Safi from India recently asked us,
I’m desperate here. I’ve dedicated my whole life to making my dad happy and ignoring myself and now I feel a strange connection with someone of a different culture, a culture my family won’t accept due to past similar situations with my siblings. I feel torn between two important choices, and I don’t know what to choose. I feel myself slowly ebbing away the longer I delay it, and my self-esteem dipping to an all-time low. I know you can’t give me a straight answer, but what can I do? Why now – when I could finally make my dad happy?
When You Feel Torn Between Duty and Desire, Do This …
“Which decision ultimately feels more authentic and fulfilling?”
The reality is that our parent’s don’t always act from a place of unconditional love. In fact, a lot of the time due to cultural, social or religious dogmatic beliefs, traditions and ideals, our family’s act from a place of fear and conditional love.
Conditional love sounds like this:
- “No! I won’t let you go out with your friends at night. I want you to be safe.” (In other words: I won’t let you go out with your friends at night because I’m scared of being alone and blamed for your death if I lose you. Therefore, I feel the need to control you.)
- “Don’t marry that man: he isn’t good for you. He’s bad news.” (In other words: Don’t marry that man because he isn’t the same culture as us. My ignorance makes me suspicious and prejudiced against him, therefore I feel that he isn’t right for you.)
- (To children) “Lower your voice and stop running around! Get back here!” (In other words: Lower your voice and stop running around because you’re embarrassing me and I’m scared of what other people think of you, which reflects on me. Therefore, I feel the need to repress you.)
What parent on the face of the planet hasn’t expressed conditional love, and what child hasn’t been on the receiving end? No one is perfect. But because we are conditioned since birth to gain our self-worth and self-esteem from how much we appease our parents, we develop an unhealthy perception of life. Most of us since childhood have been primed to believe that:
Good behavior = our parent’s approval (love) = “I’m a good person”
But this is a sickly perception because it is based on conditional love. It’s no surprise that when we discover our own authentic needs that clash with our parent’s desires, we start to feel totally worthless. We feel worthless because our self-esteem has been based on what THEY think of us all along. Our self-esteem is sourced from outside of ourselves, rather than from within ourselves. In essence, we have no self-love and a weakened ability to fulfill our authentic needs because we feel bound by “duty.”
So what does unconditional love sound like? Unconditional love – as the name suggests – has no conditions. When we experience unconditional love from our parents we are granted the freedom to be ourselves, follow our bliss, and not experience shame or blame for thinking or feeling differently. While our parents may have different desires or expectations of us, ultimately those who express unconditional love want us to be happy – regardless of whether we clash with their ideologies and regardless of what path we choose to take.
If you feel disgraceful, deceptive, selfish and unfaithful towards your parents, chances are that you’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of conditional love. It’s about time that you start extricating yourself from such toxic ties and live your own life. Because it comes down to this:
Will you spend the rest of your life making others happy, but being miserable and hollow? Or will you spend the rest of your life making yourself happy, reaching your potential and ultimately inspiring others to do the same?
There is no honor in needless self-sacrifice. Being a Martyr will ultimately make you bitter, psychologically bankrupt and depressed.
In the end, it helps to ask yourself with all honesty, “Do my family’s expectations/desires/demands come from a place of unconditional or conditional love – and do they encourage my expansion, happiness and fulfillment as a human being?”
Answering this question will help you to make an intelligent decision.
Have you ever struggled to untangle yourself from your family’s demands, expectations, traditions, or even manipulations? How did it make you feel … and what path did you take: duty, desire, or a compromise in-between?