Author: Lianna Huseman
There are so many layers to visit, embrace and untangle, when exploring what culture means to you. How we, people, identify ourselves is strongly rooted in connection to the culture we identify with. What is culture? Where does it derive from? Do I belong to any one culture? These questions may feel a bit foreign to some and others may know exactly what their culture means to them. Either way, connecting to the narrative that helped shape how we perceive the world can also assist us in understanding our current thoughts, behaviors and emotions.
Mental health can very much be a sensitive topic and or even a conversation to talk about; in fact, it may even be a taboo topic to explore all together. This would be an example of how culture shapes how we perceive a foreign concept – the concept is typically defined for us. This is how we learn most things though, right? Culture is typically responsible for our first learning experiences and continues to guide us, throughout our life. However, how often do we turn to our “roots” when we are struggling to understand where we have arrived in life? I am wondering how many of us are attuned enough to know what culture/cultural aspects we belong to. Connecting to where we “came from” can ultimately help us navigate through current perceptions we own, even if we are questioning whether or not we still believe in those perceptions.
Culture tends to be associated with ethnic background, but it is so much more than that. Culture is what surrounds us, what we see, hear, smell, touch and feel. As we grow, we take what we connect with and leave the rest behind … or do we? Culture has a unique way of staying connected to us, even if we are not conscious of it. This is where we, if present, may take the time to truly digest how our culture has shaped our perception. Are we aware of why we may think negatively about addressing our mental health, let alone making it a priority?
Depending on the culture you belong to and or come from, mental health may have never been addressed or acknowledged. In that case, why would you be open to a concept so unfamiliar or not accepted? Culture plays a large role in how we see ourselves and those around us; in addition, culture helps determine the vocabulary we use to describe it. At times, I was curious as to why it took me so long to ask for help, from a professional. It was so hard for me to unveil my vulnerability, to show my “weakness” to another – it felt shameful. Where did I learn this perception of myself? You guessed it, my Mexican American culture. At first, I blamed it for my shortcomings, but once I understood it, I embraced where I came from and made a choice to add to what I defined as “MY culture.”