Module 1: Creating Intercultural Awareness and Understanding Attitudes

Self-Awareness and Identity Wheel

A self-awareness and identity wheel serves as a visual representation of the different parts of an individual’s personal, social, and cultural characteristics; it illustrates the construction of our self-perception and identity. Understanding ourselves by being aware of our identities and perspectives is a steppingstone to understanding how other identities are constructed and how we relate to others.

At the centre of the wheel, you find your unconscious self, comprising who you are as an individual and the elements of your identity that are mostly static and unchangeable. On the outside, you find your conscious development and how you describe yourself based on achievements and what you have gained through studying or working formally and informally. Your geography helps you position yourself in relation to where you live and how you relate to your surroundings. Your choices involve that part of your identity that reflects how you navigate your adult life and the decisions you make along the way. Your perceptions refer to your self-awareness regarding how you believe you are perceived and how you perceive others. Your engagement highlights the way you relate to others around, who is included in your circle of friends, and the extent to which you reach out of your circle of commonality. A part of your identity that combines experiences and challenges is represented as your struggles, which you should learn to recognize to help you understand other people’s pains and troubles. Finally, your goals are part of your identity because they represent what drives you and what you are aiming for, whether at the personal, cultural, or societal level.

The graphic below expands on how these elements of your identity are defined. Click on each one to learn more about them. As you read, think about how you would define your own identity within each element.


Activity: My self-awareness and identity profile

Create your own self-awareness profile to help you build a visual of your own self-awareness and identities. The aim is to help you further understand intersectionality, how we belong to many groups at the same time, and how we relate to our surroundings.

To do this, look at the various categories below and write your own answers to each of the eight sections on a separate paper or on your word processor. Alternatively, print out the Word document My Self-Awareness and Identity Profile and complete the activity there.

Click on each card below to see some prompts to help you think about what to write. Think about this activity as a picture of your current personal, social, and cultural identity. Focus on who you are now and make sure the words or phrases you use reflect your present self, as your holistic self-identity can change over time.

Think about this

  • Take a moment to look at your completed self-awareness and identity wheel: what did you learn about yourself?
  • What, if anything, was surprising about your identity?
  • What is something you had not thought about before?
  • How might your self-awareness and identity shape the way you think, act, and the way you perceive and relate to others?
  • If you position yourself in a different cultural context (at home or abroad), how could any element of your identity affect the way other people interact with you?

ACtivity: Understanding Myself in Relation to Others

Explore the following self-awareness and identity profiles from two other people. As you read through them, think about how similar or different your own responses are. Identify ways in which your self-awareness and identity profiles connect based on each of the eight elements listed.

Think about this

  • What are some elements of Julius and Olivia’s self-awareness and identity profiles that you share?
  • Was there anything that surprised you? In what ways are you different?
  • What do you find interesting about their identities?
  • What experiences or perceptions do you share? Based on their responses, how do you feel about them? Were they what you expected? How would you approach meeting and connecting with them?

People’s identities are multi-layered and complex. Each one of us—even if we are from the same town and went to the same places growing up—will have different experiences, outlooks, and goals. When meeting someone you perceive to be different, it is unfair to rely on the way you think they are without having had the opportunity to engage and connect with them. You would be surprised by how many ways our multi-layered identities can connect. In addition, even if you feel you cannot connect with someone due to what you consider right or wrong, there is much more to a person than you could ever imagine. Perhaps talking about your differences can help you appreciate how others think. You do not need to become someone else to understand people, and you do not need to agree with them to gain a better understanding of how others perceive themselves and their identities. Moreover, it is key to remember that if you only connect with those who are similar to you, you will not learn about the world, what is out there, who people really are, and the changes needed in society.

Takeaway points

  • By being aware of your own identity, you become more open to the many identity layers in other people.
  • By recognizing your own struggles, perspectives, and privileges, you can understand your position in society and that of people around you, independent of their background, origin, or identity.
  • Just because someone looks similar to or different from you, it does not mean they are what or how you think they are.
  • Even if you are from the same culture, you will find many differences within the group with which you associate the most.
  • Surrounding yourself exclusively with people who are just like you will severely limit your outlook. When you connect with people who are different from those in your circle of similarity, you will be able to step out of your comfort zone and start learning about what the world is really like through the people who live in it.

Try this strategy

Reach out to someone from a different cultural group—perhaps an acquaintance or someone new from the university or your workplace. Strike up a conversation and come from a place of curiosity, learn about the other person and be ready to share about your own identity, whatever feels comfortable. This will help you find commonalities where you perhaps saw mostly differences.