Where were you when you first realized you were taught to make yourself small?
Where were you when you realized much of your thoughts and beliefs weren’t yours to begin with, but passed down from previous generations?
This blog will break down how starting with the self and embodying your desired life can set a community into motion.
As we hear more about considerable shifts in our society…
As we redefine class lines and generational wealth…
As we open our eyes to how white supremacy culture shapes so many of our worldviews…
We also recognize: we’re not doing it alone. We’re also seeing the rebuilding of our self-identities. And often, when one person does the work, an entire community can follow.
It truly starts one person at a time.
What unlearning internalized oppression means
For a lot of us, we don’t consciously realize how the perfectionist loops cycling in our head tell us all the “shoulds” we’re not achieving. ‘We should care about x, we should be doing y, we should honor z above ourselves.’ We’re conditioned to care about a path we didn’t choose, carved out of a sense of safety that no longer serves us.
As immigrants and the descendants of immigrant lineage, survival is sometimes the top priority for families. Talking about emotions, being completely honest, and going off the beaten path of survival is considered a luxury. Thriving isn’t even a consideration until long after generational expectations have been established of ‘what it looks like’ to be considerate of others.
But did you know if you break the cycle, you won’t end up alone, and may actually end up empowering others to seek their own liberation?
Sometimes when we hear about “putting ourselves first,” we fear it’s at the expense of valuing others. We see it how it’s been taught: you base your ideas around honoring the sacrifices that came before you by continuing in the tradition of what others have demonstrated before you. And it’s hard to see how there’s room for you to break that norm without being ungrateful and dishonorable.
Diluting ourselves is part of assimilation. ‘Don’t be TOO ethnic, TOO different, TOO loud, TOO opinionated.’ And we learned these lessons from lived experiences from our elders and ancestors.
Being ‘different’ or ‘foreign’ was once considered a way to be persecuted in our new countries, where our otherness was unavoidable. So it made sense that, to survive, we were taught by our parents to blend in with whatever norms the ‘dominant’ group dictated. And in America, this heavily applies.
The pressure to assimilate can look like this:
- Living a ‘conventional’ life that makes sense even if it’s not 100% aligned
- Not stirring up conflict even when you’re hurt because you don’t want to seem ungrateful to your parents
- Feeling like you shouldn’t challenge yourself to live outside the lines because you’re afraid it would lead to being misunderstood or judged.
Do you feel like you’re alone in questioning the path you’ve been put on, and if you should or could stray from it?
It can be easy to feel alone and sometimes it’s difficult to see: others aren’t okay with how things are either. Maybe they’re also scared, questioning, and wondering how to break the perfectionist loops that bring all of us down.
For me, as a daughter of immigrants, I now see it as my sacred duty to remember: I’m rewriting the map of what it looks like to live boldly and for myself.
Embodying what’s possible gives people a visualization of how they can ignite themselves and pass it on to all of our children and those around them.
Like new technological innovations… like amazing music created from the notes that have existed for centuries… like scientific breakthroughs…and like monumental social justice strides… a lot of things we may not think twice about, that seem so ordinary in society, came from people being brave enough to take a leap of faith and build on what anyone thought was possible.
Once they discovered what was possible; others adopted that discovery too and helped it spread to where they are now.
The same can be said of self-growth. Being brave here is being the first to raise your hand and question the origin of your limitations — and if it might be time to upgrade that standard.
What if we reclaim what life could be instead of what life “is” now?
If we’re not allowed to be anything but ‘perfect’ and ‘good children,’ (an impossible expectation) then who are we allowed to be?
The perfectionist loops in our heads are often tied to people-pleasing patterns that don’t honor our true wants and needs.
We’ve been cemented in learning to make ourselves palatable and useful, which changes depending on who we’re with. So much so that we get to a certain age and we don’t even know who we truly are, aside from others’ opinions of us.
We think honoring others — a generally good thing to do — means abandoning our true needs for the good of the collective. Like they are mutually exclusive!
But the real you is NOT who you think you need to be…
The real you is the inner child who dreamed big and spoke without having to second guess and double-check their thoughts. The real you is the person who thinks anything is possible.
Behind the patterns of keeping the peace, constantly doing the “right” thing , and focusing on others’ judgment, is clarity on what we want to create for ourselves.
