Who Are You? The Three Stages Of Self-Discovery

There’s a reason why BBC programme Who Do You Think You Are? has become such a breakout hit, both in the UK and across the pond in America: self-discovery. 

We may be living in a world with less borders, tick-boxes and judgement than before, but it doesn’t stop one’s natural curiosity to know; who we are and where we come from. Especially those from a mixed-heritage background.

During adolescence, a period when we form our personal identity, it can be a natural time to explore one’s self-identity.

Woman with hand held up to face concealing her identity

A quest for personal identity

A look at the most recent census (2011), shows that 2.2 per cent of the UK identify in ‘mixed/multiple ethnic groups’. But with only five categories (and 17 options available), it suggests that perhaps there’s a lack of representation for the wider world we live in today.

Why does this matter? For many reasons.

For the millions that identify as mixed-heritage, learning to navigate who you are is a process, and one that can be helped with greater understanding.

This is an area that piqued the interest of academic Bradley Lincoln, who subsequently went on to identify the stages of self-discovery.

Stage one: Nowhereness 

It starts with nowhereness; a sense that you don’t quite belong to any particular group. Your mother and father might come from different ethnic backgrounds, leaving you questioning which you actually belong to, if either at all.

This is a common feeling for many on the journey of self-discovery. It’s about trying to understand where they fit in, who they are, and which group (if any) they identify with most.

Stage two: Somewhereness

The aspiration, according to Lincoln, is to move people on from nowhereness to a place of somewhereness. This is where the individual starts to connect with one racial group, identifying commonality in who they are.

It’s an issue that brought Lincoln to launch ‘The Multiple Heritage Project’, hosting conferences for young people to share their personal experiences, as part of their own self-discovery.

But this is by no means a perfect outcome, as it suggests potentially over-identifying with one race.

Which brings us to the final point…

Different colour sneakers

Stage three: Groundedness

The final destination for self-discovery is groundedness. This is a place of acceptance, and typically requires the individual to have gone through the previous two stages to get here.

Arriving at groundedness means an inner self-confidence in who you are and acceptance of your heritage, in all its forms. A crucial breakthrough in thinking, is when you stop letting others tell you who you are, and start deciding for yourself. This is based on combining the different elements of both sides of your family.

Simply put, this is the final stage in completing your personal identity - knowing it’s this blend that makes you the wonderful, unique person you are.

Final thoughts

For some, the plight for self-discovery is never-ending, for others it can take months or years. We’re all on our own journeys, trying to navigate the world as we find it, and not as we would have it.

 Have you gone through a similar journey with your self-identity? We welcome all your thoughts and invite you to share them with the Wǒ

community by commenting below or sending a DM via @woarewo_uk


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