No matter where you are in the world, most individuals can relate to the feeling of having a defining characteristic that separates them from the supposed norm.
Although in this day and age, the vast majority of the population (particularly in younger generations) are becoming increasingly accepting of variety and diversity, the features that distinguish us from the pack are often most prominent within the walls of our own minds.
Coming from a multiracial background of some sort has become fairly common nowadays, however, growing up with conflicting cultural beliefs or modern day fusions of traditional practices can certainly be a hurdle for young people trying to find their own identity and love for themselves as an individual.
Thankfully in 2017, interracial marriage, especially in Western countries is hardly a taboo topic. So it is easy to forget that only a few decades ago, many couples that exist today would have been ostracised for their decision to be together. For those of us whose parents come from completely different backgrounds, it is definitely a complicated concept to grasp!
There have been numerous studies conducted on the topic of multi-ethnic racial backgrounds, including those that aim to increase understanding of multiracial psychology. When your mother grew up one way and your father another, do you tend to gravitate more so towards one side of your heritage, or do you just end up confused about where you stand?
Personally, as someone who has been raised by an Indian-Singaporean father and Australian mother, I have grown to understand my personal upbringing as enlightening rather than as a precursor to an identity crisis of sorts.
If you get to experience traditions, cultural influences and types of people from two (or more!) completely different places and have them both relate to you on a personal level, that is something to celebrate rather than be concerned about.
I’ve heard from fellow multiracial friends that they feel a so called ‘obligation’ to understand and be involved with both sides of their heritage, despite feeling more connected to one or the other.
However, I believe it is in fact imperative to the understanding and love of one’s self to embrace all aspects that culminate in the person you are at this moment in time. Rather than viewing your differences as a void between you and others, see your hybrid of diverse cultural exposure as a means to connect with a greater community of people.
In a world where a combination of unique ideas, innovation, creativity and effective networking are essential steps to success, you’ll find there are far more more benefits of being multiracial than there are downsides. This is not to undermine what can be difficult and confusing about such situations.
I grew up in Singapore, where the main ethnic group I shared the most cultural similarity with were those from India. However, it wasn’t long after I began my schooling years that I realised I was simply not as in touch with this side of my background as my group of friends were – be this in terms of skill with language, colloquial jokes or even film and entertainment culture.
Many people, in a variety of social situations such as this, take the ‘fake it till you make it’ approach – kind of nodding along and agreeing with things until they (hopefully) get the gist of what’s going on.
As humans, acceptance and wanting to belong to a group is what we naturally crave, and not knowing which community nature has defined as yours can be tricky. Making friends is not defined by where you come from or by any means confined to people of your own racial background.
However, there is something special about being able to laugh about shared jokes or sing along to a song that only someone who has a similar upbringing to you would know.
Thankfully, as a kid I was never great at ‘faking it’, so rather than going along with things that were said amongst my classmates it was painfully obvious what I knew about and didn’t – and this actually resulted in learning way more about Indian culture from my peers.
So if you find being multiracial and a mix of cultures to be the reason you can’t fit in with anyone – flip the situation and make it the reason you can click with everyone. Instead of viewing it as the factor that isolates you, make it the factor that connects you with different communities – and makes you an adaptable, exciting person to be around! Once you start loving the fact that you are uniquely defined by your experiences and influences up to this point, you’ll realise that being a mix is truly something to love.
Multiracial writer Ashleigh Falzone said on 20 Something, that she and her sister often felt they were, “Judged on our apperarances rather than our flavours within.” But, the solution isn’t to try and sort yourself into one category or one ‘flavour,’ because who ever wanted plain chocolate when you could have Neapolitan ice cream? Love the fact that you’re made up of multiple equally awesome flavours, and the world will too.
Obviously this isn’t confined to those who are multiracial, but can really be the case for anyone who thinks a particular part of themselves is too far removed from the people around them. Take the thing you find difficult, and use it as an advantage by turning it into a tool for connecting with others, as opposed to a weapon of self destruction.
In times when racial tensions are still a cause of turmoil across the globe, the battle truly does begin within ourselves. Being conscious and appreciative of racial harmony, whether within your own identity, community or in the world at large is one baby step closer to the level of peace we all hope our world will get to some day in the not-too-distant future.
Words by Monisha Catherine Iswaran
IG – @monimouse2052
Illustration by Phoebe Roberts