If you've ever been fascinated by a person's reaction to a situation, you've seen the impact of cultural identity. This can be especially worrying if the situation seems harmless to you, but the other person's response is mostly negative or positive. But what is cultural identity and why is it important?
Culture, in this context, refers to the beliefs, norms, behaviors, and values that a particular group of people find acceptable. Whereas identity means knowing what is acceptable and true to oneself. we form aculturalIdentity when we unconsciously interpret cues from the world around us and integrate them into our own identity so we can belong. Because of this:
Your cultural identity is a fundamental part of your personal identity (and worldview) that develops as you absorb, interpret, and embrace (or reject) the beliefs, values, behaviors, and norms of the communities in your life.
Our cultural identity can evolve as culture is constantly evolving and dynamic. And while there are people who move forward in life without even thinking about their cultural identity, it's something we often recognize when asked. This often happens when we are in parts of the world or between groups with different cultural norms. Our cultural identity is important because it influences how we interpret and respond to such situations, which can affect the howSuccessfulwe are in life
What defines and shapes a person's cultural identity?
Every time a group of people come together for a common goal, a culture begins to form. No matter how large or small the group, beliefs, norms, values and behaviors emerge.
What complicates the culture is that many of these defining traits go unmentioned. The group unconsciously develops certain standards of what is normal and acceptable based on social cues. Then, through our continued contact with the group, we began to accept these standards as part of our cultural identity.
Important parts of your cultural identity are formed based on your affiliation with any number of cultural groups or patterns, some of which we (as a culture) assigned to you at birth, such as:
- family of origin
- sexual gender
- physical dexterity
Other contributions to your cultural identity occur as you navigate your life and the social constructs (aka social constructs) around you. As you gain experience or develop skills and interests, you will be in and out of certain communities as you may or may not have things in common with your group members. Throughout your life, you can get involved in many groups, including:
- educational institutions
- Professional Organizations
- social clubs
- political or interest groups
- support groups
To complicate matters further, certain situations and contexts offer an additional filter that brings out unique elements of your cultural identity. For example, if you were born into a family that encouraged you to go to college and pursue a career in science, you could take that path, join the physics club, and incorporate the standards of that group into your own identity.
This is perfectly normal. Humans are social animals, which means we depend on one another for survival. It's really naturalnecessary, so that we seek a sense of belonging and seek cultural groups that accept us for who we are. The challenge arises when we become so obsessed with gaining status with our groups that we fail to notice when they don't serve us or we resist the opportunities that present themselves.
Myths about cultural identity
In my work with clients, I often encounter three major myths about cultural identity. And I think it's crucial that we identify and dispel these myths before my client is ready to move on.
The first myth is that our cultural identity is fixed, which is simply not true. It is dynamic and evolves as we join different groups. Think of some beliefs you had as a child that have changed since then. This happens because we are exposed to new ways of thinking and because we absorb anything that resonates with our cultural identity.
The second myth I hear a lot is that some of us have no cultural identity at all. the truth is thatWorldwidethere is one However, many of us are unaware of our own cultural identity and how it affects every aspect of our lives.
The final and perhaps most dangerous myth is that our own cultural identity prevails, meaning many of us believe that we interpret situations in the same way as others. When this is the case, our desire to understand the world can lead us to create mental shortcuts that affect how we interact with someone who has a different cultural identity than our own.
The danger of these shortcuts is that they can lead to generalizations and stereotypes. When this happens, we prejudge people as "friend or foe," which can trigger a "fight-or-flight" response and undermine our ability to engage in meaningful, healthy, and productive interactions.
When I work with clients, I help them decode their assumptions about what is normal, right, and true for them. But before we get down to business, it's important for them to understand the power of cultural influences and how they shape our worldview, so they can begin to recognize them in their own lives and challenge them when making decisions about their future .
Why is cultural identity important?
Our cultural identity influences the way we interpret and react to situations, so it is important that we become aware of our own identity in relation to the world around us. Because we have an innate desire to belong to a group, when we are stressed we subconsciously tend to revert to any behavior that makes us feel safe and accepted. In doing so, we build invisible barriers within ourselves.jbetween us and others affecting personal interactions, work performance andorganizational success.
In my professional life, I have seen how conflicts have arisen due to fundamentally different perspectives and a lack of understanding of the impact of cultural identities. When we develop an awareness of how our identities can act as a catalyst or barrier to growth, we unleash our true potential.
