“Identity and belonging” – Expository Essay Our individual identity is determined by what others think of us. Our identity is comprised of inner qualities and outer representations of self. It consists of innumerable defining characteristics that make up the whole of who we are in any given moment. These fragments of self include our sexuality, gender, and sense of belonging to a particular culture, nation, religion, family, or some other group. Our identity includes our looks, personality, beliefs and fears.
Each individual in society assigns themselves a particular role, whether it be as a mother, brother, retiree, performer, sportsman or as a part of their occupation, a doctor or lawyer. Often one’s entire sense of self is consumed by pursuit of fulfilling such a role in society. Our identities are constantly growing, changing, and adapting to our everyday lives. This emphasizes the overriding link that one’s sense of belonging influences, or often dictates, individual identity. One’s assigned role in society may be as part of a family unit, a daughter.
Agheare/Alice in Unpolished Gem emphasizes this, as she often struggles under the burden of the role she has self-assigned. Identity can both be influenced by, and influence, the work we do, our education, financial and class status, the car we drive, the home we live in and the clothes we wear. Identity is also determined by perspective. Our self-image can be entirely different to the way we are seen by a colleague, partner, friend, child or parent who all have their own lens of perception through which they view us.
One definition of identity is “those images and masks” many of us wear, the persona we project out into the world. We don’t have as much choice over our identity as we think we do because a lot of the time things we do or say are impacted by what others think of us. For example, we might like a certain type of music but might often find ourselves mentally saying ‘what would so and so like or would so and so listen to this or would so and so like me if I listened to this. ‘ Basically saying we mold ourselves, and are molded by others, in response to whatever is currently popular and accepted in today’s society.
Today more than ever we are being increasingly conditioned, influenced and bombarded by a multitude of messages and experiences about who to be and how to be. Current forms of social communication processes, particularly mainstream media, advertising, television and film, along with family, friends, teachers, political agendas, religion, society’s rules, our perceptions, perspectives, interpretations and assumptions, and those of others, all play a part in creating our identity. ?We seek and create our identity through these external influences, we all wear these masks and cloaks, so that we fit in with the world around us.
The degree to which we choose our identity, versus having it imposed on us via external influence, is arguably a matter of consciousness and awareness. When we are unaware of the power of external influence we are akin to pieces of clay, being unconsciously molded to fit into the accepted or preferred norms of someone else’s reality. When we are aware we can take responsibility for the creation of our identity. We can make empowered choices that best serve our selves, rather than serve people and systems outside of ourselves.
In Unpolished Gem, society plays a daunting role on Alice as she tries to change her way of thinking from a Chinese-Cambodian way of thinking to a very different Australian way of thinking. As Alice starts her new school her beliefs are tested as she tries to determine whether to fit in as an Australian or a Chinese-Cambodian. By trying to decide this she is under massive pressure because of our society’s stereo types. Gender and race are two of the most important factors to take into consideration when looking at an individual’s identity, as they are the very first two things you notice about a person when you meet them.
Race is a very strong influence on one’s identity. This can cause issues with racism; people affiliating themselves, therefore their identity, with groups that feel a certain way about another race or group. Just as with gender, people will make assumption about a person based on their race. If one is white people might assume they listen to country music or rock n roll; or if one is black people might assume they listen to rap or hip hop. These tie in with stereotypes, which sadly, are a part of our community today.
There are a higher number of certain races in certain places, with also leads to how culture affects one’s identity. Something that relates closely with race is language. A person’s language is part of their identity too. It can show where they were raised because of the slang you use. For example, there is the Spanish language, and off of that original Spanish language there is branches of adjusted languages. Some of these include Mexican Spanish or North Mexican Spanish. All of these are based off the standard Spanish language, but depending on where one was raised they may speak one of these ifferent variations of Spanish. This helps us identify people too, based on which one they speak, shows where they are from which is part of your identity. In Unpolished Gem the stereo typical view on people from an Chinese-Cambodian background is to excel at school and this weighs Alice down by putting enormous pressure on her because that is what is considered acceptable in a tight knit community. Culture: Culture is the combination of values, beliefs, and practices of a particular group.
The culture each person lives in shows them how to dress, talk, and act, acceptable behavior, and gives a guideline of what is considered acceptable and normal. As a child grows up in a particular culture they absorb the beliefs, and practices, then begin to use them in everyday activities. The culture a person is surrounded by will then play a role in the development of their identity. Identity is essentially a set a characteristics and traits that are attributed to one specific person. One of the main things your culture affects in shaping your identity is your morals.
Morals are a person’s standards of behavior or beliefs concerning what is and is not acceptable for them to do. These morals shape our identity as they shape how we live our lives as well as how we make an impact of society. In Unpolished Gem, Alice has a strong sense of what can be tolerated in both cultures from an Asian oblique migrant perspective even though throughout the book she starts to lose her ability to think in Chinese. This is an example of how even though a person may be proud of their cultural background this still out weights trying fit in or adapt to a new way of life.
For example, Alice and her family migrate to Australia to peruse the “Australian dream” which indicates that even though they have a different cultural background to Australian they have to adapt to the Australian culture in order to survive. In conclusion our individual identity is determined by many different factors like media, society, culture and race. These factors shape who we are and whom we grow up to be and how other people see us from day to day. Do we really know ourselves because our subconscious is ever changing to try and fit in to society on a daily basis and we only ever see what we want to see?
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