isabelle thye

Parents  —  roadblock or allies?

When we organized a community dialogue about personal transformation and career transition, I didn’t expect ‘parents’ to be a major challenge that many participants resonate with.

One of our panellists has an extreme case of hiding her career change from her parents for 6 months; when her parents found out about it, it led to a heated argument that caused her father a heart stroke.

On the other hand, my parents have been a strong pillar that makes me everything I am today.

It made me think, how can we strike a balance between realizing one’s full potential and fulfilling parents’ expectation?

My story

I grew up with the belief ‘good results make me good’ deeply inplanted in my psyche. As a rebellious teenager, I broke rules under one condition — nobody can fault my academic performance.

After 3 years of living independently in Australia to pursue a bachelor degree, I was taken aback by my mum’s less-than-enthusiastic reaction when I told her that I quit my first job in PwC Malaysia. Later on, I was even more surprised to find out that most of my peers would ask for their parents’ permission before making a major career change.

I learned to appreciate my parents’ wisdom after starting a business and getting to know the real world at the front line. In the process of overcoming a mental health breakdown, my parents hold space for me to start a new life from a blank canvas.

It takes heartache and bruises to learn to respect and love my parents despite our differences — we are all making the best out of life in the time we live in.

Brene Brown’s research on parenting

‘What we learn about ourselves and how we learn to engage in the world as children set a course that will either require us to spend a significant part of our life fighting to reclaim our self-worth or will give us hope, courage, resilience for our journey.” Brene Brown

In her book ‘Daring Greatly’, Brene Brown has a chapter called ‘Wholehearted Parenting’, where she said that all parents want for their children what they want for themselves — to cultivate children who live and love with their whole heart and believe in their worthiness.

The caveat is, worthiness does not have prerequisites.

Wherever we are today, we cannot change how we were raised but we can change the way we communicate and reflect upon our own life — how are our behaviour, thoughts, emotion related to the need for a strong sense of worthiness?

How do our parents influence our belief? Can we break out of it and build a new one? How can we communicate with our parents on the same side of the table?

Be the hero in our own journey

When I came across Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey for the first time, I was astonished to see my life journey laid out in 12 stages, especially the ‘death and rebirth’ stage that resonated with my darkest struggle.

In the Hero’s Journey, there are 8 archetypes that form the characters of a story — the hero, mentor, allies, threshold guardian, herald, shadow, shapeshifter and trickster.

Using Hero’s Journey as a template of life story, how are we playing the hero character in our own life? Where are we now? What is the archetype that our parents represent?

If they are threshold guardians stopping us from stepping into a new adventure, how might we turn them into allies or mentors?

“The power of owning our stories, even the difficult ones, is that we get to write the ending.” — Brene Brown

Hero’s Journey shows us that life is about taking action and overcoming challenges to move from one stage another, with the ultimate goal of realizing our truest self.

It is up to us to seize the responsibility to manage internal forces and respond to external forces, creating our unique footprint that makes this lifetime a worthwhile ride.

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