Hi Everyone! I hope you had a positive week. This post is a short one but I wanted to share something that I have recently read which I thought was a new way to think about being weird and embracing the power of difference by using biochemistry. I am currently reading Explaining Humans – Camilla Pang (Kindle Version). Her book won the 2020 Royal Society Prize, making her the youngest writer to win the prize and the first write of colour. Given this, it is no surprise that I had to pick up her book to hear what she had to say.
Camilla who has a PhD in biochemistry from UCL was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at the age of eight, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder at 26. (Source: The Guardian). Using this perspective, she explains how she has had to use science to help her navigate a world that is very different to how “neurotypicals” experience life. I have yet to finish the book, but it has been a fascinating read and another view of the social structures we live in.
The chapter I want to share with you is “2. How to embrace your weird”. As she was growing up she failed to understand the social status quo and was often confused as to why people were compelled to give up something about themselves to become part of a social group. This really struck a chord with me as I found myself in this position this week.
There was a group of friends who I use to hang out with in my 20s. At the centre of the group was a childhood friend who liked to mix all her friends together to have a big gathering for her birthdays and “clubbing”. I tried really hard to fit in with this mishmash of individuals and was constantly outside my comfort zone. I am a very introverted person with self-esteem issues compared to a group of very extroverted and beautiful ladies. I was a fish out of the water, but shamefully, I also tried so hard to fit in, despite knowing that I lost a bit of myself every time I went out with them. Even now, I realise that I still have those feelings.
Recently, I was invited to a small event with some people from the group but I realised how anxious it made me feel. I actually got along very well with the individual that invited me but I didn’t want to hang out with other individuals. One part of me wanted to fit in and also not miss out. However, as I pondered whether to say yes to the invite, I realised I do not need to be someone else to fit into a particular group. It is okay to protect my time and say no. I should organise another meeting instead, which is more intimate (given that I am an introvert) and celebrate with that individual that way. Thankfully, I had other plans, which meant that I had a legitimate excuse to turn the invitation down. Overall, it was a lot of stress for one little invitation!
Like humans, proteins respond to their environment, communicate information, make decisions and then put them into action. But unlike us, proteins are actually very good at doing this: working in an instinctively collaborative way without letting personality clashes, personal problems, or office politics become obstacles.Camilla Pang – explaining humans
Using biochemistry, Pang explains that protein makes the most of differences rather than suppressing them. This is a much better model than us trying all to be the same in social situations and trying to fit in all the time. Let’s face it – it is very hard work! Our individual differences and weird quirks are what makes us unique but they can make our friendships and other relationships work more effectively.
In her chapter, she delves into the wonderful world of proteins, so if you want to learn more, do consider purchasing her book. The most important takeaway is that using proteins as a model shows us that, far from uniformity being helpful, it is diversity that is essential to collaboration and success. We should be more confident, less self-conscious and more accepting of the roles that people play because of our different personalities.
Go on – don’t suppress who you are. Embrace and celebrate your weirdness because it is actually essential to social cohesion and effective teamwork.
With Sweet & Sour Love,
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