It’s International Day for Tolerance, so today I want to talk about tolerance from the perspective of a mental health advocate.
If you spend even a small amount of time interacting with others, you’re bound to find differences. From race and gender to political beliefs and worldviews, diversity is all around us. And as the world becomes more connected, we’re surrounded by even more diversity.
But as you connect with the people around you, differences will begin to surface that may be difficult to overcome. It’s normal to have internal pushback when you feel that someone is so different from you that you can’t understand each other. We’re wired to seek similarities and find ways to relate to others. But just because it’s normal to have those feelings, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t overcome them and practice tolerance.
UNESCO’s 1995 Declaration of Principles on Tolerance says that “tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human.” And that is, at the very core, why tolerance matters so much. It’s about the simple act of respecting others. But let’s talk about some of the most important reasons that you should practice tolerance.
It’s impossible to build authentic community with the people around you if you don’t have basic respect for them. And community is so important in our lives. The National Alliance on Mental Illness puts it best: community provides us with a sense of belonging, a support system, and a sense of purpose; all vital factors to our mental health. That feeling that you’re not alone in life – that other people depend on you, and you can depend on them in return – has an impact on your mental health.
But it’s not just your ability to form community that is affected by tolerance. It’s also your individual interpersonal relationships. Relationships between you and your individual family members become strained when you can’t respect their differing views. It’s hard to make friends if you aren’t able to appreciate and celebrate them for who they are. And even your relationships with coworkers may be impacted if you can’t accept the differences between you.
If your relationships with friends and family are strained – or if you lose those relationships altogether – your mental health will suffer in return. The other side of that truth, though, is that if you practice tolerance, you can cultivate healthy, thriving relationships. And when those relationships flourish, so will your mental health.
In an article for National Day for Tolerance, Dr. Robin Henderson, PsyD shares that “Feeling that we have to ‘endure’ someone because their views differ from our own takes a toll on our mental and emotional well-being… Accepting and even celebrating the differences we all have is energizing and promotes positive mental and emotional well-being for everyone.”
The way that you view the people around you alters your thought patterns. Negativity breeds more negativity, and positivity will help you think more positively. When you choose to think poorly of the people around you because of their differences, it can make you feel bad internally.
Similarly, choosing positive thoughts can make you feel, and attract, more positive things, people, and energy into your life!
So what can you do to practice tolerance in your daily life? What does it look like?
Naturally, we have to refer back to UNESCO’s definition: respect, acceptance, and appreciation of our differences. Use those three simple words as your guide while you learn to practice tolerance.
First, when you feel yourself pushing back against another person’s differences, pause. Make the decision to intentionally choose tolerance. Remember that every person, regardless of who they are, deserves respect.
Next, evaluate how you view the other person. What ideas have you formed about them? What is it that you are reacting negatively to? This part is the hardest: make the choice to accept them. Accept their differences. This may take time, and that’s okay–just remember to respect them while you are working on acceptance.
Once you’ve reached the point of acceptance, it may still take time to appreciate the differences in another person. Diversity is a gift. Our differences give us the ability to understand the world from perspectives we wouldn’t otherwise consider – if we are willing to practice tolerance. So we should be celebrating our differences! The joy that comes with truly appreciating others’ differences will enrich your life (and lead to better mental health).
We’re better together. Our lives become enriched when we are surrounded by people who are different from us. Diversity impacts every aspect of our lives – including our mental health.
Another way to improve your tolerance is through constant curiosity and education. Asking questions. Seeking more education and opportunities to learn.
If you look – these opportunities are everywhere!
Important, unknown awareness days are the driving force behind my newest project: the 13 Month Griefhab 2024 Awareness Calendar. I’ve created this calendar because I am passionate about getting National Grief Awareness Week and National Grief Awareness Day acknowledged.
And because I recognize how important these awareness days can be, I’m including all of the other awareness days the world doesn’t know enough about, too!
Acknowledging these days can help us understand each other and our differences better, improving our overall tolerance! It’s what this world needs!
This is a special project to me, and I hope it will be for you as well. The artwork is designed by kids impacted by loss and grief. You can purchase a calendar (with a free live or virtual ticket to Healing Together Through the Holidays, happening during National Grief Awareness Week) here.
(Discounts on bulk orders are available if you’d like some for your agency or organization. It’s the perfect holiday gift, and you’ll be part of my movement to change the way this world views and avoids grief! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org)
And remember, you can reach out anytime: email@example.com
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