“If you trade your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment and inexplicable grief.” Brené Brown
So many immigrants who arrive in the US feel awkward about their accents, wishing that they could simply disappear.
When I arrived in the US, I desperately wanted to hide my accent. I rehearsed what I wanted to say in my mind, stringing words into a sentence before I allowed the words to leave my mouth. I actually didn’t want people to know that I was from another country. I wanted to fit in and I was willing to reject parts of myself to experience acceptance and belonging.
As immigrants we worry about the way we’ll be received by “others”, especially locals. Will they be excited to find out that we are from Mexico or Poland or China, etc.?
Or will they have an expression of repulsion or confusion on their face?
When I introduce myself and people ask me where my name is
from, I respond with:
Most people will tell me that they know so and so who is Armenian.
I notice that as human beings we want to associate something unfamiliar to something we already know, so we can feel safe.
Not many people can tolerate uncertainty or novelty in big doses. So, to minimize the discomfort, people have a tendency to categorize us. Stereotyping might follow suit after we say our name or where we are from.
What if instead focusing on your accent or how you’ll be perceived, you placed your attention on your heart space and connected with “others” from there?
Regardless of how someone responds, your worth and value as an immigrant isn’t dependent on others. Instead, you could practice accepting yourself fully, while being authentic in your interactions, realizing that the way people react has more to do with them, than you.
Who knows how much exposure a person you are connecting with had to various cultures. It might be none at all and you are the first person he/she is meeting from that part of the world.
Unless someone enjoys cultures and diversity, they most likely will feel some fear as they come into contact with you. If you also feel afraid as you approach someone, then both of you are interacting with one another from that place. Unless you can feel yourself in that moment and the other person, then not much of a connection will be experienced in your interaction.
Also, keep in mind that underneath the accents and the layer of culture(s), we all have hearts, we all have feelings, we all have souls, we all have bodies.
We are interconnected and are part of one BIG human family. Unless we learn to relate to each other from that space, we’ll continue to put people into boxes, and they will do the same with us.
I would be thrilled to live in a world where we celebrate our differences, embrace our accents and cultures, while fostering a deep belonging with each other that is based on love and care!
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