Social awareness begins with understanding one's identity. Personal identity defines a person as unique in terms of their individual differences from others while social identity is a person's sense of who they are based on the similarities they share with others. Personal identities include personality traits, interests, skills and abilities, favorites, education, and critical life experiences. Social identity categories include gender, age, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and religious and spiritual affiliations. The groups a person identifies with give a sense of belonging and connectedness to their social world.
The terms diversity, inclusion, equality, and equity are commonly used. What do they mean and how do they connect to the social needs of all human beings? With a simple mindset, these four words can support one another in a collective growth.
“Diversity is the one true thing we all have in common. Celebrate it every day.”
— Author Unknown
Diversity exists everywhere, it is the state of being different and having variety. Every person is unique. Within a social group diversity exists because although the members of a group come together based on their similarities, they will experience differences in other aspects of their identities. Diversity challenges society's ability to be inclusive because the common attribute of a group is what determines who is and is not included.
Inclusion is a mindset, it requires awareness and consideration of others. While it is nearly impossible to meet every person's needs within any given situation, the intent to include others can create a sense of acceptance. Inclusion is not offering equal opportunities to everyone, it is providing equitable opportunities based on the uniqueness of each individual. The intention is to be fair, unbiased, unprejudiced, and nondiscriminatory regardless of personal or social identities. Too often society focuses on equal access and opportunities. Since diversity is a part of every aspect of life, the only way to guide inclusion is to be mindful of the uniqueness that exists between everyone.
"Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by it's ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." Albert Einstein
What does this all have to do with the social world we live in? Everything! Individuals are unique and gravitate towards others who share similarities while appreciating their differences. It is when those differences conflict that difficulties arise and challenge the ability to remain considerate of the other person. This is when people lose sight of the efforts to respect differences regardless of the tendency to move towards what is familiar.
We are social creatures, and no person wants to feel excluded because of an aspect of their identity they can or cannot control. Human beings have a need for social connection and deserve the right to feel a sense of belonging in this world. It is everyone’s responsibility to be mindful of how their words and actions impact another. All individuals can play a role in supporting the beauty of diversity. Everyone wants to be included and feel accepted for who they are; as a society driven by social identities, this is possible.