This expository piece draws upon the context ‘Identity and Belonging’ in conjunction with personal memoirs from Alice Pung’s ‘Growing up Asian in Australia’. The purpose of this piece is to explore and invite my audience to experience what it is like to be the subject of isolation due to differences in appearance, language and culture and to point out the internal struggles people have while trying to discover their true identity whilst in the presence of others.
I have referred to a number of stories from Alice Pung’s novel such as Towards manhood, a call to arms and sticks and stones and such like; all of which outline the issue of not being able to express oneself in the presence of others. The language used in this feature article is that of a formal and serious tone that reflects hardship of migrants and people who struggle to discover their true identity and a sense of belonging Essay In a diverse world where there is no conventional group to which we all belong it can be hard to find a concrete group where we can feel a sense of belonging and confidence to express ones true identity.
The presence of others whether it is family or friends effects the way we act in certain situations and groups and causes us to reluctantly have several identities. However they may not always be our true identity but put-on in order to satisfy others and act in accordance to what they expect of us. We can create a new identity by changing our appearance, clothes and position in a group however in the process we may lose sight and become confused about who we really are and what identity is appropriate for different groups.
It is not always easy to be our self in the presence of peers and family and living up to their expectations when you are confused about you own identity and sexuality. In the story ‘Towards Manhood’ the main character Benjamin found it challenging to be himself in the company of other because of his sexuality and not being able to conform to other’s expectations. He used his Asian appearance and identity to hide the fact that he was gay and he pretended to like a girl so his peers wouldn’t think he was “a comprised failure of a man”.
However when he confesses his sexuality to his mother, who surprisingly acknowledges that her son was gay and that “something went wrong in the womb” he begins to accept and come to terms with who he is. It is through the acceptance of other that are closest to you that you get a sense of belonging and security and for Benjamin this was his family and his boyfriend Scott. It is also difficult to be ourselves in the company of others when your physical appearance and culture are dissimilar.
Having a robust ethnic background can act upon the ability to fit into a foreign culture and way of life, but also it can affect the way others perceive us. In the story ‘A call to Arms’ Michelle found it hard to fit in because of the constant strain between Chinese heritage and Australian upbringing. Michelle felt a great deal of isolation because the Australian people weren’t accustomed to her appearance and her culture, “M y life seemed so incredibly abnormal compared to everyone else I knew” which often left her victimised by her peers.
Michelle began to be ashamed of her culture around the presence of her peers and she began to lose her sense of identity and belonging. However on her trip to Hong Kong she “felt something she had never experienced before, and something I certainly never consciously been seeking: acceptance”. Everything that wasn’t accepted back in Australia “no longer incited automatic embarrassment” and she was able to express her culture without being looked down upon.
It wasn’t until she tried to communicate to other in Chinese that she realised that only her appearance fitted in and finally acknowledges that both cultures shaped her identity. Our heritage and upbringing can place a great deal of stress when trying to conform to others and discover our own identity. It can leave us feeling isolated when around people that are different and not immune to your culture however sometimes people create a new identity in order to down play their culture and ethnic origins.
Having a strong ethnic heritage can sometimes urge people to create a new identity in order to feel a sense of connection and belonging with the societies around them. In the memoir ‘Sticks and stones and such like’ Sunil attempts to create an identity that is accepted by the Australian culture and does this by changing his name to one that is easily pronounced by his fellow peers and is considered to be an Anglo- white majority name. Sunil creates multiple identities in order to fit into a Majority Australian- white school and along the way sacrifices and betrays his culture.
After changing his name Sunil feels a sense of acceptance and anonymity among his white peers. However when Sunil’s mother finds out, she is dismayed that her son would give up his culture in order to feel a sense of belonging amongst his friends. After finding out about the origins of his name and why his mother treasured it so much, Sunil begins to rediscover his ethnic identity and finally accepts his own name and finds a sense of belonging.
By having a different name that is unfamiliar to the people around you can sometimes give a sense of isolation and highlight the culture barriers between people. Often many ethnic people change their name in order to conform and make it easier to pronounce for the people that are unaccustomed to their language and culture and by taking on another name, they also create a new identity and clear any stereotypes of that race. We cannot always be our self in the company of others and that urges us to take on another identity.
People often create a false identity on social networking sites in order to create a person that is desired by peers and also random people. People who are discriminated against or behold a sense of isolation because of differences in appearance and culture often create a profile online of how they want to appear to others and by creating a false identity that they can hide behind can give them a sense of belonging to a group and acceptance.
We cannot always be ourselves in the company of others which often leads to false identities being created and a sense of not fitting in. The presence of other determines the identities in which we take on or want to be perceived as however this can also lead to a misinterpretation of their real identity and also sacrifices of heritage and culture.
Courtney from Study Moose
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