By: Ashlei Lien, LMFT
As BIPOC Mental Health Month has come to an end, it's a perfect time for self-reflection and exploring the intricacies of our unique identities. As someone who identifies as half Mexican and half white, I have experienced a multitude of emotions, challenges, and triumphs on my journey to understanding and embracing my heritage. In this blog post, I want to share my personal experiences, particularly focusing on the intersection between mental health and the duality of my cultural background.
The Duality of Identity:
Growing up with a blended heritage has blessed me with a rich tapestry of traditions,
languages, and perspectives. However, it has also presented me with unique challenges, as I often find myself navigating between two distinct cultural worlds. This duality can be both a source of strength and a cause of internal conflict. Struggling to find a sense of belonging and grappling with cultural identity can have a profound impact on mental health.
Cultural Identity and Mental Health:
The pressure to fit into societal norms and conform to certain expectations can be
overwhelming. As a person with mixed heritage, I have encountered instances where I've felt like I didn't fully belong to either side of my cultural background. This feeling of not being "enough"; can lead to identity crises, low self-esteem, and increased vulnerability to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. And, of course, I was diagnosed with panic disorder at age 20, which was only the start of my lifelong journey with my mental health. It is crucial to acknowledge the importance of cultural identity in mental well-being. Embracing and celebrating our unique heritage can help foster a sense of pride and belonging, promoting better mental health outcomes. However, it's also essential to recognize that the process of self-discovery and acceptance may take time and involve self-reflection, education, and open conversations within our families and communities. That is obviously a lot easier said than done when you think about confronting cultural norms. Shaking up the status quo can have its drawbacks as not everyone is ready for things to be shaken up or discussed. That doesn’t mean to shy away from the conversation, but it does mean that there might be outcomes we cannot foresee, have a support system in place.
Navigating Cultural Expectations:
Being half Mexican and half white means encountering different cultural expectations and norms. Sometimes, these expectations can clash, leading to conflicting emotions and pressures. For instance, on one hand, there might be expectations to conform to the values and traditions of my Mexican heritage, while on the other hand, societal pressures may push me towards assimilating into mainstream white culture. The strain of trying to balance these expectations can have and has had a significant impact on my mental well-being throughout my life. It's essential to remember that there is no "right"
way to embody your heritage. Embracing the parts of your cultural background that resonate with you and finding a balance that feels authentic to your unique self can be empowering. I used to feel as though I had to prove my Mexican status to others rather than settling into who I know I am regardless of how others think about me.
Embracing Self-Care and Seeking Support:
During BIPOC Mental Health Month, it's crucial to prioritize self-care and seek support when needed. The journey of understanding and embracing your identity can be emotionally taxing. Engaging in activities that nurture your mental health, such as practicing mindfulness, journaling, or connecting with others who share a similar background, can be immensely beneficial. Moreover, reaching out for professional help when necessary is a sign of strength. Mental health professionals who specialize in working with BIPOC individuals can provide a safe and inclusive space to explore and process the complexities of our identities. Seeking therapy or counseling can equip us with the necessary tools to navigate the challenges we may face and strengthen our resilience.
As BIPOC Mental Health Month comes to an end, it is an opportune time to reflect on the
impact our cultural identities have on our mental well-being. Being half Mexican and half white has allowed me to embrace the beauty of diversity within myself, but it has also presented unique struggles. By acknowledging these challenges, celebrating our heritage, and prioritizing our mental health, we can foster a greater sense of self-acceptance and resilience. Let us use this month as a catalyst for change and awareness, working towards a society that embraces and supports the mental health of all individuals, regardless of their cultural backgrounds. Together, we can create a world where everyone feels seen, heard, and valued.