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Equity & Identity
July 7, 2023
But Who Are You, Really?

Zoya Sheikh

five women of different cultural backgrounds standing around or sitting on a couch

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How to Navigate the Challenges that Come With Exploring Cultural Identity

As a first-generation South Asian, I have had the privilege of living through multiple cultural lenses. Navigating your cultural identity presents unique challenges, many of which I also work through in my practice as a therapist. In this blog post, I will share some challenges and suggestions for navigating life on this complex path.

Develop cultural competence

How well do you know your cultural heritage? Explore and learn about your background and the culture in which you reside to foster a deeper understanding of the nuances within them. In gaining a deeper understanding, we can work towards bridging the gaps between different cultural contexts. Outside of your culture, open up to embracing cultural exchange by fostering connections with individuals from diverse backgrounds to create awareness of how others navigate their cultural identity.

Cultivate self-acceptance

As a mental health therapist, one of the key building blocks to self-development in any context is developing self-acceptance. How do you practice self-compassion the same way you support those around you? Treat yourself with kindness and understanding by recognizing that your journey is unique and valid. Your cross-cultural journey does not come without challenges, so take a moment to acknowledge your resilience and achievements in navigating those challenges and cultivating your truth.

Embrace the duality of identity

Our identities are multi-faceted and connected to many parts of ourselves. Those raised within more than one culture may find their identity ebb and flow between two worlds. This delicate balancing act can evoke confusion as we strive to honour their roots while embracing our current environment's opportunities and choices. How can you acknowledge and honour your heritage while also honouring yourself? Take a moment to recognize the richness of your cultural background and the values instilled by your family and community. While doing so, we must remember to embrace our individuality! Allow yourself the freedom to explore your unique interests, goals and core beliefs while finding a balance that resonates with your cultural background.

Address cultural expectations and pressures

What societal and cultural expectations do you find yourself contending with? These can pose challenges when we find ourselves stuck in the constraints of those expectations. These expectations may include academic and career success, adherence to cultural norms and traditions, and conforming to gender roles. The pressure to meet these expectations can be overwhelming and may lead to guilt, self-doubt, and a constant need to prove oneself. We can work through this by reflecting on and challenging those pressures by questioning traditional norms that may limit personal growth or create conflicts with our identity.

Though challenging, navigating your cross-cultural identity can be a transformative and empowering journey. By embracing the duality of identity, addressing cultural expectations, developing cultural competence, and cultivating self-acceptance, individuals can navigate the complexities with resilience and authenticity. I encourage you to embark on this path of self-discovery, seeking support when needed and embracing the power of your cross-cultural identity! We can celebrate our diverse backgrounds and empower one another to embrace our authentic selves.

Looking for support navigating your cultural identity? Learn more and connect with Zoya!


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