There can also be times in our lives when our own cultural identity conflicts with what we find in the world around us or what we feel to be true within ourselves. For example, the person who has pursued a career in science (from our example above) may eventually have that experience because instead of finding a career that feels right for them,youThey did what their families expected of them. Often referred to as a cultural identity crisis, this tension can cause discomfort and even heartbreak.
Dealing with a cultural identity crisis
When going through a cultural identity crisis, you may feel a natural tendency to ignore or blame other factors for the conflict. However, it is important to take care of yourself and investigate thiscultural conditioningwho made up their cultural identity in the first place. Here are three things you can do to start this process:
- Take a break and start building your awareness around your own cultural identity. OurIdentifying your cultural collaboratorsWorksheet can help you get started.
- After raising your awareness of your own identity, consider where your identity may not match the current situation. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- How did my cultural identity influence my response to this situation?
- Which influencers have contributed to the construction of my identity in relation to this situation?
- Does my cultural identity really reflect who I want to be in the future?
- If the tension is with another person, try to see things from their perspective. What influencers and cultural contributors might have influenced how the other person approaches the situation?
- Finally, think of 1 or 2 practical steps to take to deal with the situation and then commit to regularly reflecting on your own identity. This could be as simple as taking 5-10 minutes a month to go through the worksheets above and consider how new groups in your life (e.g. new social groups or a job change) can contribute to growth and... contribute to the development of your identity. . 🇧🇷
the bottom line
Your cultural identity is critical to your success as it influences how you interpret and respond to the world around you. Developing an awareness of your identity can help you better understand the unique contributions you have to offer, both personally and professionally, while also clearing your blind spots. For more information, we invite you to visit ourResources pagefor more practice.
What is the meaning of cultural identity? ›
Cultural identity refers to identification with, or sense of belonging to, a particular group based on various cultural categories, including nationality, ethnicity, race, gender, and religion.What is an example of cultural identity? ›
Race, gender, sexuality, and ability are cultural identities that affect our communication and our relationships.What is the most important element of cultural identity? ›
1. Language. Your culture and identity are first formed when you learn to speak. Depending on the language that you are born into will help to define who you become.What are the 3 ways cultural identity is formed? ›
There are three pieces that make up a persons cultural identity, these are cultural knowledge, category label, and social connections. Cultural knowledge is when a person connects to their identity through understanding their culture's core characteristics.Why is cultural identity hard to define? ›
Defining 'culture' is difficult because, among other things, it: can be an uncountable noun, 'culture', or a countable one, 'a culture/different cultures' involves so many layers of meaning – hence the attempts at definition by itemising the components.What is a positive cultural identity? ›
Positive Personal and Cultural Identity involves the awareness, understanding, and appreciation of the factors that contribute to a healthy sense of oneself; it includes knowledge of one's family background, heritage(s), language(s), beliefs, and perspectives in a pluralistic society.What is America's cultural identity? ›
The culture of the United States of America is primarily of Western, and European origin, yet its influences includes the cultures of African American, Asian American, Latin American, Native American, and Pacific Islander American peoples and their cultures.What are 5 cultural examples? ›
Customs, laws, dress, architectural style, social standards and traditions are all examples of cultural elements.Why is it important to protect cultural identity? ›
Culture and its heritage reflect and shape values, beliefs, and aspirations, thereby defining a people's national identity. It is important to preserve our cultural heritage, because it keeps our integrity as a people.What factors affect cultural identity? ›
Cultural identities are influenced by several different factors such as ones religion, ancestry, skin color, language, class, education, profession, skill, family and political attitudes. These factors contribute to the development of one's identity.
Is it important to maintain cultural identity? ›
Culture and its history are morals, beliefs, and aims. They form a people's national identity. It is essential to preserve our cultural heritage to maintain our identity as a nation.What are the 6 most important characteristics of culture? ›
- Culture is learned. It is not biological; we do not inherit it. ...
- Culture is shared. ...
- Culture is based on symbols. ...
- Culture is integrated. ...
- Culture is dynamic.
Culture is a set of norms and values that we may not even know we have because we learn them as part of growing up in a group that shares them. Identity includes culture and many other personal things about you such as gender identity, education, religion, sexual orientation, and many others.How does cultural identity affect a person? ›
Culture is a defining feature of a person's identity, contributing to how they see themselves and the groups with which they identify. A person's understanding of their own and other's identities develops from birth and is shaped by the values and attitudes prevalent at home and in the surrounding community.What are 3 cultural characteristics Americans have? ›
American society is strongly underpinned by moral and religious principles centring around Christianity (followed by approximately 70% of the population), as well as civic and political values of personal freedom, liberty and independence.What is important to American culture? ›
Individualism. The most important thing to understand about US Americans is probably their devotion to "individualism." They have been trained from early in their lives to consider themselves separate individuals who are responsible for their own situations in life and their own destinies.What are 3 examples of American cultural traits? ›
- Independence. From a young age, Americans are taught to be self-sufficient and independent. ...
