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I only heard this term recently.
Feeling as though you are different to everyone.
Or more accurately, as though you are being treated differently to the general population.
Apparently it’s quite a common term amongst first and second generation immigrants.
I was chatting with a Norwegian lady who is now living in Australia, and she had brought up feeling “other” a number of times, so I was curious to understand her feelings of “other” a little more. She explained that it can happen in two different contexts; from governmental procedures or from people you speak to.
"One example is when somebody asks you where you’re from. Answering that you’re from somewhere within the country appears totally unsatisfactory. It’s the accent. It’s a dead giveaway that you came from somewhere else before moving within this country. I can’t just say that I’ve moved to one state in Australia from another state in Australia, because the follow-up question is always, “Yes, but where are you really from? Before that? "
Hmmmm, this comment got me thinking, and wondering . . . what is it that makes some immigrants uncomfortable about being asked where they’re originally from.
She continued to say that it wasn’t at all intentional on the part of the questioner to make her feel “other”. It’s not meant in an unkind way at all. It’s just something that happens that makes you stand out as different.
I personally know some people who feel super happy and proud to announce their nationality in the beginning. But over time, the fun wears off and it just feels like a pain to have to constantly talk about where you're from.
Yet other people are completely fine with it and adore talking about “where they’re from” however often it’s asked!
Then again, I know others who find this push to discover one’s origins really annoying. Or upsetting. Or plain rude.
It turns out that many people who have moved to a new country really want to just feel a part of the new country. They don’t want to be questioned about their origins.
As my Norwegian friend said, “It’s more that it puts me in a box that I don’t identify with. Being an immigrant doesn’t define me; it’s my past, I’m trying to be Australian now and I want to talk about the future.”
Is that how you feel?
Are you trying to “be” your adopted nationality
So interesting . . . it seems that it really does depend on the individual and their feelings about who they are, where they're from, why they moved, what they look forward to in their future. And nobody can know all those things about someone just by meeting them.
Here are my thoughts (for what they're worth) :
I would encourage replacing the term "other" with the word "unique".
As you wander through your days, rendezvous-ing with people and places and situations, you want to enjoy being you whatever the circumstances and whatever the nationality of the people around you, right? You want to always look for ways of feeling good about yourself and your choices, and that comes from how you think about things.
You don't want to be in a box?? Don't put yourself in your own box!
Using the term “other” to define how you think other people are perceiving or treating you (again, it’s just a thought) is a way of creating a box that you can now jump into, along with all the other people who put themselves in the “other” box.
Unique, on the other hand, is a description that applies to everyone equally; each person on this Earth is a one-of-a-kind invention, a masterpiece of endless possibilities. In that context, being unique is totally unifying, as we are all unique, no matter our backgrounds. And yet at the same time, being unique is deliciously individual.
Be who you want to be.
Find joy in the aspects of your heritage AND your present. They are all a part of you. But the biggest, most profound, uplifting and defining aspects of who you are, are the qualities that make you, YOU. Unrelated to the cultural aspects. So as much as possible, connect with those parts of yourself and BE who you want to be.
In the case of my Norwegian friend, let's describe her as being neither Norwegian nor Australian, but rather, as a wonderfully fascinating woman raised in Norway and presently making a life in Australia. Celebrating all the aspects of the cultures that she loves. Inventing herself every day.
Makes me smile just writing it!!
You get to choose to feel special.
You ARE special. If you have something intriguing about you that is different to others, OWN IT, gorgeous! Whether it be an accent, a skin colour, or a personal perspective on a subject.
You could try saying something like this to yourself:
"I am special. Being here now in this country at this time is a choice I've made, and how great is it to be living my choices! For sure I'll bump up against people who were raised in different cultural environments, and the cool thing is that those contrasts make each of us special."
Pre-pave and guide the conversations
People are inevitably going to ask you about your background. If you look and/or sound as if you've spent a part of your life elsewhere, at some point it will come up. Can you decide to be ok with that?
It could be fun (and it will certainly make your connections feel so much easier) to pre-design some answers to people's curiosity; prepave the way so that you feel like YOU when you answer them, in a way that feels good. As we’ve discovered, not everyone feels and reacts the same way, so you just want to find an answer that feels wonderfully, comfortably YOU.
And then guide the conversations where you'd like them to go.
For Example, imagine a woman who has moved from Indonesia to London. When faced with a question around her heritage, rather than allowing herself to feel like the object of interest, of difference, she could turn the question into a two-way conversation. Maybe something like this: "I was born and raised in Indonesia, and I’ve been living in London for four years. What about you? Have you always been in London?"
See how we’ve transformed the inquiries into a conversation by returning the questions?
When people hear your accent and show interest in your background, stand in your uniqueness. You know you sound different. You know you may look different. It’s not a surprise! Just BE that. And enjoy BEING that.
I know it's sometimes easier said than done. Often, even. Of course, it is; I get it.
Or if you really don't want to discuss your heritage, maybe you could try something like this:
"You know what, a lot of people ask me that, and I understand why. But I'm actually really just enjoying being a part of London and discovering all the aspects of this culture that I like, so I'd rather talk about that. What do you like about the London culture?"
That might feel strange, but play with the idea and see if you can come up with something that feels comfortable to you!
Transform the inquiries into a conversation by returning the questions.
When people hear your accent and show interest in your background, stand in your uniqueness.
I know it's sometimes easier said than done. Often, even. Of course, it is; I get it.
But we know that we can't control what other people think and say and how they behave. And we also know that we can control what we think and say and how we behave. The more we practice it, the more easily it comes, yeah?
Feeling secure in, and excited about, your uniqueness will absolutely elevate your energy and well-being.
Let’s take another example, one of governmental bureaucracy.
Imagine an occasion when something is more complicated because you don’t have a birth certificate from your adopted country, and therefore you have to take more steps to gain access to services that the “natives” don’t have to go through. Rather than your thoughts running to, “Oh, here we go again – I’m not the same, I’m “other,” try a series of thoughts like this:
"It's alright. Even though there are some extra steps for me to follow because I wasn't born here, it's alright. I'm special. And things always work out for me."
How does that feel?
As with all things, it really does come down to how we’re thinking. What we think about a situation. Our own thoughts about any given situation create our feelings.
And our feelings create our happiness or lack thereof.
So what do you think? Does it feel better to see yourself as unique rather than other?
And could you stand happily in your uniqueness as you pave the way for a smooth experience.
Try it. Prepare your thoughts in advance - thoughts that make you feel good.
And see what happens.
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