Defining Our Healthy Identity

We are Iranian. What does it mean?  We live around the world, obtain citizenship in western countries, and identify ourselves with Western cultures.

What does it mean?

When our children ask: who are we, where do we belong, what is my true nationality, we usually have a silent sigh before we answer this hard question. Identity for people is what culture is for the sum of who we are. We have to identify ourselves with places, people, environment, and objects in order to find meaning for our lives. We Iranian lost our identity many years ago, however we are survivors and still we try to make sense of the pieces of our identity.

If we could put an advertisement in the wanted section of a newspaper we could formulate ourselves as: Healthy Identity is being sought more than ever or we buy healthy identify for any price. 

Trauma after trauma hits our true self. One disaster after another threatens our being and our becoming. We have an unconscious defence mechanism that helps us to survive; we as a nation have survived all these traumas.

That defence mechanism is our strong identity as being Iranian. Now, depending on our citizenship documents, we can add the newly obtained identity to the equation. I am an Iranian-Canadian-Swedish. How about that?

What do I mean by conversing about this topic? I am not questioning whether we have an identity or not. I am inquiring about how our sense of being could be healthy and how these healthy identities look like.

National Identity is not a noun, it is not a verb and it is definitely not an adjective. Identity is a discourse, a concept that pertain our essence, our source, our roots, and our belonging.  It also involves our style of life, our habits, our behaviours, and our coping mechanisms. 

Identity is about our past, present, and future. If we do not like to dig into the past, how are we able to focus on our becoming?  Once we were a kid, we were asked how we wanted to be when we grow up.  We would then name those ideas that were put into our mouth.  

We never could think of saying, I want to be myself, I want to be an Iranian, I want to belong to a group of people, or I want to feel happy about who I am.

What did we like to become or to be when we were a kid?  What did we want to become?  Identity follows our dreams to become and identity is part of our becoming.  

We are who we are now because we did not wish for anything better, not that our dreams or wishes could always come true. No. Neither we did have any contemplation about what a healthy identity could look like, nor did our parents.

We just wished to become doctors, engineers, pilots, lawyers, and all those high status positions that our parents wanted us to be. We were not told to become human being who could contribute to our communities and to improve our situations. 

We were not told that it is up to a community to raise a child and up to a community to build a notion of identity, a healthy one.  However, what happened to the true self that wanted to become something else?  What happened to our identity as not only as Iranian but also as a diverse group of people with numerous religious identities and cultural background?   

I guess the identity of being gay or having various sexuality preferences, are not even close to the Iranian version of our identities.  We are far behind this proclamation of rights, at least not that I can think of.

If it did not happen before, now it is time. We can not escape this reality. The question is now where do we find our identity? Where is it? What pattern it has? What colour would that be? What we recognize for sure is that we should proclaim our identity as who we and what groups we belong to.

What do I mean by proclaiming? I mean certainly to recognize our roots and to be proud of our diversities, to be able to find a common ground while respecting one another for the diverse backgrounds we have. We are getting better; still we have a long way to go.

We come from various beliefs, values and practices.  We have to appreciate the fact that we are this rich people with all the different style of life. We can not afford to censure ourselves more than we have done until now. We should learn to find our true identities, whatever we like to be or whatever source we realize we are part of. 

We need to prevent more harm, prejudice, racial biases and preconceived notion of who we are, by acknowledging our ethnicity and individual identity.

We should remember that our experiences are subjective, embodied, and real for us.  We have to realize that every single experience is important and make a difference. It has to be understood that the complex situation back home and the mass immigration of our Iranian people are indeed painful.

Today, we Iranian live in a more multicultural world, a reason for us being able to integrate and melt much easier. The other reality is that today people move easier than before which is another factor for us Iranian search for our dream life wherever we find it.

Many times there are unbearable and overwhelming situations that many men and women from our communities are dealing with, all in all, leading to various aspects of psychological disturbances.

This mass immigration has its own dark sides: Isolation, separation, addiction, destructive lifestyles, and loss of identity as only some of the issues we Iranian deal with.  Deep down we are not happy about not living in our home country. We may be happy not having to deal with the inconsiderate and inconsistent reality back home. 

Still we always look back. It looks like that we have our eyes on our home land every single day. Now that the drums of war are being played, we are scared more than ever, at least those of us who care.

Dislocation is a heavy weight on our shoulders, heavier than the rainy sky, and heavier than our pains.


Sometimes we have to manipulate our thoughts to get back to the concept of here and now mood.

We Iranian have been persuaded for decades and centuries to be something we are not.  However we tend to have good grasp of our rights in the countries we live in.  Not forgetting that in our own home country we have no rights to claim, at least it is not easy to claim any rights back home.

Sense of community and social identity are two major concepts that rarely exceeding the cohort of family members, relatives and people from same community.

In our very recent years we are getting into some social groups, to talk, to breathe, to think, and to reflect our own situation. The life in migration means that people have to find companionship in social occasions while trying to maintain the contacts with the old group of acquaintances.

Psychology is becoming the topic of interest for many Iranian women and men out there in the world.  Identity and sense of belonging is certainly one of the areas that are reflected in all our literature, poems, songs, and entertainment industry.

Identity takes us a long way in life. We should have a good ride and enjoy the views. Once our children know who we are they have a bigger chance to integrate and succeed as a human being and as a citizen everywhere they are.

Note: using the pronoun we refers to we as Iranian, as human beings, as people who identify themselves with Iran. This notion of we is a discourse and it is a broad area where many people can identity themselves with.

Poran Poregbal Vancouver, B.C. July 11, 2008