They say every culture is a story waiting to be told. Discover your own cultural identity and uncover the buried treasure within. Here is the map that helped me and many others write our autobiography and unearth the gems of our diverse backgrounds.
Hey there! I’m a grad student studying Psychology (Therapeutic Arts), and recently, I had to write a 10-page autobiography about my own culture. Sounds a bit boring, right?
But it turned out to be an enlightening experience and a deep journey into my multicultural history.
Now, I want to help you explore your own culture and help you write your own cultural autobiography so that you can increase your awareness and take pride in your unique background.
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Getting Started: Cultural Identity Self-Reflection
Take some time to reflect on your cultural identity. Think about your ethnic background, family, language, values, beliefs, and traditions. Write about what you have learned and how it has impacted your life.
What you need:
- Pen and paper or a computer or phone to type your document
- Quiet space with few distractions
- An open and non-judgmental mind. (It is okay to have bad experiences come up. Allow yourself to feel the emotion, journal it, and remember it’s okay to take a break if you need to.)
When You’re Finished
There are a few things you can do after you’ve journaled your answers and reflected on your cultural identity.
- Share your story on social media and inspire or teach others
- Ask these same questions to your family members and grow closer
- Use your experiences for creative inspiration. (write a story, paint a picture, draw cultural symbols, etc.)
Cultural Self-Reflection Questions
Explore 7 cultural dimensions, each with a set of 11 thought-provoking questions. These prompts will guide your self-reflection and inspire your autobiography.
Race, Ethnicity, National Origin, and Geographic Background Journaling Prompts
- What do you identify as your nationality background, racial group, and ethnic identity?
- In what geographic region were you raised?
- Were you raised in a rural or urban environment?
- What values are typical of that region?
- Where did your ancestors come from?
- Why and how did you or your ancestors come to your current country?
- In what ways did you/they adjust to this new home?
- What aspects of your/their culture of origin were retained?
- What impact does this way of entering the country and the subsequent adjustment have on your culture? On your identity?
- How did you or your ancestors adjust to their new home when they arrived in your current country? Were there specific challenges they faced, and what strategies did they use to adapt to their new surroundings?
- Have you ever explored your ancestral roots by visiting your country of origin or connecting with relatives from that region? What did you learn from these experiences, and how did they affect your cultural identity?
Spirituality and Religion Journaling Prompts
- What was your religious affiliation (if any) during your childhood?
- How did this come to be in your family?
- How are conflicts in your family that are due to religious values resolved?
- What do you think this religious preference reflects about your heritage/culture?
- What is your religious/spiritual affiliation now (if any)? If it has changed, how did that transformation happen?
- Do you have any cherished family rituals or traditions related to your spirituality or religion? If so, can you describe one that holds particular significance to you?
- Are there any annual religious or spiritual celebrations that you participate in? What role do these celebrations play in your life, and how have they evolved over the years?
- Are there specific religious or spiritual symbols, objects, or artifacts that hold personal significance for you? What do they mean to you, and how do they connect you to your faith or spirituality?
- How do you integrate your spirituality or religion into your daily life? Are there daily rituals or practices that help you feel more connected to your beliefs?
- Have you ever explored other religious or spiritual traditions outside of your own? What did you learn from these experiences, and how did they influence your own beliefs?
- Are there any specific rituals or celebrations from your heritage or culture that you feel particularly connected to, even if you aren’t religious? How do these traditions shape your identity and sense of belonging?
Gender and Sexuality Journaling Prompts
- What are your gender and sexual orientation?
- How are gender and sexual orientation differences handled in your family of origin?
- How is sexism in your culture addressed?
- What behaviors, characteristics, beliefs, and values are defined by gender in your family and cultural background?
- How are gender roles/responsibilities divided?
- How is conflict between gender roles handled in your family?
- What are some specific rules for marriage and childrearing in your family?
- Delve into the societal norms and expectations related to gender in your family and cultural background. Are there behaviors, characteristics, beliefs, or values that are traditionally associated with different genders? How have these influenced your own identity and experiences?
- Examine the division of gender roles and responsibilities within your family. Are there distinct expectations for males and females when it comes to household tasks, caregiving, or decision-making? How have these roles evolved over time?
- Consider how conflicts arising from gender roles are handled in your family. Have there been instances of tension or disagreement regarding these roles, and how were they resolved? What lessons have you learned from these experiences?
