Chasing our dreams is a natural part of life. The thrill of carving out the life we want and then working to create it is magical. There is nothing greater than knowing what it is you want and going for it. Whether you have a general idea of the life you want or your goals are specific and pinned down, pursuing our dreams and working to create what we want from this life is an innate human experience.
While the experience of pursuing our dreams can be joyous, thrilling and exciting, the uncertainty and humanness of it all can also make it a difficult and testing time. For many of us, our everyday lives can take a toll on how much time, energy and capacity we have to dedicate to this pursuit. Our jobs, commitments, culture and family traditions can often dictate how or even whether we pursue our dreams.
When chasing our dreams, many things can be up in the air, and it can take a while to hone in and focus on achieving what we want. However, this process can be challenging if we feel unsupported or isolated.
For those of us from traditionally socially conservative cultures and families, the pursuit of our dreams can be a contentious topic. We are often brought up in a way that means we grow to oblige to and prioritise our family and cultural traditions and needs.
Over time, there has been a shift in the meaning and intention of culture and tradition. Be it because we experience our culture as a diaspora or that most of us are in countries foreign to our culture and traditions, but for a lot of us, culture and tradition feel rooted in ordinances and expectations. We grow up with the expectations of others laid bare. We are expected to act a certain way, live a certain way, achieve certain things and settle accordingly. As a result, our dreams, passions and goals are expected to be put aside so we can live the ‘right’ way. While we should strive to be successful, it should be done in alignment with what our culture and family think of as successful. Our goals, dreams and the pursuit of such must be within limits deemed appropriate by our culture and family.
These notions and the expectation to abide by them can be a lot to bear. By default, we feel that we must respect and in some way, abide by the traditions and expectations of our culture and family, and so when it comes to pursuing our dreams, it can be daunting to follow them through.
Cultural and family traditions can thus hold a powerful influence on us, so much so that we feel roped into compelling and conforming to these established expectations. As a result, respecting and abiding by one’s cultural or family traditions can make the pursuit of our dreams complex and deeply challenging.
While pursuing our dreams is essential for personal growth and fulfilment, if it involves breaking away from established norms and traditions, it can create pressure to conform. The pursuit of big dreams may be interpreted as deviating from traditional and cultural expectations, and as a result, can lead to a fear of being shunned, criticized or experiencing social isolation. This can create inner conflict and a sense of disconnect from one’s culture, family and self.
The emotional toll of trying to balance it all can be a lot. Balancing cultural expectations and norms with what you want from life can leave you riddled with feelings of guilt and shame and be detrimental to your mental health.
It is not only possible to find a balance between respecting cultural or familial traditions and pursuing big dreams, but it is vital that you do.
It often involves open communication, compromise, and finding a middle ground that aligns with your values and goals. Below are our tips on balancing the pursuit of your dreams and the expectations of your culture and family traditions.
Now we know this is easier said than done. But, if in the pursuit of your dreams, you experience pushback from your family, try to understand their reaction before instantly dismissing or disregarding them and their feelings. For your family, the pursuit and foreign nature of your dreams may be frightening. It might be difficult for them to understand the boldness of your choices and dreams because they never had the choice, option or opportunity to be bold themselves.
As a part of a diaspora, we and our families hold tightly onto cultural norms, traditions and expectations out of fear of losing them. While your family’s reactions might be difficult to digest, they most likely come from a place of fear and loss.
While you should prioritise your dreams and goals, try not to take your family’s reactions too personally. Understand that their hesitancy may be rooted in their own fear as opposed to their belief, faith and support of you.
Don’t Live in Fear
While it may be isolating and difficult to navigate the pursuit of your dreams and the expectations of others, it is important to not fall into fear and disregard your goals. It is essential that you understand that it does not have to be one way or another. You can pursue and chase your dreams and still be a part of and embrace your culture and traditions to a capacity you are comfortable with.
It is important to be bold with the choices you make and actively seek what brings you joy, peace and excitement. Your life is yours to live. It is wasteful to live in fear of what others will say or think of your choices. If your goals, dreams and choices and the pursuit of them do not align with your cultural or familial traditions, do not shy away from chasing them. The thoughts, expectations and feelings of others are not yours to control or manage. You must chase what you want in life and act accordingly in the pursuit of your dreams. Do not let the opinions of others cloud your mind and approach.
Advocate for Yourself
Learning to advocate for yourself and continuing to do so is an essential life skill.
In the pursuit of your dreams, advocating for yourself is vital. You must continue to prioritise yourself and your goals to achieve what you want, regardless of the opinions, actions and expectations of others. You, your dreams and your wants are important and should take precedence in your life.
Advocating for yourself, in turn, creates the future that you want. In advocating for yourself, you are choosing yourself and your goals.
In advocating for yourself, you know that through pursuing your dreams you are not disrespecting or dismissing your culture or traditions, but rather creating a life that is yours and one that works in alignment with you. Your dreams or the pursuit of such does not have to be antithetical to your culture and traditions. They can work in alignment, and you can enjoy both. You must remember to continuously advocate for your right to choose your own life and act accordingly.
Respecting your culture and family traditions while pursuing your dreams can be complex and challenging. With so many expectations from so many different people, it can be daunting and often isolating to pursue what it is that you want in life.
Yes, you may feel torn between your obligations and personal aspirations, but this should not mean that you disregard your goals and live to appease others. Your dreams and wants are important, and you should act as though they are, actively working towards pursuing your goals, regardless of the thoughts, feelings, and expectations of others.