- Equality. For Americans, equality means everyone is born equal and no one is inferior or superior to the other. ...
- Individualism. ...
Examples of culture in everyday life include clothes, food, holidays, music, knowledge and beliefs, traditions and innovations, family life, and much more. These examples of everyday culture with established cultural norms affect the lives of each social group, each of us.What is culture in your own words? ›
Culture can be defined as all the ways of life including arts, beliefs and institutions of a population that are passed down from generation to generation. Culture has been called "the way of life for an entire society." As such, it includes codes of manners, dress, language, religion, rituals, art.How do people express their culture? ›
Traditional cultural expressions (TCEs), also called "expressions of folklore", may include music, dance, art, designs, names, signs and symbols, performances, ceremonies, architectural forms, handicrafts and narratives, or many other artistic or cultural expressions.
How does someone's culture shape their identity? ›
Our culture shapes the way we work and play, and it makes a difference in how we view ourselves and others. It affects our values—what we consider right and wrong. This is how the society we live in influences our choices. But our choices can also influence others and ultimately help shape our society.What causes loss of cultural identity? ›
I have discovered that the three main causes of the loss of cultural identity are immigration, industrialization, and globalization. When people migrate to a new country, they often have to assimilate to the culture. They strive to fit in to the host culture, and then they start to lose their own culture.What are the 3 importance of culture? ›
In addition to its intrinsic value, culture provides important social and economic benefits. With improved learning and health, increased tolerance, and opportunities to come together with others, culture enhances our quality of life and increases overall well-being for both individuals and communities.What are the five most important values of your culture? ›
Cultural value was assessed by disaggregating it into five components: aesthetic, social, symbolic, spiritual and educational value. As a test of H2, the symbolic and spiritual components were specified as value to the individual himself or herself, and value to others or to society in general.What are the most important cultural values? ›
Nine national cultural value differences
- Individualism vs. ...
- Power Distance. ...
- Uncertainty Avoidance. ...
- Orientation to Time. ...
- Gender Egalitarianism. ...
- Assertiveness. ...
- Being vs. ...
- Humane Orientation.
Identity refers to our sense of who we are as individuals and as members of social groups. It also refers to our sense of how others may perceive and label us.How do you use cultural identity in a sentence? ›
- The wealth of marine life contributes significantly to the country's economy and cultural identity. Times, Sunday Times (2016)
- Much of her photography is concerned with issues of migration and cultural identity. ...
- It has become an integral part of our cultural identities.
Categories that make up cultural identities include sexuality, gender, religion, ethnicity, social class, or region.What are examples of social identity and cultural identity? ›
Examples of social identity include: race, ethnicity, gender, sex, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, age, religion/religious beliefs, national origin, and emotional, developmental disabilities and abilities.What are the 3 different types of identity? ›
- Categorization: Assigning everyone into categories.
- Identification: Associating others with certain groups.
- Comparison: Comparing groups.
What are the big 8 identities? ›
The “Big 8” socially constructed identities are: race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, religion/spirituality, nationality and socioeconomic status.What are the 4 ways to identify and understand culture? ›
- The Etiquette & Customs Approach. First of all, it is useful to know about people's customs and habits, for example, when and how they greet others. ...
- The Language Learning Approach. ...
- The Cultural Dimensions Approach. ...
- The Cultural Detective Approach.
Share your own experiences
Explore your cultural identity together. Read books, listen to music and try new foods. Visit different cultural centers or congregations to see all the different ways there are of being part of that group.
Any of these identity types can be ascribed or avowed. Ascribed identities are personal, social, or cultural identities that are placed on us by others, while avowed identities are those that we claim for ourselves (Martin & Nakayama, 2010).What is culture and how is it connected to identity? ›
Culture is a set of norms and values that we may not even know we have because we learn them as part of growing up in a group that shares them. Identity includes culture and many other personal things about you such as gender identity, education, religion, sexual orientation, and many others.What role does cultural identity play in communication? ›
Cultural identity is the constantly shifting understanding of one's identity in relation to others. Cultural identity is negotiated, co-created and reinforced in communication with others when we socially interact. They are manifestations of social reality – reflect on our unique personal life history and experience.