It’s hard to imagine that in seemingly progressive and diverse countries, such as Canada and America, keeping your identity would ever be an issue. You would think that everyone is respectful and inclusive of each other’s religious beliefs, and would accept any religious identities people choose to keep or wear. Sadly, this is not the case as many people still struggle with maintaining their religious and self identities. Maintaining one’s identity while trying to “fit in” with society and your peers can appear like an unachievable task at times.
Many people of Asian heritage often struggle with the idea of “fitting in” or being accepted as they feel different from others based on their physical appearance or religious artifacts that they may wear. Particularly in school settings, students with different religious identities struggle with this issue. Many students face discrimination for wearing religious identities, such as a turban or a hijab. This can certainly have a major impact on one’s mental wellness. As these young adults are growing up, they may choose to not adopt aspects of their faith that showcase their religious identities such as wearing a turban or a hijab. While this may help with their confidence and overall well being at the time, these individuals may end up regretting the decision they made earlier on in life as they succumb to their environment at a young age.
There are many people out there struggling with this issue. I met one young adult who shared with me that he was called a girl many times as a child due to the fact that he kept his hair long which was part of his religious beliefs. As a kid that incident didn’t bother him much but as he grew up and the incidents kept recurring, it had an impact on his self esteem. He decided to cut his hair, which is a decision he wishes he hadn’t made.
To the ones being brave and maintaining their religious identities in a world that can sometimes be cruel, I would say stay strong and do not feel embarrassed that you are different from others. Differences can be beautiful and should be celebrated. Maintaining your religious identity is not something to be ashamed of, rather something to be proud of. Also, keep in mind that oftentimes people of other communities may simply be curious, so take every opportunity you get to educate others about your culture or religion.
So, let’s all be kind and compassionate and accept each other fully and not in parts. Let’s make it easier for people to maintain their identities and really make our communities inclusive. In a physically distant and socially isolated world, let’s open our hearts and embrace each other with love and kindness.
Edited by Michelle Nishidera