Family. Love them or hate them, you can’t change the fact that they’re yours. One in every 5 people will tell you that their biggest strength and support system is their family however one in every 5 people will also tell you that their biggest issue or cause of problems is also their family! Whether its the Greeks, Italians, Turks or Vietnamese despite the cultural differences and complexities, family is a matter of paramount importance to most societies in the world.
For example almost all facets of the Indian society is based around family and ‘family connections’. The matter of family is not only limited to personal relationships but extended to professional lives, business dealings, politics, sports downright to the social activities and establishments an individual frequents (hell shall break into a frenzy if Mr. Sharma’s son is seen hanging out at Mr. Kumar’s restaurant since Mr. Kumar is arch enemies with Mr. Sharma’s best friend Mr. Nayer!). Because it is so intricately interwoven in all aspects of one’s life; family, it’s good name and honor is supposed to be upheld by the individual before their own identities. This mentality is not only limited to India but everywhere the Indian diaspora has settled.
And while Mr. Sharma’s son’s example is a little light-hearted mockery of this Indian thought, the distress between the desi generations because of it, is phenomenal. When it comes to social issues, the focus usually is on women. However Indian men also have their share of social problems. Family pressure and expectations; many a young man are forced to follow into footsteps of their fathers and grandfathers and join the family line of work, expected to marry a ‘suitable’ girl and produce heirs to continue family lineage. Some quietly succumb and there are many who suffer suppressed anxieties building up to many kinds of repercussions in their communities.
I have a Chinese friend whose siblings stole her share of the family inheritance after her parents had passed away. She has been in therapy for years now trying to get over that betrayal. An acquaintance from England last year updated his Facebook status announcing to everyone loud and clear that he had changed his surname. He had gone to the extent of getting a new passport, new identification card, new bank and email accounts, new everything in order to establish a new identity and completely cut himself off from his father’s kin. That is the extent of pain some people endure from their supposedly loved ones.
Horrid word, family! Its very etymology accuses it of servility and stagnation. – Aleister Crowley
“Horrid word, family! Its very etymology accuses it of servility and stagnation.” wrote Aleister Crowley and I cannot help but agree with Aleister as weird as he was. All of us have trivial family issues but with time it sorts itself out or we let it go. Yet for some of us, family is the cause of deep-rooted anguish and unhappiness. And a lot has to do with expectations. Most family ties come with pre-conceived mindset of how it should work e.g. indian girls are taught that their ultimate responsibility as a wife is to look after your husband and his household. Your husband’s family’s happiness and well-being eventually lies in your hands. Look at Starplus’s Sandhya Rathi. She’s a terrorist fighting, corruption defying top cop in the city of Pushkar. She’s so darn good at her job that men in the police department can’t help but salute her out of pure respect. But not at home. Back in her neighborhood she goes back to playing the meek bahu tending to her family’s crap. Desi daughter-in-laws are expected to give, give and give and give she does with the ever glow of satisfaction on her face. Reveling in other’s happiness as her own.
But that’s bullshit, you know. Sandhya the actresses doesn’t glow from her never-ending sacrifices. It’s the makeup. Which after her role, she takes off. In real life, there is no permanent glow-from-others-happiness-makeup that one could put on. Constantly submitting to family expectations and making them a priority is…exhausting. In a way it sucks your life out of you.
If you’ve grown up like me being drilled that family is above and beyond everything else. Let me tell you, it’s not.
Establish Your Limits
The national road speed limit in Fiji is 80km/hr. Qantas Airways has a baggage limit of 23kg/pp. My ATM card has a withdrawal limit of $500/day. Everything has a limit, why shouldn’t you?
If you’re finding not enough time for yourself to indulge over a cup of coffee, to breathe. If you’re going to bed at night throbbing in exhaustion from running around for others and if you find your brain go numb every time you want to think about your own needs then STOP. It’s time to establish your limits.Truth is family dynamics is built as such that some members give in more than others. Most of the time, the give and take equals it itself out. But we humans are creatures of habit. We eventually do get used being things handed. Younger sibling tend to escape responsibility leaving older siblings to pick up the slack. In-laws expect their son and daughter-in-law to be at their beck and call all the time.
If doing things for others is not giving you inner satisfaction and making you unhappy and then it’s time you learnt to say No. We usually think if we step back, your loved ones will falter. Try it. You’ll be surprised. We are afraid to break traditions that will make the family look bad. Looking bad is far more better than feeling bad.
Recognize the Limitations of Others
You know we why do things we do for family?
To be loved, to get a little appreciation. And sometimes in our pursuit for acceptance and love, we drain ourselves hollow. Something you need to understand is that people are limited. Some emotionally, some by malice and some by sheer ignorance. You must understand that that smile of gratitude, that tap on the shoulder, that hug of pure love might never come. And that’s not because of any lack of effort from your side but simply because of your loved ones limitations. And that you need to recognize.
Imagine a rubber band. It’s made to be stretched. Once used it goes back to its original shape but when stretched for a long period of time, it looses its shape and eventually breaks. Understand that it’s okay to bend and stretch forward for family but you have to draw a line at your stretch point. Otherwise you risk, breaking yourself…
Saying everything above doesn’t mean that I don’t think family isn’t important. Family is very important. It’s where you begin. They’re your bearings. Either you’re always oriented towards them or away from them – they’ll always be there. You cannot deny them. For many of us, it’s the one place we can drop all our guards and simply be. It’s with them, you can truly see yourself for who you are. But still family is not everything, You are. Having a relationship and maintaing family ties shouldn’t be at a cost to you.
At the end of the day, your well-being and happiness lies in you, not in your family. You have to choose you. And there is nothing more important than you.
We all have family dramas! Do you agree with my view? Vent out below in the comments section! I look forward to hearing your stories.