Am I me or who my culture has shaped me to be?

As people we naturally cohabit, collaborate and form communities. We share qualities, abilities, emotions and experiences, which are characteristic of our cultural identity, yet differentiate in our being.

Not everything in life can be planned and not all decisions taken are in our power. Some things happen to us randomly, unexpectedly and out of the blue. These are the situations which shake and awaken us, and I believe that one of these wonders is birth.

I didn’t know I was going to be born and I didn’t know that I was going to be me. But who am I? Why am I? What am I exactly? Questions as such, regarding one’s identity, have tormented the human mind for cen- turies and continue to remain unanswered. Maybe there simply is no exact answer, because an identity is an abstract construct and its meaning can therefore vary from person to person.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines the term «identity» as such: «who a person is, or the qualities of a person or group that make them different from others.» Substantially, this means that we all possess different qualities and therefore are all different. But don’t we often find similarities among each other? Do we not form communities because of these similarities? These questions constitute the concept of what is cultural identity, which aims at questioning and defining our identity based on the traditions, culture and nations we are born and brought up in.

What characterizes my cultural identity?
If we think of ourselves as people with qualities, abilities and opinions, then the place of birth and upbringing is essential for the formation of our identity. If we however further distinguish the physical place and the emotional state of our childhood habitat, we notice that more than the concrete country itself, it is the experienced culture which has a stronger influence on the formation of our identities.

Our birth setup from a national and cultural perspective (our family and friends with their religion, beliefs, traditions) is at the very core for the shaping of our cultural identity. Depending on where and in which family one is born in to, the opportunities given, the experiences made and the values taught, the formed identity will be very different from someone elses. An individual born in a given country and emotional state adapts to its habitat and surroundings by nature, developing its identity consequently around associated characteristics (such as being naturally loud, disciplined, individualistic). And although it does not exclude the option to further expand one’s personality and identity, unconsciously it strongly influences our way of being.

How am I me in a community of many?
Cultural communities are formed around shared cultural experiences and/or other national similarities which make and individual feel like part of something. This cultural identity which over time becomes representative for an individual is however not all what makes us the person we are. In the melting pot that we live in today, our identities are only more diverse and complex than ever.

As individuals we are unexplainable unities of qualities, abilities, emotions and experiences, differentiating one from another. Knowing that we belong to something is a beautiful feeling, but when we learn to define the person we are it is even more beautiful: it is an exceptional feeling.

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