When you are raised to care about what others think, you have a lifelong struggle about the choices you make. As a first generation Indian American, I was born caring about what others in my community thought. If you wear shorts, what will Aunty say about you? How do I tell my family that my boyfriend is white? You struggle with any decision making that will upset your parents. This has a downstream effect of lying and affecting your relationship with them.
Being both American and Indian, we gravitate towards a blended culture. Think of a curry hot dog. Disgusting right? But maybe not. Maybe if we just accept that a curry hot dog is delicious, we can accept that being both American and Indian is completely okay. We can maintain our traditions while being ourselves. And let’s be honest, the part that most 1st generation Indian Americans struggle with is doing what they want. We don’t do what we want out of fear. Fear of disappointing our parents.
I lived this way the majority of my life. I wanted a tattoo but didn’t get one because I was afraid of disappointing my parents. I didn’t tell my parents about the majority of my boyfriends because I was afraid of disappointing them. I didn’t tell them about the struggles I had in school or college because again, disappointment. As a result of this, I grew further and further apart from them. When it came time to make a decision on college, my decision on college was based on how far from home it was.
I’m now married to an Italian American and we have two children. My relationship did initially cause my parents some concern but they accepted it when my husband asked for permission to marry me.
Since then, I have lived my life by doing what I want without thinking of others opinions. When you trust in yourself and your decisions, others will accept them. My decisions never caused my parents to lose their love for me. My fear was fabricated. They continued to provide love and support. Had I not been so afraid of disappointing them, I would have had a closer relationship with them. I regret this now but am happy I have finally figured it out.
Success is doing what you want to do, when you want, where you want, with whom you want, as much as you want. — Anthony Robbins
If you too struggle with being yourself, consider the following:
Are you happy with yourself?
Have you accepted yourself? For years I blamed my upbringing for the person I was until I realized I had the power to change things. I was responsible for my own happiness. Once I began to look for things that made me happy, regardless of how they made other people feel, I started to discover who I was. In order to be yourself, you must accept who you are.
Are you too hard on yourself?
Often times, negative self talk takes over. We think we’re not good enough. We think we don’t deserve things. This kind of thinking affects your ability to figure out who you are. When I get into a negative mindset, I ask myself if what I am thinking is Fact or Judgement. Most of the times it’s judgement and I quickly tell myself to push it out of my mind and focus on the facts.
Are you expressing yourself?
Do you speak your mind? Do your friends know who you are? Do you engage in activities you like? Are you comfortable saying no to activities you don’t want to do? For years, I said Yes to events because I thought I had to when I would rather be doing something else. Over the past 5 years, I have embraced saying No. If I do not want to go, I will politely decline. Most times, this is because I would rather be hiking.
I still struggle with being myself. I know who I am. I know what I like and what I dislike. I have accepted myself.
Occasionally, I get caught up in doing things because other people do them. I am comfortable going my own way but negative thoughts and judgement cloud my mind. During these times, I ask myself what I would rather do if I didn’t have tomorrow. This helps me make a quick decision without guilt and fear. It helps me separate what I want to do versus what other people want me to do. If you know you don’t have tomorrow, you will be yourself today.