm, it can quickly be devalued or dismissed, by ourselves and others.
You see, many group affiliations encourage, moralize, and privilege a distinct set of norms. They tend to prioritize a sameness, not an array of difference. Stop for a moment and think about the phrase "good __ (fill in an identity that is salient to you - person, girl/boy/man/woman, mother/father, Christian/Jew/Muslim, etc.). Does it conjure up a clear image for you, and/or a set of expectations and behaviors? What does it feel like to not fit whatever image comes to mind? What does it feel like to “fit,” but in the process not be true to ourselves? These are the kind of moral and mental calculations we all make all the time. Navigating these choices can often result in us ignoring important parts of ourselves in group contexts. We may find ourselves dialing down, for example, our intuition, compassion, anger, curiosity, concern, courage, and confidence. There can be dramatic consequences for ourselves in doing so, but there can also be dramatic consequences for others too.
Questions for you to consider
- How comfortable are you with the idea of standing out?
- Which ideals do you measure yourself against?
- What parts of you don’t fit into those ideals?
- What messages did you receive as children about who was “like us” or “not like us?”
- What does it mean to cut off parts of ourselves because they don’t “fit in?”
- What does it feel like to bring your full self forward?
- What becomes possible when we live and act with integrity?
Questions to Consider Together with Your Children:
- What is unique about me? (everyone answers!)
- How do I show love for those parts of myself?
- What parts of me need a little more celebrating?
- What parts of me feel unaccepted? Where are those traits celebrated as strengths?
"Marvelous Me" Stories
“The Skin You Live In”
by Michael Tyler
“I Like Myself”
by Karen Beaumont
“Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match”
by Monica Brown
“The Best Part of Me”
by Wendy Ewald
#storiesmatter, portraits of uniqueness in STL!
STL-born legend who embraced her storied uniqueness from an early age
Fun video & performance about identity and intersectionality
Explore how your individual interests may actually reflect your group identity
Explore the amazing range of difference