I grew up in a small town in Upstate New York. Diversity wasn’t really something that existed in my life as a child. This was before internet was easily accessible and social media was not a thing. Everyone around me seemed to have a relatively similar mindset and agreed on majority of things. It wasn’t until as an adult I married my husband and moved hundreds of miles away that I started to realize that I had a very closed minded way of thinking.
One of the biggest problems was I didn’t have a whole lot of diversity in my life as a child. We didn’t travel much and being raised in a predominantly white/christian area of the country there wasn’t much diversity. Many of the people my parents surrounded themselves with were like them and thought like them. This meant I saw those opinions, beliefs, and feelings as “right” not realizing until much later in life how wrong some of them could really be.
How did I overcome the closed mindedness of my upbringing? It wasn’t easy and it still isn’t easy. It’s something I am working on every, single day. I mean that was over 20 years of my life. That kind of closed mindedness takes time to overcome. There have been a few things that have helped me along the way.
How to overcome your closed Mindedness
1) Don’t only surround yourself with people like you. That’s the problem because if we surround ourselves with people who think, act, and look like us it’s impossible to see other perspectives.
2) Realize there are many ways to get to the same solution. We are brought up in a one right way society where there is only one way to get to the answer. Well 5+5= 10 and 7+3= 10 too!
3) Identify your inherited prejudices. Did you learn growing up to judge or discriminate against a certain group of people? Were you ever taught to stereotype certain groups of people? Identifying these prejudices will help you overcome them. You may not even realize they are there!
4) Understand that you don’t know what it’s like to be someone unless you have been in their exact shoes. Often times we misunderstand or misinterpret things because we don’t know what it’s like. Why would __________ do ____________? That makes no sense. It makes not sense to us because we don’t know what it’s like to be them.
5) Check yourself often. Ask Am I coming from a place of kindness, empathy, and compassion? or Am I coming from a place of negativity, condemnation and judgement? We often don’t even see our prejudice and judgement when it’s occurring.
Diversity is what gives life it’s flavor. It would be such a boring world if we were all cookie cutter versions of each other. Many times we don’t even truly realize our own closed mindedness because we have been that way OUR ENTIRE LIVES. Don’t be too hard on yourself during this process. It’s not perfect and it takes time.
We are automatically drawn to people like us because it makes us feel “normal” and more connected. I want to challenge you to actively seek out people who aren’t like you. Maybe they are of a different race, sexual orientation, employment status, lifestyle, religious belief, etc… Instead of trying to change them, convert them or make them feel like their opinions aren’t valid try understanding their perspective. Listen to what they have to say and open your mind a little bit at a time. That doesn’t always mean you will change what your think, feel or act but you can learn to respect how they do
It’s going to take time to overcome something like this that has been developing over many years. The key is to always be mindful of what we say, post, or think in our every day lives. For example:: I would always say I hated Wal-Mart and talk about the type of people who shop there. It wasn’t until my husband pointed out my prejudice that I realized I was stereotyping a group of people because of where they shopped. It seems pretty silly now but that was only a couple of months ago.
Immerse yourself in new information. Allow yourself the opportunity to get to know people different than you. That doesn’t mean you have to change who your best friend is but it does mean allowing yourself the opportunity to get to know new perspectives. Help be the change in a world that desperately needs it. Remember as always YOU ARE ENOUGH!!!!