Do you feel defined by your roots?
Everyone is different and we all have multiple sides to who we are. That’s what makes us all so unique and amazing. We’re a complicated patchwork of influences. Our surroundings influence us, from the culture we grew up in to the location we live in now.
Without realising it, you’ve probably already learnt how to dial up or dial down certain aspects of yourself to fit into different situations. You might speak a different language with your parents than you do with your friends, or you might act more conservatively at college than you would at home. It’s normal to do this, but although it can be useful to learn how to adapt to different situations, you shouldn't need to compromise who you really are.
We spoke to four young people about how they change their behaviour depending on their environment, and how they stay true to their roots.
Let’s recap on those words of wisdom.
Adaptability is a useful skill
It’s a real skill to read the context you are in and know how to adapt. You might feel that there are certain situations where it’s harder to be yourself. You might not feel accepted, it might not feel as safe, or you might have to fight to make yourself heard. You might have to stand up for yourself, or you might have to exaggerate your behaviours.
Jamie identifies as non-binary and says that they behave differently when they go back to their hometown, which isn’t as diverse as the city.
Don’t be afraid to defy expectations
Jada finds that people interact differently with her depending on how she’s dressed. Jada is well-spoken and polite, but she knows that sometimes, depending on what she’s wearing, people will judge her differently. For example, if she’s dressed down or wearing her comfy clothes, people seem more surprised when they hear her speak, as though they are expecting something else based on how she’s dressed.
Remember, stereotypes are people using ‘shortcuts’ or making assumptions with the little information they have, so don’t be afraid to show the real you and defy those expectations. Just because people stereotype you and expect you to be or act a certain way, doesn’t mean you have to prove them right.
Try to be patient
Everybody’s background is different and that colours the way they see the world. People who are less accepting might not have grown up in an area or community that taught them about diversity. You might challenge their world-view and, as Yasmin says, you might need to be “really patient” with them while they learn to understand where you’re coming from and how you choose to live.
Stay true to yourself
Just because you act differently in different environments, doesn’t mean you’re not being true to yourself. We’re all multi-faceted and have many wonderful sides to us. You can still be yourself, but might need to learn what it means to be ‘you’ in different settings. This won’t happen immediately, but it’s an understanding and a confidence that you will develop over time.
As Jamie says, their roots are important, but for them:
It’s about relearning the way in which I exist in that environment.