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As you begin to feel your way into your new culture, it’s very common to go through a period of questioning your identity and sense of self. After all, everything that you have previously known as your reality has likely been turned upside down. Or at least, some aspects of it have.
Aspects that you considered, “just the way things are” may no longer be the way things are at all! And the contrast can throw you into a major headspin! A crisis of identity.
Who are you in this new environment? How do you get to the point where you feel comfortable in this new culture, where you “fit in”, without losing the parts of you that represent who you have known yourself to be up until now?
How do you become a new version of yourself, and still feel like you?
This is where understanding the concept of identity, and the way identity is created, can be enormously helpful.
Once you realise that “the way things are” is simply a series of habits and thought patterns that you’ve accumulated through your experience of living wherever you’ve been raised, you can then begin to peel back the layers and see yourself for who you really are, independent of cultural and familial influences.
You get to reveal the essence of you.
And that can be so exciting! And liberating. It’s an extraordinary feeling to reveal yourself to yourself.
Once you reach the essence of you, THEN you get to have all the fun of adding to your sense of identity all the delicious cultural layers of your choosing; you can sift and sort through all the habits and thoughts and beliefs and customs that you observe within both your native culture and your adopted culture, and try on the ones that entice and intrigue you, that inspire and delight and comfort and grow you.
See how they feel.
When you discover cultural aspects that feel great, you get to invite them into your sense of identity. Layer them gently over the essence of you, and weave them in and out and over the around each other as you create and become the very unique you. The captivating, interesting, fascinating version of you who chooses who she wants to be. A day and a month and a year at a time.
You can literally create your identity according to your own preferences.
It may not always feel so light and easy; we all find ourselves sometimes bogged down in the contrasting attitudes, points of view and emotions of other people, during which time we can tend to wobble off the stability that a joyfully expanding sense of identity brings with it. And that’s ok. It happens. The difference is, that next time you find yourself amongst individuals or cultural groups who are expressing their own very strong perspectives, even when you wobble, you can remind yourself that it’s all just providing you with a smorgasbord of choice. Will you choose to add those thoughts and beliefs to your own personal identity? Will you try them on and see how they feel? Do they resonate with who you want to be?
Because that’s the crux of it all.
Who do you want to be?
Living amongst the contrast of a new culture gives you plenty of choice – more choice than you would ever have had, had you stayed in your birth country – to decide what you like and what you don’t like and what you’d happily include as a part of your identity.
So, next time you feel yourself tumbling into a minor (or major) identity crisis, remember . . .
You are so much more than the composition of cultural habits and beliefs.
You get to choose.
You get to create your identity on purpose.
And if you want to, you can learn to do it with Confidence, Style and Joy. It just takes practice.
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