This is not your typical post. There’s no talk of self-realization, church-hopping, or spiritual wisdom here.
I’m simply writing this for those of you who read my posts on Culture Mutt last year and have written to me with questions about how to survive living in high-pressure cultures, dominant parents, inquisitive communities and families.
Cultures where your existence is compared to everyone else you know, including your genius brother, American Idol-talented sister, chess champion cousin, Harvard-going family friend, deceased Supreme Court grandfather, highly educated and wealthy very-distant relative who founded Google, surgeon neighbor, and television personalities (Sanjay Gupta, Fareed Zakaria, etc)
As a kid of a Tiger Mother or neurotic parents of any highly traditional, high-pressure culture, you know what family and social pressure feels like.
It doesn’t matter if you’re in elementary school, high school, college, graduate school or a working professional. If you’re Indian, Pakistani, Chinese, Persian of from any Asian country, you know that your life and decisions are not solely your own.
You’re commanded errr… encouraged to attend a particular college, pursue a specific profession which gives you titles such as M.D. or M.B.B.S., creatively introduced to your future spouse, given hints as to where you should live, what job to get, how many children to have, etc etc.
Of course, you’re never really ‘told’. Simply, asked, questioned, hinted at, barraged with a line of questions a murder suspect would get during an interrogation.
“Why don’t you go to medical school?”
“Oh…the Patel kids are both going to Yale next year. Where did you decide?”
“You can go to India to study medicine, no?”
“Why did you get a B+ in history? Do you know how much we’re paying for your education?”
“He’s a nice guy from a good family. You’re not that young, you know”
“Who writes? You can become a doctor, then you’ll write up patient charts during the week and novels during the weekends”
“So, looks like we’re cursed by the God’s and our fate’s sealed. You’re not marrying and giving us 2 grandkids!”
What do you do if you don’t want to play by the rules of your culture or family?
If you’re muddled about what you should be doing with your life, feeling pressured by your parents and culture to be a professional (and by that, I mean doctor, dentist or engineer) and feel dreadful about not living up to everyone’s expectations and demands, read on:
Survive your family and your culture – 9 tips to get control of your life.
1) Forgive your family and yourself.
As hard as it may be to do, forgiveness is necessary for your mental health and sanity. You must be able to forgive your parents who are pressuring you and trying to control your life. More than likely, this is their unusual way of showing you their care and concern. And love.
When you forgive your parents or family, you show yourself that they have very little impact on you. You refuse to allow their overbearing and dominant ways to hurt you further.
Forgive them, then forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for having to disagree with and not pleasing them. Forgive yourself for choosing to live your own life. Forgive yourself so you can move on with your life, instead of being trapped by your family and culture.
2) Refuse to follow the lead of your parents and compare yourself to others.
Know that others have their own difficulties, challenges, and life-dilemmas.
Your friends getting married after law school and touring Europe may look like they have a perfect life on the outside. But you never know what’s going on with them. That very successful and got-it-together couple may be absolutely miserable internally, seeing 3 therapists or could be alcoholics – you never know.
3) Seek clarity in your life and take action.
You don’t have to have a clue as to what you’re doing with your life but you should try to seek clarity by talking to your inner circle of friends and through self-reflection.
Look at what you enjoy doing, look at your strengths, your skills and move in that direction. No matter who you are, you have certain skills, talents and strengths. Focus on those and keep moving towards mastering those parts of your life.
Stop doing those activities, professions and jobs you can’t stand.
Look for an exit.
Just take a little bit of action a day on what interests you, what inspires you and what makes you feel alive.
If you have no idea, just start. As Alexis Grant says, purpose usually finds you, not the other way around. And it finds you only after you’ve gotten started.
Start doing your hobby, your craft, your art. If you start and lose interest, then that’s not your passion. If you’re not willing to do this for 2 hours a night after a day of school or work, then it’s probably not your passion.
4) Take money, prestige and what people think out of the equation.
Be honest with yourself as far as what you enjoy doing. If you do that and do that only, you’ll find immeasurable success in the long run.
If you love teaching, like a friend of mine did, success will knock on your door. My friend’s parents tried to talk him out of a teaching career but he fought for his dream. And yes, he became the youngest state ‘teacher of the year’ a couple years back.
Unlike what your community or parents tell you, you WILL succeed in what you enjoy doing and what brings you happiness.
5) Seek confidence building activities, daily inspiration and affirmations.
All those things sound zany but they work. You hear a lot of negativity from your parents and culture.
You have to replace it with positive self-talk. There’s online videos, meditations, affirmations, books, more. Do these activities daily to keep all the negative buzz away form you. And affirm your brilliance.
Don’t let them break you down with comparisons, criticism and insults.
6) Stomach your day job until you can actively pursue your interest, passion, art.
If you can’t make your passion into a full time job or career, then spend all your free time doing it.
If you can’t give up your law practice or medical career, then write at night, take classes in the evenings, run on the weekends, shoot photos when you’re on vacation.
Have a vision of your future. Create a vision board to make your vision a reality.
7) Use negative energy, the doubters and the haters to take action.
Use their doubt, disapproval and judgmental behavior of others to move you into action. Allow the negativity to help you become even more focused and determined about doing what you want to do.
Let the negativity motivate you to achieve more.
Allow the doubters to help you achieve your goals.
8) Actively hunt for people who will believe in you.
Spend more time with them.
You already know what to do with the negative people in your life.
9) Seek happiness daily.
Be diligent about seeking happiness. Be like a firefly seeking the light of happiness.
You don’t have to do what everyone else wants you to do but you do need to do something.
Find what makes you happy and keep doing more of that. Find happiness in the mundane and boring tasks of life. Find happiness in the job you hate. Find happiness in the profession you never wanted to pursue in the first place. There must be some aspect of your job or career that makes you happy. Focus on that.
If meeting people who compare you and humiliate makes you unhappy as it well should, avoid them. If reading makes you happy, schedule that in. If family affairs are no fun, find excuses to get out of them.
Fight for your happiness like you’re fighting in a war. Be disciplined about seeking and living in happiness daily. When you’re happy, you’ll do better work and find success.
When you’re happy, it will rub off on those around you. They soon will be happy too.
Keep seeking happiness and vigorously fight against anyone trying to steal it from you.
Protect your dreams and happiness like you’re guarding the priceless Mona Lisa.
Did your community or family insist you live your life a certain way, marry a certain person, work a certain profession? Let me know how you deal with your family or community in the comments below.