With Mental Health Week approaching, one of our editors muses on the importance of accepting diversity and embracing your difference, whatever it may be.
If given the choice, would you choose to be fundamentally different from your peers, or would you rather fit in? Basic human nature always strives to be a part of a bigger community, whether this means at a familial level, or in the workplace, or in the case of most of the readers of this publication, at school. A study led by scientist Daniel Haun of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the University of Jena shows that the need to fit in manifests itself in children from as early as two years old. So, if the need to conform is such an intrinsic part of human nature, why are we are we trying so desperately to fight against it?
The answer to this question isn’t a straightforward one, and is most certainly subjective to everybody, but I believe that this new-found importance placed on diversity has been fostered by a world that finds itself increasingly concerned with mental health and ensuring the happiness of its citizens. During a period in which depression and anxiety rates are skyrocketing (1 in 6 children in the UK between ages 7-16 suffer from anxiety or depression), we have to consider that society has deep-rooted flaws, one of these being our inability to applaud individuality. At some point or the other, most of us have attempted to mould ourselves into individuals who fit into a greater collective, be it a friendship circle, an academic one, or even a familial one; it is the path on a journey to self-acceptance. But what I myself believe (and I’m sure most who have been through something similar do too), is that once we find an adequate environment that appreciates our individuality, it will spark a sense of comfort and joy that constantly trying to fit in won’t.
In a world with increasing global links, it is of paramount importance that we as a society begin promoting individuality and all of its facets. Accepting people for who they are, and encouraging them not to base their worth on society’s perceptions, but on their own unique strengths, opinions, cultural heritage, religion isn’t solely important for each individual, but for society as a whole to be more inclusive, and to not restrict themselves to the ‘norm’, but instead open the doors to a much more interesting and content world.