I've personally struggled to embrace my uniqueness over the years and it's a journey I'm still navigating. For example, worrying about the way I look, not being Māori enough, not being Pākeha enough, not being feminine enough, not fitting in, not being clever enough, not having the right career, not having enough money, or not doing things 'properly', to name a few. I forget that everything about me is unique and there's not one person in this world that has my exact DNA and experiences.
I've come to understand that anxiety often arises when individuals feel the pressure to conform to societal norms or the expectations set by others.
Once upon a time, I was the 'black sheep' of my whānau. I experienced lots of anxiety as a child and teenager. Not knowing what it was, I used substances as a way to numb out the feeling and didn't aspire to do much with my life. As I headed into my young adult years, I would compare myself to my siblings and friends from highschool. I would see how well they had done in their lives. They had husbands/wives, lots of beautiful children, and successful careers. They seemed like they had it all together, and I didn't have much to show for myself. I was a solo māmā to my son and on the social welfare benefit for years. This lead to a constant comparison between myself and others. Feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt crept in.
As time progresses, I'm growing more skilled at embracing my individual path and the various facets of my identity. The aspects that may trigger my anxiety are, in fact, the qualities that make me exceptional and distinct. These experiences have turned into sources of strength in my journey. This evolution has demanded dedication and self-affirmation. Recognising that my experiences cultivate empathy and insight vital for aiding others in similar struggles, I acknowledge the value they hold in shaping my ability to add value to the world.
Just as every tree produces its own distinct fruit, each person has their own qualities, strengths, and potential. Celebrating diversity means embracing the uniqueness of one's journey and understanding that individual worth isn't determined by how closely we resemble others. When people start valuing their own inherent qualities and stop fixating on comparison, the grip of anxiety can loosen.