If you come from a BIPOC community or immigrant community with a strong set of cultural values, you may be familiar with a worldview that does not always match up with the white American mainstream.
People from your background might tend to do things differently - perhaps your community places a different level of emphasis on educational achievement, or family loyalty, or the importance of leisure time.
However, sometimes I hear clients gloss over things in their lives that are troubling them, excusing away personal dissatisfactions or experiences of mistreatment as part of the normal way of being in their culture.
But let’s be clear: you get a say about what things are like in your culture, because your culture is a part of you. If certain cultural messages are harming you or not serving you, you have an opportunity to make changes to the norms in this generation.
It’s OK to set boundaries with your family
Many family conflicts I encounter as a therapist involve a matter that is framed as a cultural expectation.
Have you ever heard or said something like this?
- “In my culture, it’s normal for the oldest child to hear all about their parents’ emotional problems.”
- “In my community, women always put what they want aside to take care of the men in the family.”
- “In my background, it’s expected that if you’re a man with feminine qualities, your family will tease you or criticize you.”
It’s OK to draw boundaries with your family and set different expectations for how you want to be treated.
You can create some space between yourself and your parents’ emotional lives, and encourage them to seek other forms of support.
You can be supportive of your family members, and choose to also pursue your own dreams and goals.
You can insist on being treated with respect and dignity, as a requirement for being in connection with one another.
Setting boundaries to protect yourself and your wellbeing are not a rejection of your heritage - boundaries are actually the foundation of being in relationship and being in community with others in meaningful, sustainable ways.
It’s OK to crave work/life balance
Struggling to juggle work with all the other areas of life is a common challenge in today’s world, but there’s an extra layer added when cultural values are at play.
Do any of these statements sound familiar to you?
- “It’s a husband’s job to provide everything that a family needs - no matter what.”
- “My parents worked so hard to come to the United States and give me a life with opportunities, I can’t disappoint them by being anything less than successful.”
- “Everyone I know in my community holds down two or three jobs and acts like it’s no big deal - why can’t I do that too?”
You are not faulty or failing if you’ve discovered that the way work fits in your life needs to change.
You can honor financial commitments that you have made to others, and also find ways to take time to do things that you enjoy.
You can acknowledge the choices that your generation has thanks to the labor of others that came before you - and hold that part of those choices involve redefining what it means to be “successful” and to live well.
You can be a part of your community and yet value different things - prioritizing having rest and restoration alongside work can be a healing practice.
It’s OK to take a second look at your relationship with alcohol
There are different norms from culture to culture around drinking alcohol. Who can drink it, when, and how much, vary significantly.
For some cultures, alcohol is a significant part of daily life, and occasions and events where it’s expected that people will drink to excess are commonplace. If this describes your background, have you ever found yourself wondering where the line is between drinking heavily like everyone else, and drinking heavily and losing control?
Alcohol can be a celebratory part of community activities and events, and getting injured or getting into fights while drinking might be making those celebrations less fun for you.
Your culture might be associated with certain alcoholic beverages, or certain festivals that involve alcohol, and you might find yourself dreading those festivals because you always black out and can’t remember them, and end up missing work the next day.
Your community might be accustomed to drinking often or drinking heavily, and you might find that adopting those same patterns is making you irritable, secretive, and worried.
Coming to the conclusion that you need to reduce or eliminate drinking alcohol is not turning your back on your heritage. You can value your culture while still living in the way that feels right for your wellbeing.
You don’t need to push away things that you want or need in order to be faithful to your culture - there’s always a way to balance honoring yourself and honoring your heritage. If you’re struggling how to navigate valuing both, therapy is a great space to talk through these complexities and contradictions. Click the button below to set up a free phone consultation, I’d be happy to guide you on this journey.