If you think being a young adult is hard, try adding the experiences that are unique to being the child of immigrant parents. There’s a lot of beauty in the experiences, but there are also many, many stressors. And although culture may frown upon it, it’s perfectly okay to talk to a professional and get assistance with life. The anxiety/depression struggle is real.
You’re always in situations where you’re the different one
If your childhood experiences were anything like mine, then you probably noticed early on that you were different from your peers. And although this was not always a negative experience for me, I had several recurring anxiety-provoking experiences. For instance, I would always get nervous when the school year started, or when we had a substitute teacher, and my name was about to get called on the roll. I knew that it would probably get mispronounced (there would be jokes and laughter) which would lead to a back-and-forth of me repronouncing my name as they attempted to get it right, typically ending with me settling for their absolute best (typically wrong) attempt.
And then there were the question sessions from my peers that would have been enlightening if people were actually interested in learning more about my culture; however, they typically resulted in enhancing my feelings of “differentness”.
Also, I was also from a small town in the south, where nearly everyone was related to someone in town, and my family was not. Honestly speaking, this made my siblings and I feeling left out a lot.
Finally, college and the work place were not much different. I still noticed cultural differences that, inevitably, helped me to realize that I was still not exactly the same as my peers, regardless of the fact that I had relocated from my hometown. However, at this point, I had learned to speak confidently about the origin of my last name and my pride in my culture and upbringing, which definitely took a lot of practice and growth.
But to be honest, sometimes you just don’t want to answer questions about your last name or your culture and sometimes you want to connect with people who have had similar experiences and the absence of that can be frustrating. Don’t get me wrong, I love the people that I have connected with, but being from a small town in the south and witnessing familial and cultural connectedness makes you want to have those connections/experiences as well.
Honesty moment: Sometimes you develop perceptions of yourself due to your experiences as a Nigerian American that affect your social behavior, and sometimes people are just not accepting of your differences. Either way if these experiences start to become overwhelming, seek help.
You’re held up to standards that sometimes feel unattainable
Anyone who knows anything about Nigerian parents is aware that the doctorate degree is the minimum degree accepted by the Nigerian immigrant family. And although I get it, sometimes it’s hard to live up to cultural standards. Don’t get me wrong, we typically have high standards for ourselves, but the arduous burden of expectations can sometimes get unbearable. We want to start families, attain degrees, and advance in our careers, but at times, we may feel that we are simply not doing enough if all of these things are not attained in a certain time period. It’s so important that we sift through our standards and differentiate between those that we actually hold for ourselves and those that we are striving to live up to to avoid “missing the mark.” It is also pertinent that we become okay with adjusting our timelines.
Take it from me, as it pertains to mental health, people pleasing is dangerous.
You’re balancing several ventures at one time
Are there any other doctor/fitness guru/business owner/blogger/entertainers out there? Or am I the only one?
I know I’m not the only one.
More than likely, you have several ideas that you are working towards. Some are scary and some are “safe”. Some you’ve been wanting to pursue since you were younger and some you discovered last week. Some were given to you by your parents and some you came up with on your own. As exciting as each venture may be, just the idea of balancing them all can be overwhelming. And if you’re anything like me, your passion is probably not anything that your culture views as a successful career field.
If you believe that you should pursue it, do just that.
The balance between wanting to do what our culture says is successful, the fear of disappointing our families and others, and the pressure of passion and creativity being one hair away from bursting out of us is a lot to deal with and we have to address that.
Your parents taught you to succeed past their accomplishments and, honestly, those are hard shoes to fill
Y’all our parents made it hard to fill their shoes. What do you mean “ All of my children will be more successful than me!”?? (read in Nigerian accent) You’re an author/doctor/mentor/walking success story!!
All jokes aside, I do think that it’s time that we start to reflect on our accomplishments and pat ourselves on the back. As children of Nigerian immigrants we tend to be hard on ourselves because we want to make our parents proud. 9 times out of 10 you are doing just that! We have to redefine what success means for ourselves and refrain from comparisons (ourselves to our peers and/or ourselves to our parents). This is a significant stressor that we absolutely have to address. It’s so important that we continue to live boldly , be brave, and let our creativity breathe and thrive. Our parents love us and they will (eventually) be proud of us, even if it scares them at first. And although this sounds good on this screen, I realize how stressful it can be and yet again (I’m living it), I encourage you to address this.
I see so many Nigerian American success stories (around me and in the media) and I love them!
Go brothers and sisters!
Often times, people are unaware of what goes on during the process AND those in the process feel like they’re alone. The nature of this post is dual-fold. I want to shed light on the grit, perseverance, and determination of Nigerian American families, as well as, encourage people who are overwhelmed to talk to others and/or seek help with balancing life.