Do you find yourself making the effort to fit in? Perhaps to 'fit in' to your workplace, your university or school. Maybe even at home or socially. Does this constant effort to 'fit in' drain you?
When we make this effort to 'fit in' we are masking something about ourselves and letting other people dictate what we should be like, how we should do things and how we should behave. Wouldn't it be just great if you could just be yourself? Wouldn't it be just great if we lived in a culture where people are encouraged to be themselves and they are valued for who they are. No need to mask our mental or physical health, our gender, our race, our religion, sexuality or personality.
In this culture, there's no need to mask. You can be yourself, you feel comfortable, resilient and happy. You can perform and be effective by doing the things that you are good at, in the way that you know best and by displaying your true personality.
Let's see what we can learn about this from a short thought experiment.
Think about the most resilient creature you can imagine.
If I were asked this question I'd choose a chunky-looking silver-backed gorilla, who I'll call Resilient Trevor. What sort of creature would you choose?
Now zoom out a little bit. Make a mental picture of where your resilient creature lives. I'd think of resilient Trevor as living in a lush jungle - a nice, warm, humid environment, surrounded by fruit and fresh running water, and accompanied by other gorillas. That's where Trevor operates best.
Next I'd like you to imagine moving your resilient creature to a totally new environment. Could we put Resilient Trevor in, say, the Antarctic and expect him to stay resilient? Could he continue to be himself in this environment, or would he need to make an effort to fit in and survive?
Actually, with no layers of fat to cope with the freezing cold, no claws to catch fish for food and no interest in the company of penguins I think Trevor's resilience would suffer.
The first wonderful thing we learn from this thought experiment is that when you feel exhausted by the effort you make to fit in, when people around you are telling you to be more resilient - this is not your fault. If you're not able to work, study or live in the right environment for you - that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you. What's wrong here, is your environment.
Now let's think of what can help in this situation. Of course, if you really care about Trevor, you wouldn't give him feedback that he really needs to work on his resilience so he can cope better in the Antarctic. And we would try an dissuade Trevor from beating himself up for lacking resilience. So, what options are there?
One option Trevor has is to work hard at fitting in. He could work hard to evolve, perhaps into something more resembling a Polar Bear. He could grow layers of fat, thicker fur, claws to catch fish with and learn to enjoy the company of penguins.
This is the effort to 'fit in'. And it's hard work. Sometimes impossible. Sometimes unnecessary. Often exhausting.
So let's think of a different way Trevor could respond. Instead of pushing himself through this enormous effort to evolve into something resembling a Polar Bear, it would be far easier to make his way back to his lush jungle. Here he can perform and be effective, he can act and behave in a way that suits him and helps him thrive.
This is the next wonderful lesson we get from this thought experiment about Resilient Trevor. You shouldn't have to mask. You shouldn't have to make the effort to fit in. You are you. Be yourself. Be valued for who you are.
You should be able to work, study and live in a culture of evenhood where you are encouraged to be yourself and you are valued for who you are.
One of the best things you can do for yourself is ask yourself two questions.
First; as yourself: "what does a challenging day look like for me?" Because once you can define what it is about your working, studying, home or social environment that you find challenging, then you have worked out exactly what your Antarctic looks like. Once you've done that, you can make choices about how to handle those challenges.
Second; ask yourself: "what does a good day look like for me?"Because once you can define what it is that helps you stay resilient and to perform and be effective, then you have worked out exactly what your lush jungle looks like. Once you've done that, you can make choices about how to spend as much time as possible in an environment that works for you.
Finally, one of the best things you can do for each other is create a culture of evenhood - show kindness, respect, humanity and compassion. Encourage the people around you to be themselves. Value them for who they are. Help them perform and be effective.