Much beauty can be found in cultures; the food, clothes, traditions, etc; but do some cultural teachings hinder more than they uplift us?
Some cultures dictate who you can marry, who does what and how your house must be run, who gets the highest respect, and who doesn’t, who should be trusted, and who you should stay away from are just a few of many teachings to name.
Why are we turning a blind eye on some cultural teachings that aren’t healthy or aligned with our Islamic teachings?!
When Do Cultural Teachings Start?
From the moment we’re born we’re learning from everyone else around us. Our thoughts, morals, goals, values, and beliefs are shaped by those closest to us until we reach a mental maturity when we might question what we’ve been taught.
If you do question you’re met with replies of “Trust me I know better, We’ve always done it this way”, or “This is just how it is”. These replies create confusion when trying to gain self-identity but it also shows that even the older generations don’t have the answers to why they’ve been taught certain cultural teachings too. Each generation is just recycling what they’ve been taught both the good and bad for the next generations to follow.
I love culture but I see fault in it too!
Being Eritrean I really do love my culture and was brought up to see the beauty in it, but I saw early on the negative things about it. For example, the teaching that the kitchen is a woman’s responsibility and that the man shouldn’t be in the kitchen.
This cultural teaching is very oppressive towards women and is shared amongst many other cultures. However, this isn’t a teaching of Islam but we still have a large proportion of people still practicing this and other contradictory teachings too.
Let’s be clear, this isn’t just from the older generations, I’ve met a lot of millennials who still follow and believe in these teachings, shocker I know given we have more access to knowledge and live all over the world!
It saddens me to hear my Muslim friends say they wish they could marry outside of their culture and race but can’t because of the shame it would bring their families, so have accepted settling for someone just because of cultural teachings enforced by families.
Marriages should never start like this! It doesn’t promote freedom of choice, follow the Islamic teachings or give value and rights to people.
Culture doesn’t teach us about self-identity further than being proud of where you come from.
Our parents’ upbringings didn’t teach them the importance of self-identity, self-acceptance, or even self-love; so they couldn’t teach us that. They taught us only what they knew.
My Journey To Self-Discovery
I was in my late 20’s, working a good job in the media industry, always upbeat and to the outside world everything looked great but I was so unhappy on the inside. I didn’t like my job, I felt so disconnected from myself and just felt I was in a funk going through the motions of daily life.
After almost a year of this feeling, I decided I needed to get some help, so I signed up for counseling. Now doing this was scary because in my culture counseling isn’t something ever spoken about, so I kept it a secret from everyone. The funny thing is after I shared my story, my friend shared her struggles and then sought counseling too which helped her.
Counseling helped open my mind and learn new tools for dealing with life. It sparked my curiosity about self-development, I started educating myself on how our mind works and attended seminars on self-development.
The journey of self-development requires patience, honesty, willingness to dig deep, openness, healing, help from a coach, mentor, or counselor, consistency, unlearning and breaking negative thinking, and learning new healthy ones.
For me going on this journey has awakened my life dreams, allowed me to love who I am and be grateful for the now, I’ve created a healthier mindset, connected to my soul, knowing and now living my passion/ calling in this world but best of all it has given me a greater appreciation and authentic connection towards my maker.
Sadly not enough people take this journey and continue to live with a mask on. We need to start normalizing and encouraging this journey of self-development so that we can truly have a healthier and happier present. We need to leave negative cultural teachings and create new healthier ones so that the generations to follow don’t repeat the generational curse.
Written by Hawa Hassen