“Learning to navigate the many layers of your own identity, while also expanding your awareness of the multiple layers of others’, is an essential twenty-first-century skill, one that can take a lifetime to acquire. Begin on the path to mastery by discovering the many stories that can be only yours.”
That’s an excerpt from Manifesto for a Moral Revolution by Jacqueline Novogratz.
In this module of the leadership course, we were asked to reflect on our identities through a short activity. I’m sharing it with you here, so that you can try it as well.
- Write your identities: Gather a piece of paper and a pen. Set a timer for 3 minutes. In those 3 minutes, list all of your identities that come to mind.
- Reflect: Which identity did you list first? Why do you think you listed it first? What did you leave out? Why do you think you left it out?
We actually did a similar activity during the Storytelling & Gender Workshop at the Stress Free Summer Festival with Mirishahe from Kosovo—drawing a tree and writing our various identities on it with the purpose of making ourselves aware of just how many identities we consist of. (Each and every human being is so intricate, so delicate. Fascinating!)
The one that I listed first both times is ‘Estonian’—guess it’s just a prevalent one in my life right now. The follow-up assignment of the course was to describe one of our identities that gives us pride, and one that we tend to hide. Well, being an Estonian gives me both pride and a feeling that I need to hide. In alternation.
The pride comes from the understanding that it’s a miracle that we exist. We’re only one million people, but managed to preserve our unique language, culture and identity. Our feet are stuck deep in the mud of our swamps while our minds are never quite asleep, just as the darkness of our summers never quite arrives. We’re imagining, trying, working hard, always persisting with an understanding that our fate is in our own hands.
The moments when I’m feeling less proud are those when I sense that people around me are acting with a mindset of poverty, lack of education, lack of awareness. In these moments, I wish we were not “Eastern European”: not cheap, not so hard-working, not those “peasants” with their muddy feet. I wish that we—as a nation—were well-off, more cultivated, happier.
But.. Maybe I’m not there myself, and therefore apply my self-judgement and insecurity to my community. It’s always the mirror of ourselves that we see in others which hurts us the most, isn’t it? I need to find peace and pride in all aspects of our identity. Only this can set me free, and ‘Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” (Emma Lazarus).
WANT TO THINK FURTHER?
I recommend this book by Amin Maalouf, which allows to better understand how we navigate identities and the “hierarchy of identities.”
THE PATH OF MORAL LEADERSHIP
Looking back at COVID19, I remember those weeks in May when several online course platforms made their resources available for free to everyone. Wonderful initiative — while making some of us experience a tiny spike of stress. Are we missing out? Are we productive enough? Are we using our time at home in the best possible way? I signed up for many courses with enthusiasm (and mini-stress), but didn’t end up completing them. One exception to the rule is The Path of Moral Leadership by Acumen+, one that I managed to actually stay engaged with.
I am publishing a reflection and learnings on each of the modules in this space.