disclaimer: this is a rather vulnerable post with slight stereotyping so please don't get too offended.
last week my new uni course started and it was basically a bunch of 20-something-year-olds mingling to meet everyone/make new friends. it's been way too bloody long since i had to actively try and do that. but walking into the big hall that day with 140 of us in there, i couldn't help but notice something: everyone was already sitting in their little 'groups'. It was like a chiche american-high-school-tv-show moment, with many of the laddy British boys sitting at one table, all the seemingly conservative chinese girls at another, the mature students huddled together and so on. Obviously it wasn't 100% structured this way, but it was noticeable enough.
This got me thinking about many of my friends over the years and the types of people that i naturally gravitated towards - and to be honest, they have tended to be Asian people (I'm Asian), or non-Asian people that were from an international school background. Even after 4 years of doing my undergrad in the UK, i could probably only count a handful of caucasian-ethnicity-British-friends that I felt really close to.
For the longest time, this has been a weird insecurity of mine. Why couldn't i just jump into a crowd of predominantly caucasian people and just feel like i belonged there too? why did i feel... slightly inferior in these situations? Was i bad at socialising? Were people judging me? Was i judging people? And why Does everyone else have to sit in such clearly demarcated groups? Everyone seems to speak up without a second thought, but i'm constantly analysing whether what i'm about to say will come across weird, or i get worried that people think i have no personality because i'm not saying anything. i'm acutely aware of the fact that i tend to be a lot quieter in a predominantly caucasian social group.
But last week we had a few seminars about 'unconscious bias', where i learnt about one specific type of bias that stuck with me: affinity bias. It's basically our psychological tendency to gravitate towards people more like ourselves. Realising that this was a universal bias that everyone needs to actively try and be more aware of, fostered a sense of relief in me - i wasn't a 'bad person' for feeling more comfortable with people similar to me. i wasn't being 'racist' or 'discriminatory', and likewise, others might also group up with those similar to them because of this unconscious bias - they aren't trying to exclude anyone, it's just something that happens that we're all unaware of. There's no morality to it. There's no need to take it personally. There's just being conscious or unconscious.
The only thing I can do going forward is to
1) remember that this is just a type of automated behaviour that many of us engage in without second thoughts,
2) accept that everyone has different social settings that they feel more comfortable bringing forward their authentic selves
3) replace self-judgmental thoughts or anxious feelings with curiosity and awareness of the dialogue running in my head
4) nurture/self-soothe; i don't need to like everyone and not everyone needs to like me.
i'd rather make a few friends that i feel good around, rather than force myself to make many friends that i can't be myself around.