Growing up in a South Asian household, I was taught to “think of the greater good” even before I was born. It was expected that you should put family and community before your own needs. You were taught to behave and live your life in a certain way, the blue print of which was determined by the “society”.
Even though, I was born to progressive parents, they were still bound by the community and society that their were living in. So while my father was a self made man, who did not much care about the societal norms, he still had to balance it with the needs of marrying his daughters in “good” homes.
Every South Asian child probably relates to the pile of expectations and the guilt factor that we are all brought up with. I don’t blame my parents at all – they did not know anything different, did their best in the times that they were living in, did break so many barriers and in fact gave us some solid values that have helped me become who I am today.
Saying that, it took me years to undo the guilt that it is okay to put myself first. It is okay to not be a people pleaser. It is okay to say no and if people get upset or offended, it is their issue not mine.
I have learnt over time that sacrifice and grudge are two sides of the same coin. When we go out of our way to do something for someone, then we have an implicit, and sometimes explicit, expectation from them. When those are not met, then it leads to unhappiness and a grudge against the act and the person. This does not mean that we stop helping people but there are ways to avoid the feelings.
I love helping people and get positive energy by doing so. I do my best and nothing less or nothing more. I do what I can and explain what I can’t and why. This has really helped me have better relationships and helped me create positive boundaries.
Every person has a right to create and live a life of their own. Family, Friends and Community is there to help in times of need and pick us up when we are down. But there prime role is to help give us wings, build resilience and ensure that we live the best life that we choose for ourselves.
This is the hope and learning that I am sharing with my son – values from my past to ground him and wings so that he can soar high in the future!