“How do I figure out who I am?” This question was raised recently in a consultation session… but it joins a mighty chorus. Many people struggle with this issue at some point in their lives, but the issue of personal identity becomes more complex for many Third Culture Kids, due to the multiple cultural selves they have developed over their time abroad.
In UK culture, the culture in which I am embedded these days, there is a preoccupation with Authenticity that fascinates me. There is a race to discover our ‘authentic’ self, to be authentic, to act authentically. A race that suggests we will at some point arrive at a consistent Self… one that could be pin pointed on a map and independently verified.
If we take ‘authentic’ to refer to something not false or copied… this goes some way to explain the TCK’s frustrated journey of authenticity! After all, the way we travelled through multiple cultural environments was through ‘copying’ the cultural norms of those around us! We adapted, imitated, reflected and yes, copied. So how can a TCK be ‘authentic’? How can we figure out our ‘true selves’?
In response to this question posed me in consultation, I suggested we adopt another paradigm. What happens if we replace ‘Who is the self I am?’ with ‘Who is the self I want to be?’ Immediately we can take the pressure off discovering something ‘authentic’ in our inner core. The second question suggests instead that we have choice over the self we are… it also reminds us that our selves are always in motion, in the process of becoming rather than something set and static.
“Who do I want to be” doesn’t need to condemn us to a future of faking it… instead it offers a plethora of opportunities. Who do I want to be? I want to be a Rachel who worries more about having enough cake ingredients in the cupboard than the calories involved… I want to be a Rachel who remembers the sunrise on the sand dune… and loves the autumnal sunshine in England… I want to be a Rachel who loves flowers, be they bougainvillea or geranium… I don’t have to be limited to my one Authentic Self… and neither do you.
If you are struggling to settle in your self… drop me an email and we can set up a free consultation. I’d love to be a part of your journey!