Have you ever wondered why the entire world has concentrated for the last century on individual differences?
Humans have always been aware that they are alike and also different in how they experience life, but there has been very little focus on similarities and excessive attention on differences. I ahve been wondering for years why is that happening?
My experience of working with diverse people made me believe that the world would be more peaceful if we could focus on individual similarities instead of individual differences. This way we could learn to see the person next to us as a similar being and not a different one and will stop the insane trail of competition our minds enter by default. Feeling similar will foster connection, more understanding of the other person and more acceptance.
I am thinking that if we are to make a positive change in the world we need to stop keeping our eyes on differences. This is isolating us and excluding the others, is threatening our selves and promoting a judgemental approach, not to mention the distress we all experience in comparing ourselves with others. Let’s accept that we are all the same, we are all human beings and we all share the experience of life on Earth.
Similarity promotes acceptance and compassion
Admitting we are all the same does not mean we are not unique and individual, but only that as humans we have essentially a similar structure at the core of our being and we are defined by similar experiences as we go through life.
We come to life and we die, we have similar needs in terms of safety, warmth, shelter and hunger, also similar needs in terms of learning and developing through life, we go to school, we work for a living, we mate and procreate, we communicate using a variety of channels, we love and hate, we laugh and cry, we feel joy and sadness, we suffer from loss, we want to belong, we want to be liked and appreciated, we want to be healthy, and this can carry on with many other examples of what it means to be human.
We are all the same and we can celebrate that. This is not forbidding us to make choices and be ourselves. We can love and hate in our unique way, we can laugh and cry how we wish, we can communicate as we want, we can embrace joy and sadness, suffering and happiness as it feels natural to us, but the experience of these feelings will be similar.
We all make efforts to be liked and appreciated and we adjust our behaviour to trigger that response. We all want to be healthy and look well, what will differ will be our unique understanding of these concepts, but this is not against our individuality, but on the contrary. Accepting that we are all the same at the core of our human being will make us grow self-acceptance and self-compassion which can then be channeled towards the others around us.
We all want to belong, we go to the schools we want and we study what interests us, but the experience of being a pupil or a student is essentially the same. We all follow a schedule and attend a certain setting, we all have a group of peers, tutors and evaluations and from my experience of being with people the emotions associated with these circumstances are similar.
More accepting, tolerant and nurturing relationships
Maybe it’s time psychology rethinks its approach towards the individual? Changing the way we have been programmed to be can enhance our beings and make our lives much easier, much happier and much more harmonious.
We can stop talking about individual differences and welcome the individual similarities. If we could learn that we are all individually different and ignore the individual similarities, we can definitely do it the other way around.
Our focus on individual differences has brought us conflicts, wars, too much division, too much hurt and injustice. So many lives have been lost and so many people are still suffering in all corners of the world.
Putting at our hearts human similarities will change how we think and how we relate with ourselves and the others. There will be less pressure to compare ourselves with the others, there will be less shame and guilt, there will be less blame and more genuine communication. This will make our relationships less conflictual and more accepting, more tolerant and more nurturing.
To take something out of this, start here and now, with the person right next to you. Acknowledge you are more similar than different. Embracing this idea will open you to a new way of thinking about yourselves, others and the world, to a new way of being. In doing that, you will create a life you love and you will show your children and grandchildren how to live authentic, inclusive and caring lives.