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  • Angela Tam

my relationship with my Immigrant parents and how it changed everything

As adult children of Asian refugees, I was praised for being so quiet. So compliant. So well mannered.

I did whatever my parents requested of me.

Whenever they felt powerless, they felt the need to remind me that they are my elders and I needed to comply with their wishes and requests. Anything from bringing them food to making sure I wore enough clothes on a wintry day.

These were well intentioned requests, but left me wondering… do I have any say in my body? My decisions? My life?

I grew up feeling so used to having my parents feeling entitled to controlling me, that I forgot that I have autonomy and control of my own body. That I can say “no” to anything that didn’t feel good in my body.

This realization of my right to claim my body, energy and time was a completely new insight for me. It still isn’t fully grasped yet but I’m working on it.

My new insights are:

My parents/authority figures can make requests and demand that I comply, but i don’t actually have to.

I can pause. Gather myself. Check in with my body.

And make decisions according to my body’s needs.

I grapple with this process of others owning me when I comes to parenting. I have parts of me that people please my kids and are very permissive with them. I feel immense guilt when I can’t give them what they request.

These guilty feelings are directly related to guilty feelings that I have towards my parents for disappointing them.

I know now that this is all interconnected and I can unpack this with my therapist. Do you struggle with this too? If so, how are you unpacking the guilt?

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