How I escaped a toxic society norm, controlling in-laws, and unrealistic teaching expectations.
Do you feel pressure from society to behave a certain way? Are you strongly influenced by your family? Do you feel confused about where you are in your life? Do you feel controlled by someone or something and you’re unsure why or how to get away from its grasp?
Not too long ago I found myself pondering these questions. The answers led me down a path of self-discovery.
One piece of this discovery was recognizing toxic messages within our society and from family members. Some of these messages and expectations are in place to benefit our society and others, but not the individual.
For some people (at least for me) these messages and expectations evolved into an oozing toxic substance that breed personal self-doubt, exhaustion, confusion, and conformity.
I realized, in some ways, I was living for other people. As if I was on earth to make other people happy. What I did in my life was to increase others’ fulfillment. This would all be dandy if I was happy and fulfilled, but I wasn’t.
I slowly recognized that I was working myself sick just to save-face as well as maintain what society (and family members) expect of me. This realization helped me uncover the answers to my questions.
For me, the moment of enlightenment took place during the second year of the Covid-19 pandemic. I was completely strained in every direction. Between parenting demands, accommodating to my immediate and extended family’s needs, and trying to keep up with my ever-changing job requirements, I was a complete mental and physical mess. As my health plummeted I realized that my life is too short to live like this!
I decided to make a change. I no longer wanted to bend over backwards just to please my employer or needy in-laws. This might sound harsh, but I had to re-evaluate what I need in my life in order to live a fulfilling life for myself. To be clear, this was an excruciating realization followed by a long bumpy path that involved identifying my personal boundaries, exploring my parenting style, and re-evaluating my career choice.
To begin, I researched healthy boundaries that would prevent my in-laws from taking advantage of my family and myself. Prior to applying boundaries, my mother and father in-law behaved as a domineering, oppressive, controlling, attention seeking, and manipulative duo that stopped at nothing to find fulfillment by trying to ‘take-over’ my family, primarily, my kids. They had such bad behavior but were experts at packaging it up with a glossy outer layer in the form of toxic positivity while constantly claiming to ‘help’. Of course, they were not helpful. Their attempt to pressure and manipulate me into becoming co-dependent upon them was damaging, confusing, and awful. But it felt good to them.
You can read more about the journey with my in-laws in a later post.
While I placed thick, wide, and deep boundaries between my in-laws and myself, I also explored options for my day-to-day life. I wanted to live a fulfilling life without the obligation to please others. Through this process, I discovered that I am introverted. I always knew that I was introverted but I finally accepted that I am much happier, more relaxed, and less anxious when I spend more time alone. I discovered that when I’m constantly interacting with people, I get over stimulated. This produced exhaustion and agitation. When I felt this way, I did not properly take care of myself nor was I able to be an attentive and consistent parent. This realization was so difficult because we live in a society that caters to and celebrates extroverts. For years it seemed easier to ‘fit in’ with these social norms, so I did. I chose a career that required me to be outgoing and always ‘on’. Although I was a successful teacher, the excessive amount of social interaction and relationship building drained me of my energy every day. This had to stop. ( You can read about my decision to leave the classroom in an upcoming post.)
So where do I go from here? I mean, I still need to pay my bills.
In the wake of the pandemic there have been more opportunities to work from home. This was my ticket. I thought, ‘I am a strong educator so why not use my experience to create a flexible online teaching career?’ With this idea in mind, I took time to update my resume, cover letter, and to collect reference letters. Once completed, I began exploring online opportunities. To my surprise, there’s a significant need for experienced online tutors and teachers. Thankfully, websites such as indeed.com made this goal achievable. (I am not an indeed representative.)
At the end of three months I had successfully inserted effective boundaries and I was well on my way towards a flexible online teaching career.
Meanwhile, I was aspiring to be a better parent. As it turns out, the main issues with my parenting stemmed from my meddling in-laws and lack of time and energy due to my demanding job. The adjustments made with my in-laws combined with my career change guided me towards an unexpected revelation. I was unknowingly building confidence as a parent while spending more time with my kids. Just by removing the in-laws that were actively undermining me, constantly making suggestions about my parenting style, and much more, I had the opportunity to reconnect with my kids and emerge as a positive and confident parent.
Although I have made significant changes in my life, my journey does not end here. What I do know is that I will continue to be true to myself while striving to be a better parent. Of course, it is not perfect. I make mistakes every day. The difference is that I have the confidence, capacity, time, and patience to learn from my mistakes and to make the necessary adjustments.
If you’re reading this, chances are, you want to make a change. Or maybe you’re stuck in an office waiting for an appointment and you’re just passing the time. Either way, it’s important for us all to occasionally pause to reevaluate our lives. We all deserve to live our truth, no matter what it is (Assuming you don’t hurt others, of course). Your truth is going to be different than mine and everyone else. Maybe you want to advance in your career but you’re unsure of how to make the bold leap. Or you may want your family members to be more involved in your life. That’s great too. No matter what it is, find your truth, and take action. Life is too short to allow society, friends, or family members to dictate your happiness and fulfillment.
Your turn! I want to hear from you. What emotional, mental, or physical obstacle have you overcome? Maybe you're still in the thick of it. I want to help so please share below.