We get to follow our hearts, not just continue the habits we’ve learned from the past.
The biggest worry I’ve seen and experienced is that we’ll be lonely or rejected if we leave what we’ve known behind. But this isn’t true. In fact, when we step up to the task of being our true selves, we create the possibility for others to observe and see what they also want. Does it take work and sometimes conflict? Tbh, yes; it’s not always easy even if you know it’s right for you. And I offer…that it’s worth it.
We can demonstrate how life can be different – different through valuing self-love as our constant. Different through not letting any oppression from others dictate whether or not we stay true to ourselves.
The people around us also come from generations of being told that they shouldn’t love themselves as they are. We’re all prisoners of this constriction of imagination, of thinking we can’t afford to imagine what life could be.
But being reminded that we are all able to be free is a way to spark each other. We’re responsible for lighting each others’ candles because self-care and community care don’t have to be separate.
Self-love for one person is already such an act of resistance and revolution. But embodying it shines the way for others to join you and for all of us to realize a vision together.
How do we spread empowerment and liberation?
By starting for ourselves and giving others permission too.
We’ve talked about internalized oppression and giving ourselves permission to dream.
But what’s the first step to start taking action from a liberated belief system?
Knowing yourself. And then trusting yourself. This is the action part!
When we don’t know ourselves, it’s also difficult to build self-trust in our own answers, which usually results in making choices based on others’ answers instead.
And that can work for us for a while. Eventually, though, we are unable to ignore the feeling of…”sooomething doesn’t feel right.”
From personal experience, and from what I’ve seen with my clients, that feeling of misalignment is a signal to you that there is something more meant for you.
Until you create space to know what that is, that signal will continue to grow.
Trust is everything when it comes to making that space and following the signal. Once we see how much we interrupt ourselves when we want to try something different… once we observe how tiring it is to keep up appearances… once we notice how much we want to not feel so alone even in the company of others… we say “enough.” We say goodbye to the old.
We know that we can explore a new path, and we can embrace that the fear is present. It’s there to protect us and we can thank it and move forward knowing “we’ve got this”.
The fear is telling us this is too scary, this is too much. We can’t do it. But a path to liberation is not marked by a conviction that you’ll definitely get the best outcomes… Instead, it’s about a conviction that even if your choices don’t lead to the outcome you’re seeking, you’ll be able to handle it because fighting for your true self is so worth it.
So it goes gradually. You dream a little more every day and shift a little more in your actions each time from a new place of awareness. You set healthy boundaries, advocate for yourself at home and at work, start spending time doing things from “want” instead of “should”. You start embodying a more free way of living that feels amazingly aligned.
Self trust is about us declaring that we are lovable because of our BEing. It’s stating that WE get to define our “enoughness”, and even if it’s messy, it still gets to be ours.
We want to practice a tradition today of owning our FULL selves, rough edges and all.
It helps us create liberated lives and gives others that same permission.
In the midst of our fear, we can forget how diverse people are. Realistically, some people could walk away from us if we choose to live a liberated life. People could find our new choices jarring, tiring, or just too confusing.
But what about the people who relate to us, and are playing small right now because they also shoulder heavy ancestral burdens? What if those people spend their time wishing they could do differently? Once they see someone else had the courage to do it… what if they “catch” that and liberate themselves too?
They’re waiting for signs that they’re good enough — like you are right now too. What if you go first, and lead the way?
What could you create if you knew you weren’t alone, but instead were on the precipice of a new, deeper community than ever before?
If you feel the pull to create a life beyond survival, it’s also sacred because the liberatory desires of your ancestors are ready to be expressed through you. And just as you have ancestors — so do all the people around you!
These challenging beliefs we’re all shifting what has been ingrained in our lineage for generations. They were experienced collectively.
And if we all experienced it similarly — chances are, we’re all collectively getting tired of it.
In the process, of course, we’re going to feel resistance to living, feeling, believing differently.
Yet we can light others’ candles with our own flames by speaking to them… but often, it’s also because the light shines brightly to illuminate the path in front of us that helps us get to where we want to go.
It just takes one candle to go first. Will that be you?
As you ponder this question, I invite you to explore ways you can move forward for your own liberation.
My Living Bravely program is for 1st & 2nd generation immigrant women and non-binary folks of color to break free from old stories and live bravely through self-love and liberated action.