How to answer where are you really from?

Where are you really from? A great question! Don’t think so? Well, I used to feel infuriated by it. Why wasn’t my first answer acceptable?

Today, I love answering this question and it goes to say that often people don’t get a response they expect. So, how can you love this question?

Chances are, by adulthood, you feel irritated with this question and sometimes full blown anger. Hearing the same questions can influence us to have repeated feelings and then they become intensified over time.

And if you’re at that point, know that it’s ok to feel anger over it. All those emotions are ok.

But what’s not ok is when we want to stop feeling like this over a question that happens in everyday conversation and we feel there isn’t something we can do about it.

I didn’t want to feel anger for the simple reason that this question “where are you from?” is one of the most common questions asked when you meet someone new. Anger isn’t a great way to start any conversation.

Here’s what I did (over and over again in conversations) to get to a place of loving this question. This is one way I choose to handle it:

  1. Find an element that you love about your story regarding the place you consider where you’re from. Choose a story that brings up a positive emotion in you. An example could be that your city was home to a famous television series (that’s my answer) or it could be where the Olympics took place and you attended them. It can be anything as long as you genuinely love that part of your story.
  2. Come up with 3 sentences telling that story. You can use this to answer the first question “Where are you from?” like the example in the figure below.
  3. Be prepared for 2 scenarios:
    1. Best case scenario: The conversation might go off on a tangent based on the 3 sentence story you shared with them. They might connect to the story and you start a real dialogue.
    2. Worst case scenario: The person is focused on knowing the reason you don’t look or sound like them and continues down the path of inquiry about your “background”. I’ll discuss this further in an upcoming article.

Now, this isn’t going to change the other person, this won’t stop people from asking “Where are you really from?” but what it will do is change how you feel about the interaction. When we focus on telling our story (no matter how the question is asked) and specifically, a part we love about it, it determines how we feel in the conversation.

Instead of answering from a place of anger, we can come from a place of love for our story. Instead of wishing they’d stop asking this question, we can answer from a place of equal power in the conversation. Instead, we can share our story how we want to because we ultimately own it.

What showing up with love for your story does is it brings your story out in the open. Your story becomes part of the everyday dialogue. It isn’t hiding because someone doesn’t know how to clearly express what they mean (often they don’t know what they really mean).

I guarantee you as you practice this (and it will be difficult in the beginning) you will see that the anger will slowly become less and less and the love for your story will intensify. And from there, you’ll love the opportunity to share it when you’re asked: Where are you really from?

You can hear how I handled the conversation over the years in the podcast episode: Where are you really from?