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Embracing your identity and community

Connecting with our roots, discovering our unique strengths or simply embracing our true self can enhance our sense of identity, fostering happiness and resilience.

friends at a party

Discovering our place within our community and understanding our identity is an ongoing journey influenced by lots of different things. As we navigate life, our sense of self may evolve. A strong connection to our community and a positive sense of identity can be helpful in healing, building resilience and enhancing overall wellbeing.

“Knowing your identity can be about your wairua, but it can also be intellectual and emotional. Sometimes, you feel like you are not being heard. People want to be seen and heard so they can feel good within themselves.” – Matua Tau Huirama

Our identity shapes our thoughts, actions, values and interactions. It's a reflection of how we see ourselves and plays an important role in our mental wellbeing.

Our identity shapes our thoughts, actions, values and interactions. It's a reflection of how we see ourselves and plays an important role in our mental wellbeing. Identity is more than just your ancestry – it is your age, gender identity, sexuality, musical tastes, friendship groups, academic and professional background and so many other things.

A strong sense of identity can give us a sense of purpose and belonging, both individually and in groups. A strong sense of identity can bring heightened self-awareness, self-worth, confidence and resilience. If you’re feeling disconnected or confused about where you belong, there are people out there who get where you're coming from and can offer you support and understanding.

Cultural connections
“Having cultural pride keeps a person grounded and creates a foundation of values and confidence within them. It makes us who we are.” – Matt, mental wellbeing kaiarahi

Embracing our cultural uniqueness encourages a sense of connection and acceptance. Culture can be tied to our family, heritage and traditions but can be something outside of our families that we connect with. Culture is also related to faith or spirituality or to subcultures based around music, technology, art, sports or other hobbies. It can be shared by people of a similar age or similar life experiences. Joining in cultural activities, understanding values and talking with respected people can deepen these connections.

There are all sorts of ways of connecting to and expressing your culture such as spending time with your whānau or taking part in community events as well as through the arts, dance, music, food and clothing.

“So even within our household, we had this kind of clash of we’re Samoan on one hand, but actually we’re also New Zealanders on the other. And, it felt like there was a particular type of Pacific kid that I was supposed to be.” Watch Vito's story

If you're feeling disconnected, consider these strategies to create a deeper sense of belonging:

  • Dive into your roots: Learn about your cultural background. Understanding your heritage can provide clarity on your thoughts, feelings and actions.
  • Embrace your heritage: Familiarise yourself with your family's history and traditions. Recognising your ancestors and cultural practices can anchor your sense of self.
  • Celebrate your culture: Engage with your culture. Remember, there's no set way to connect with your roots. It's a personal journey that evolves over time.
  • Engage with your community: Participate in local events – church gatherings, community projects or neighbourhood initiatives. Lending a hand benefits others and nurtures your sense of belonging.
  • Open up: Share your feelings with someone you trust. Sometimes, just voicing your emotions can provide relief and perspective.
  • Reconnect with whānau: Spending quality time with whānau can reinforce your sense of identity and provide a comforting sense of familiarity. Whānau can mean blood connections or kaupapa whānau – people you feel close to through friendship or shared beliefs, identity and passions.

For more information, see our relationships page by clicking here.

Finding your community

Connecting with like-minded individuals can strengthen our wellbeing and resilience. Engaging with our community, nature and the world can guide our self-care journey.

"I've learnt that it’s okay to be different. You know, autism is just a different way of thinking. It’s okay to experience a different way of being." – Watch Gabrielle's story

At times, others' labels or expectations might challenge our sense of identity. This can make it difficult to tell people about your experiences or find someone who can help you to understand your identity. Finding supportive communities and individuals who understand will strengthen your wellbeing.

Some ideas to help you on your journey:

  • Engage with your community: Participate in community events to foster connections.
  • Dive into culture and history: Have conversations and learn about the rich make-up of your cultural background.
  • Build supportive relationships: Connect with friends and people who uplift and support you.
  • Embrace language: Learning a new language can deepen your connection to your cultural roots and broaden your community ties.
  • Discover your ancestry: Research the origins and meanings of your family name. Look into stories of past generations to understand your heritage.
  • Celebrate cultural cuisine: Experiment with traditional recipes from your culture, embracing the flavours and stories behind each dish.
  • Immerse in the arts: Explore music, art and literature. Let it inspire your creativity and deepen your connection to your roots.

Seeking support

If you're grappling with your own identity, remember you're not alone. Reach out, share your feelings and seek guidance. Whether it's face to face or over the phone, talking can help.

Here are some places that may be able to provide support:

  • Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor.
  • Depression helpline – 0800 111 757 or free text 4202 (to talk to a trained counsellor about how you are feeling or to ask any questions).
  • OutLine – 0800 688 5463 (0800 OUTLINE) – sexuality or gender identity helpline.
  • Youthline - 0800 376 633 or free text 234.

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