- Write any personal experiences or stories related to your gender identity or sexual orientation that have had a profound impact on your life. How did these experiences shape your sense of self and your relationships with others?
Age and Physical Ability Journaling Prompts
- What is your age?
- Consider your interactions with your peers, as well as your elders.
- How does your age affect your experience in your family of origin?
- How has your level of physical ability shaped you as a person?
- Reflect on your interactions with peers and elders in your family. How do these interactions shape your identity and your role within the family dynamic? Are there generational differences or similarities that stand out to you?
- Have you ever experienced age-related stereotypes or biases, either as a young person or as an older individual? How did these stereotypes impact you, and how did you respond to them?
- Consider the concept of intergenerational relationships within your family. Are there traditions, stories, or knowledge passed down through different generations that hold special meaning for you?
- How do you navigate the balance between independence and reliance on others as you age? Are there challenges or opportunities that come with growing older, and how do you approach them?
- Think about your physical abilities and how they have evolved over time. Have you faced any physical challenges or limitations? How have these experiences influenced your self-perception and your interactions with others?
- Are there specific physical activities or hobbies that are particularly important to you, and how do they contribute to your overall well-being and sense of self?
- Reflect on the concept of aging gracefully. What does this mean to you, and how do you envision your own aging journey? Are there role models or individuals you look up to in this regard?
Class and Geography Journaling Prompts
- What is the socioeconomic history of your family?
- What role or meaning does socioeconomics have for people with backgrounds like yours?
- If your socioeconomic history is different now, how did that transformation happen?
- Have people in your family of origin gone to college?
- What were music, art, and clothing preferences like in your family of origin?
- What were the political preferences of your family of origin?
- Have there been any significant political discussions or debates within your family that stand out in your memory? How did these conversations impact your understanding of politics and society?
- What do you think this political preference reflects about your heritage/culture?
- What is your political preference now?
- If it has changed, how did that transformation happen?
- Explore the educational background of your family members. Have people in your family of origin pursued higher education, and if so, how has it influenced their career paths and opportunities?
Personal Relationships Journaling Prompts
- Think of significant people in your life when you were a child/adolescent (i.e., parents/guardians, siblings, close relatives, teachers, clergy, etc.).
- What do you remember about their attitudes and feelings toward multicultural and diverse populations different than your own?
- How were racism, heterosexism, genderism, ageism, classism, etc. addressed?
- What did you overhear them saying about multicultural and diverse groups different than your own?
- Who determined the “social norms” and “rules” of your family?
- How were they enforced?
- How were they passed to younger members of the family/group?
- What events can you remember that involved personal contact with diverse groups?
- What were/are your thoughts, feelings, and reactions?
- How many of your close, long-time friends were members of multicultural and diverse groups different than your own?
- In what ways, if any, were these friendships different from other friendships you have with friends who reflect your own cultural groups?
- What significant events have affected your family and those closest to you?
Cultural Group Membership Journaling Prompts
- When did you first become aware that you were a member of each of the groups that have shaped your identity, whether you chose to embrace or reject those aspects?
- Please add any other information you think is pertinent to your cultural identity.
- Can you recall the moment or experience when you first realized you were a member of a particular cultural, social, or identity group? How did this awareness come about, and how did you initially react to it?
- Reflect on any pivotal moments in your life when you consciously chose to embrace or reject certain aspects of your group memberships. What factors or influences led to these decisions, and what impact did they have on your identity?
- Are there multiple group memberships that have played a significant role in shaping your identity? Describe how these memberships intersect and influence one another.
- Share any personal anecdotes or stories related to your group memberships that have had a lasting impact on your sense of self or your relationships with others.
- Explore the traditions, customs, or practices associated with your group memberships. How do these traditions contribute to your cultural identity, and do you actively participate in them?
- Consider the influence of your group memberships on your worldview, beliefs, and values. How have they shaped your perspective on social issues, diversity, and inclusion?
- Reflect on the challenges or conflicts you may have encountered as a result of your group memberships. How did you navigate these situations, and did they lead to personal growth or change in your identity?
- Are there individuals, role models, or mentors within your group memberships who have inspired or influenced you in significant ways? What lessons or insights have you gained from these relationships?
- Describe any ongoing efforts or initiatives you are involved in to celebrate or raise awareness about your group memberships. How do these activities contribute to your sense of belonging and identity?
I hope these questions inspired you on a journey of self-exploration.
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