How to Feel Normal if You're from a Different Race

Two Methods:Confronting Negative ExperiencesCoping With Feeling Different

If those around you are one race and you come from a different race, you may feel out of place. Perhaps you are living abroad and are immersed in a totally different culture, your family moved to a different city, or you were adopted into a family that is racially different from you. It can be jolting not to see anyone that looks like you, and maybe you feel like no one understands you. Take heart that you are not alone and that many people share your experience. There are things you can do to help you feel more at ease.

Method 1
Confronting Negative Experiences

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    Deal with impostor syndrome. Impostor syndrome occurs when you believe that your abilities are not up to par as those around you. You may believe you received a scholarship or a job offer because of your race, somehow making you less qualified than those around you. You may try to overachieve as a result of feeling “not good enough” or feel great dissatisfaction or guilt in your studies or profession. You may fear the day the “truth” comes out and people believe you are a fraud. It’s important to recognize that you have value for your own characteristics and achievements.[1]
    • Be aware when feelings of being an impostor come up. Understand the difference between reality and feelings. When feelings come up, use the statement, “Even if I feel undeserving, it doesn’t mean I really am.”[2]
    • If you feel like an impostor, know that you are not alone. Even some high achieving individuals suffer from impostor syndrome.
    • Remind yourself that you work hard and deserve the things you have.
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    Remember that racist comments are not about you. Remember that racist comments reflect a problem with the person who holds those beliefs, not you. Experiencing prejudice or discrimination does not automatically make you less valuable or mean there is anything wrong with you.[3] It’s important to feel empowered by who you are and not “less than” other people.[4]
    • If you do experience prejudice or discrimination, take it seriously. Report the prejudice to someone who can help. For example, school bullies might exclude you from participating in a social group due to your race, or they might call you hurtful names.[5] These are both actions that should be reported to a parent, teacher, counselor, or other figure of authority. You do not deserve this treatment, and you don't have to put up with it.
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    Release the stress of being a cultural “representative”. If you are a minority in a group of people racially different than you, don’t feel pressure to represent your race.[6] You may feel like people have negative associations with those in your racial group, and you want to prove them wrong. Remember that you can’t change people’s judgments, no matter how hard you try. There is great variation within your race, and you cannot represent everyone as one person.
    • Don’t allow people to see you as a representative, either. Remind people that while stereotypes exist, everyone is unique and not to judge a whole group by one person.
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    Be informed. When faced with discriminatory comments, be ready to fire back. This can be empowering for you to have a response and to use information as power.[7] When faced with insensitive comments or racism, be ready with events, facts, or statistics that help you educate people that may be less aware of how these comments affect people.
    • When people are overtly ignorant about other groups, you can help them understand it better. Even a comment like, “When you put Chinese people down, it perpetuates a mentality of them being less than you” is helpful.
    • You can also say, "When you say that Black people are better at sports, you're essentializing a whole group of people, which isn't fair."
    • You can also use the power of facts in your favor. For example, if someone makes a remark about how immigrants hurt the community, you can reply that immigrants often own small businesses and contribute to the economy.[8] Or, if someone has said that immigrants are "criminals," you can tell them that immigrants are much less likely to commit crimes than native-born citizens.[9]
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    Use humor. When experiencing stress related to race, empower yourself to not back down. While some people may fire back, you may take a lighter stance by adding a bit of humor to the situation. Especially if you are within a group of friends and someone says something offensive, say something light and funny, yet still makes a point. [10]
    • Using humor can be a bridge to talk about an uncomfortable topic but in a more approachable way.
    • You can say, “"Well, my girlfriend is Indian, and I haven't noticed that with her... should I call her and ask her if that's true?" or "That's a cool joke, can you tell it to my Nigerian friend? Do you think he'd like it?"
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    Find similarities with those around you. It may be easy to see how you differ from those around you, but challenge yourself to see the similarities between yourself and those you feel different from.[11] Remember that underneath all the cultural and physical differences, we share more similarities than differences because we are all human.
    • As humans, we all feel fear, joy, nervousness, pain, excitement, betrayal, and love. Even when you feel different, remember that despite cultural differences, we have experiential similarities that make us all human.
    • Find activities that you enjoy, and share them with a group. This could be joining a sport team, taking a sewing class, or engaging in any activity that you can enjoy with other people.

Method 2
Coping With Feeling Different

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    Have a good support network. You are not the only one who feels ‘different’. Find solace with other people who share similar experiences. Knowing that other people have similar experiences can help you feel supported and not alone.[12]
    • Race isn’t the only thing that makes people feel different. Sometimes people feel different for looking different, having physical or mental disabilities, or having experiences that make them feel alienated. Include these people in your support network, too, and support those who feel marginalized.
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    Maintain a positive cultural identity. Celebrate your heritage by knowing your cultural history, cultural practices, and by engaging with people from your culture group.[13] Having positive associations with your cultural/racial group can strengthen your own feelings of pride in representing your racial group.
    • Join or start a cultural organization at your school.
    • Research some of your cultural traditions and ask your family to start participating in them.
    • Discover role models from your culture or race that inspire you.
    • Be proud that you are different and that you can teach other people about your own background. It’s exciting to share something new with people!
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    Improve your self confidence. Having a positive racial and cultural identity is important to your self confidence.[14] Learn to feel good about yourself and your abilities. What unique traits do you have that make you shine? By realizing that you are talented and unique in your own ways, you can see yourself as having many identities, not just one identity as a certain race.
    • Find hobbies and activities you enjoy. Learn to swim, dance, or draw.
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    Challenge your negative thoughts. Replace negative thoughts with more positive thoughts. If you think “I don’t deserve this” or “I’m too different to fit in with this group”, try and come from a different angle.[15] Instead, replace these thoughts with “I have worked hard and I deserve to be happy and fulfilled” and “Although I may feel different, I can learn from them and they can learn from me.”
    • Use self affirmations as a way to boost confidence. Choose meaningful affirmations to say or write every day, such as “I am worthy”, “I am talented” and “I love others and am loved”. Affirmations are beneficial in changing beliefs that we may have about ourselves and replacing them with positive ways to see yourself.[16]
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    Join a diverse organization. It’s important to feel accepted for who you are, and joining a group or organization that celebrates diversity yet respects the individual identity can be helpful in feeling unity with other people. By joining with other people that may have similar experiences in different contexts, you can begin to feel aligned and united with more people, and begin to have an in-group identity.[17]
    • Join a student organization at your school or university. If there isn’t one, consider starting an organization.
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    Start social action. If you’ve experienced prejudice, racism, or discrimination, document it and bring it up to an authority (like a teacher, professor, or police officer).[18] It should not be minimized and it is not okay to receive that kind of treatment from another human.
    • Start a student organization at your school that supports people experiencing similar feelings as a result of race.
    • If you want things to be different in your community or in your school, collect other people who support the cause and present your case at local town halls, government agencies, and at your school. Remember that you can change things for the better!
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    Remember that you are not alone. Even if you are the only person of a certain race in your community, realize that there are people all over the world that look like you and feel similarly. You are not the only person who experiences feeling different; many people of different races live in communities that are different from them. You are united with a group of people from your race as well as united in shared experience with many other people who feel different than those around them.


  • Be proud of who you are and where you came from.
  • Remember that everyone was born equal and unique.

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Categories: Racism