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Op/Ed

Differences in personal beliefs are not a attack

In today’s politically charged environment, people on all sides feel attacked. Perhaps if we thought deeper about this, we could all take a step back.

earth is flat sign in the middle of a crowd representing attach of personal beliefs

Assertion is not an attack

I believe, I feel, I think… There’s an undeniable power in “I” statements. Their use is so unwittingly powerful, in fact, that it’s often deemed pervasive. In an increasingly I-centric world, it isn’t possible to escape the onslaught of opinions and feelings.

But why do we have to receive assertions of others’ experiences as an attack on our own reality? There’s been a new adoption of the if you’re not with us, you’re against us mentality – and it might have a little something to do with how the world asks us to present ourselves. And we too often willingly oblige.

How many times have you been asked to define yourself in three words? What are your three favorite shows, books, bands, and movies? What political party do you affiliate with? We are increasingly asked to define ourselves in terms of self-identification, which has become less about our passion and more about self-branding. Can you define who you are in a Twitter-sized snippet? No? Then you haven’t streamlined your personal brand enough.

We are increasingly asked to define ourselves in terms of self identification, which has become less about our passion and more about self-branding.

All or nothing

In such simplistic terms, it’s easy to cast judgment or feel like something is a threat or attack. If you’re not a social justice warrior (SJW, as the kids on the internet say) you’re not progressive. If you voted for Trump, you’re personally guilty for the resurgence of all the terrible-isms.

I’m a feminist poet who works in tech, loves reality shows, hiking, and yoga. Do you feel that you know me? Is the way I chose to self-identify an affront to the way you chose to?

Every one of us is a complicated tangle of genetics, circumstances, preference and experience.

The most defining characteristics of a person are developed outside the margins of a text box. A handful of easily defined and hashtag-able words won’t actually tell you much about who someone is.

When I give my opinions on politics, art, TV shows, anything really – it’s never with the intention to silence someone else’s reality. If someone else feels differently than I do – that’s an opportunity for a conversation, assuming all parties are open to it (and they should be). Opinions are not dogmatic by definition.

Difference is still beautiful

Fear of difference is an extremely stubborn quality of humanity and accounts for a lot of conflicts. It takes work to understand and digest the unfamiliar. But simply put, differences also enriches humanity, and adds depth and color to living.

Instead of going on the offense when we encounter an opinion that is different from our own, we should pause to remember an opinion is just that. “I” statements are just that. We are not always going to agree, share opinions, or even agree on the ends or the means. Someone communicating about their diet, political affiliation, or religion should in no way force you to take on their personal choices.

Understanding this allows for multiple truths, and moves towards a more peaceful shared reality.

What “you do you” really means

Often misused to shirk responsibility and care for others, the “you do you” mentality and the phrase has a bad reputation as it may come across as an attack as well. I’m guilty of rolling my eyes when I hear someone use the phrase too often. “You do you” has been so abused, it often translates to “I don’t care about your feelings when my own are king.”

How can you do you, when I’m trying to do me? Well, the idiom suggests more flexibility than it actually touts. If you make a point to care about others, differences and all, then the fallacy of the phrase evaporates.

Being and loving yourself should never infringe upon or be in conflict with someone else doing the same thing.

The next time a friend or colleague decides to chat about the rally they went to, the religious service they attended, or their new dietary choices – maybe it’s better to ask ourselves first if they are attempting to connect with us about who they are.

I would rather participate in such a conversation than assume my friend was attempting to mold my thoughts to conform to their own. Don’t let the fear of having your personal choices infringe upon your ability to communicate with those who are different. Allow others to be true to themselves, and claim the space that allows you to be true to you.

Caroline is a Staff Writer at The American Genius. She recently received her Masters of Fine Art in Creative Writing from St. Mary’s College of California. She currently works as a writer as well as a Knowledge Manager for a startup in San Francisco.

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