How Cultural Diversity Is Causing More Loneliness
“You know yourself mostly by your thoughts. Everyone else in the world knows you only by your actions. Remember this when you feel misunderstood. You have to do or say something for others to know how you feel.” (James Clear)
Many of us feel misunderstood. This is pretty strange since today there are more ways than ever to express ourselves to the world. Our options for how we dress, how we do our hair, and things like tattoos and jewelry are almost endless. There are a multitude of social media platforms and formats therein to tell our story. It’s easy to write a blog, publish a song, or share a video for the world to see. With today’s technology, almost anyone can be an artist, podcast producer, cinematographer, or musician.
So why, with all of these options for self-expression, do we feel less known than ever before? In a recent Vox article, 30% of Millenials said they are lonely, and 22% said that they have no friends. The article goes on to say, “In comparison, just 16 percent of Gen Xers and 9 percent of Baby Boomers say they have no friends.”
Part of the reason why we are connecting less and less with others, and subsequently feeling more and more misunderstood, might be very surprising: a shrinking world leads to more interaction with people who are not like us.
I would argue that the benefits of people mixing with other cultures and backgrounds far outweigh any negatives. But we can’t pretend like there aren’t any negatives at all.
If we were to try and have a conversation with someone who speaks a different language than us, but we just pretended like that wasn’t the case, the interaction wouldn’t last long, and neither party would benefit. The same is true, even when we speak the same language. Different cultural backgrounds, language styles, social taboos and norms, and personal values (among others) play a huge role in how we see ourselves and how we see others. And by default, each of us assumes that everyone else sees each other the same way we do. But this isn’t true; and the more diverse people we interact with, the more complex our relational-web becomes.
The small-town Middle-America values are different than those of the Asian-American family from LA. Those still may be radically different from the African-American family from Miami. And we haven’t even left the United States yet! Each of us has our own thoughts about how the world and people work, and we all automatically assume others are filtering their relationships the same way we are. Author James Clear says this,
“You know yourself mostly by your thoughts. Everyone else in the world knows you only by your actions. Remember this when you feel misunderstood. You have to do or say something for others to know how you feel.”
So as you’re seeking to be known and understood by those around you, and as you’re seeking to know and understand others, remember this: no matter how many thoughts you have, it is your actions that are seen by others.
So when you feel understood, ask yourself, “Have my actions matched my thoughts?” And when you don’t understand someone around you, remember that they may (probably) not be acting out what they really think.
At the end of the day, we need to have grace on each other, understanding that we can’t read other’s thoughts and that they can’t read ours. Express yourself.
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