The Power of Owning Your Cultural Heritage

Nigeria and The Bahamas

We are in an age of multiculturalism, diversity and inclusion, and empathy–and it is still very challenging for many people to know how to connect with people of divergent backgrounds. Some people feel looked down upon because of their race, culture, or nationality because assumptions about a person’s attitudes or beliefs can be triggered just based on these factors.

How, then, should cultural diversity be responded to, respected, and appreciated? How should you acknowledge cultures that are different from yours at work?

Should you share information about where you are from, or should you keep it private?

I know some people who are deathly afraid of sharing where they are from because of shame and embarrassment. They feel they will be labeled, put in a box, miss out on opportunities and all that jazz, and rightly so. Unconscious biases spring up whether someone knows a little or a lot about you, so why add to it, right?

Here’s the thing. Assumptions will be made no matter what. When you are afraid of sharing where you are from or your cultural heritage, you are unable to step confidently and boldly into your purpose or calling.

If you feel embarrassed about the culture you have been born into, there is an excellent opportunity for growth and development.

Let me tell you why.

When you step into who you are, it doesn’t matter what anyone says about your culture or where you are from. You are not your culture. You are not where you are from, but your culture and where you are from is a part of who you are.

Let me explain.

If you have never examined this aspect of yourself, know that your culture influences how you think, how you perceive things, how you make sense of the world, and how you show up online and offline. And, if you are hiding that part of yourself from yourself and not embracing that part of you, it will be challenging to show up in the fullest and most authentic expression of who you are.

I understand. Maybe you are protecting yourself, and your culture or heritage has aspects that feel embarrassing. Let me share something personal with you. When I grew up in The Bahamas, no one knew I had Nigerian heritage. I was never told NOT to say anything about it. We just didn’t talk about that part of me much.

As I matured, the dominant views I heard about Nigeria and Africa, in general, made me think of chaos, poverty, corruption, scams, and other negative aspects. It’s not an uncommon view where I grew up. I mean, who would want to affiliate with anything like that?

But it wasn’t until I practiced self-awareness, and more closely examined the views and beliefs I was exposed to, that I was able to embrace without shame, or embarrassment all parts of me.

I am not my culture. I am not a representation of my culture. But yes, my culture is a part of who I am.

As a result of gaining more insight into yourself, you become more open to seeing, viewing, and challenging the negative assumptions you may have about others. You can look for evidence of what you thought to be true, and in a professional setting with diverse teams, you can use your curiosity to learn more about people that are different from you. Sometimes, this can be through a simple conversation where you can find similarities with a culture you feel distanced from—similarity assists empathy.

Comfort in cross-cultural conversation depends on a willingness to talk. But it is also a matter of receptivity–and acting with authenticity while even acknowledging others. Authentic individuals do not refrain from embracing who they are, but rather, they embrace their own unique culture and are not afraid of differentiating themselves.

What are your thoughts? Are you struggling to embrace this part of you? If you are of African or Caribbean heritage, and you are ready to step fully into your purpose and talents, you need to contact me today.