Written by Writer’s Corps member Natasha Barraqué
To create the healthy relationships we crave, a deep understanding of what constitutes a healthy relationship is needed. The first relationship that we will need to adjust is the one that we have with ourselves.
One vital part of creating healthy relationships that is often overlooked is authenticity. To show up as authentic versions of ourselves in the world is to love ourselves enough to be vulnerable and confident in who we are. Finding our authenticity can be a complex path. We are influenced from the moment we are born — by societal rules and themes, our internal and external environments, and maybe most deeply: our cultures. All these factors work together to shape us over time, and it becomes an important part of growth to pause and reflect on the identity that’s been created as you reach young adulthood.
What is a cultural tape?
A cultural tape in essence is the beliefs your culture upholds. The perspective you are given on life. The rules, regulations, and ideas that have been instilled in you by your culture. They play silently in the background and aid in guiding your opinions, thoughts, choices, and behaviors. Cultural tapes teach us what is normal and acceptable, what should be resisted, and what guidelines need to be followed in order to be an accepted member of the culture. It is a force that runs deep and throughout generations of families.
A Closer Look at our Cultural Tapes
Many of us have never taken a deeper look at our cultural tapes or questioned what is acceptable. Many of us haven’t associated with others of different cultures and don’t understand how to navigate cultural differences. Culture is a beautiful, grounding principle that helps us feel connected to ourselves and our communities. The problem with cultural tapes lies in blind acceptance. To show up authentically in our relationships, we must first learn what authenticity means for us.
When we take a look at our cultural tapes, we have the ability to choose what creates our identity. And with the new ability to choose what works for you, and what you do believe in, you can begin to shed ideas and principles that are working against your authenticity, leaving space for you to fill your life with other principles that do resound with you. We begin to consciously choose our beliefs, values, boundaries, and deal breakers.
Where to Begin
Begin by assessing the health of your relationships with yourself and others. Do you accept or contribute any of the 10 signs of an unhealthy relationship in your relationships? Then begin by asking yourself some deeper questions like: where does this behavior come from and what need is it meeting? Counseling, support groups, or vetted books and other learning materials can always be very helpful here, as it will help you navigate through some of the more difficult questions and allow you to feel supported.
Your culture may be your tie to your unhealthy behaviors. As a first-generation Latina, I had to work through the fact that I equated intensity and drama with love. In understanding what unhealthy behaviors I exhibited and accepted from others, I was able to deconstruct the idea slowly and understand how to better meet my needs in a healthier way.
Once you begin to understand your behaviors and possible sources of the behaviors, and once you understand what needs these behaviors are meeting, you can move on to implementing healthier behaviors in their place, that will better meet your needs and allow you to live in your authenticity. Familiarizing yourself with the 10 signs of a healthy relationship is a great way to create a path to new behavioral goals.
What to Keep in Mind
Confronting your cultural tapes is an intimate and brave journey. There may be times you feel disconnected from yourself as you begin shedding old unhealthy behaviors for new healthy ones. There may be times you feel misunderstood or disconnected from your culture as well. Creating healthy behaviors is not an easy shift, but it is possible. It will be important for you to remind yourself of your goals — why do you want to create healthier behaviors? What will this help you with?
Learning patience and compassion for yourself will be a key needed to get through the messy bits. Surrounding yourself with uplifting groups of people will be a way to continue towards your goals and feel supported.
Everyone deserves a healthy relationship. Taking a closer look at where you come from and deciding what works for you and how you want to move forward is the empowering step that will allow you to create a healthy relationship with yourself and with others.