Social identity can be, simultaneously, powerful and destructive. I’ve given this idea a lot of thought this summer. Much of the reason for this is due to a loss and confusion I’ve felt within myself. Living on a border between two different worlds has produced a complex and disoriented sense of identity within me. In my Bosnian community, I am not ‘Bosnian enough’ while any introduction to my American community is a reminder that my roots begin elsewhere.
But, social identity relies on a definition that is all too often set by the said community. My sense of identity relied heavily on my Bosnian community and being a refugee in the States had a lot to do with it. When you’re not familiar with the language, surroundings or traditions of your host country, you tend to fall back on what you know. While I found myself drifting further and further from my own cultural norms, I felt a sense of need to conform. While I felt no spiritual connection to Islam, I found myself in Mosques.
Definition matters and I chose to redefine my identity. I cannot forget where I come from and no longer have this fear that I will if I stray just slightly from my Bosnian community. America has become a home for me and I am fortunate to have all the possibilities it offers. It is undeniable that both communities influence me. Even more, that every place has changed me in some way or another. However, I cannot be conformed to a box – what I am supposed to be and what I’m not. I acknowledge my privilege is saying that.
All in all, having a sense of community or belonging, not so much identity, is essential to our wellness. In the same respect, where we come from (whether a different country or a local community) influences our character however; it is not limited to just that. We are more than the groups that we come from. We are a collage of backgrounds and experiences and that for me is one of the most beautiful aspects of our lives.