The question of “Who am I?” is something that a lot of us grapple with in life. We try to think of our Identity through the things we might be remembered by, through the trinkets we collect because they represent some part of our characters, or maybe through the stories that our social networks relish in rehashing. Through it all, it is during the moment of that identity crisis that several of us even think about how much more secure our footing in life might be if we had all the answers to life!
Monday was such a day for me. I had several interesting conversations, all coincidentally revolving around the topic of identity and culture. It got me reminiscing on certain internal conflicts that I went through (and sometimes still go through), and how at times I wish someone could impart some deep tidbit of wisdom that would instantly, magically change my life!!
Of course, there is no secret code or potion or password (I wish!), however, there are a few things that I wish I had absorbed a bit sooner in life so I didn’t have to waste precious time on things that in the long run are just minute blips on the radar. Maybe these are just my truths, but I do like to believe that someone, somewhere out there might have a small “Aha!” moment after reading through this. I hope this post can help at least one person out there through his or her identity crisis.
1. Always remember and respect your culture/heritage but do not let it dictate your entire identity.
A lot of us (especially first-, and second-generation immigrants’ children) are reminded of our cultural and familial expectations till we can recite them like “mantras” in our sleep. We do this so well and for so long, that we do not even realize that we are not being true to ourselves, except in those moments when bitterness and resentment start creeping in and catches us by surprise.
Remember that our parents and elders are coming from a good place. No matter what our gender, religion or culture is, what is expected of us is to be good, successful, responsible, productive citizens of society. Every religion, every lifestyle espouses that universal human principle. Heck, it is embedded in our DNA!
Remember that, but do not let it dictate the details of how you achieve your expectations. Research on acculturation and cultural identity shows that people who “integrate” their own cultural values into the mainstream cultural values live the happiest and most satisfying lives. So, each individual’s journey is his or her own, and while the destination may be the same, the paths we take to get there are what makes each of our stories epic. In other words, respect and practice your culture, but do not let it rob you of your journey in life!
2. Don’t waste your time trying to prove your “non-identity”; rather, channel your energy into showing the world who you ARE.
Someone, somewhere out there on this vast planet is probably talking smack about you, maybe even right now as you are reading this. Maybe they are saying that you are unreliable, or that you are flaky, or a drama queen, or a narcissist, or something else much worse. So what?
Stop wasting your time about trying to set about proving to the world that you are NOT something negative. It is not worth your energy, and believe me, it gets really exhausting very quickly! Also, if you really think about it, the ones that matter don’t need any proof of “you-ness” and the ones that need the proof… Well, they shouldn’t really matter!
Instead, spend that time focusing on the person you KNOW you are, and the person you want to be. It is okay if not everyone likes you, as long as you act as the person that you know you are! Once again, several lines of research in social psychology and positive psychology try to teach us just this lesson — focus on the positive; don’t dwell on the negative. When you focus on the positive, it will manifest in your life.
For Part 2 of this post, which has my Epiphanies # 3 through #6, please click here.
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Thanks for reading,