Social Awareness

5 Reasons Not To Listen To Career Advice From Your Tiger Parents

The choice has always been yours to make.

“All decent parents want to do what’s best for their children. The Chinese just have a totally different idea of how to do that.”

Amy Chua

This is a wake-up call for all the Asian youths out there who was raised in an immigrant household: you do you and never give up on your dreams, even if you get an earful from your parents. 

Since my ancestors moved to Malaysia, several things have remained unchanged, including the gradual transformation of cultures between generations. Oftentimes, the result is a lack of cultural unification that is especially prominent between immigrants and their offspring. 

We make fun online as a way to tolerate this genuine but hurtful human experience. Memes about tiger dads and being told a “ disgrace” are jokes that, in my view, almost become a hallmark of our generation.

Although your parents mean well and want you to have a good life, whether by providing you with the best education or protection possible, only you know what is best for you. That being said, what is actually best for you may not be what your parents desire.

Here is why you should plan and manage your own journey in life:

1. They have different fears than you.

We frequently do not remember or fail to acknowledge that our parents (and our ancestors) were raised in a different environment. They endured a different set of obstacles, successes and failures. But, the most significant of all is that they have a different set of emotions, including fear. 

If you take a moment to empathise with your ancestors, you may understand how difficult it was for them to settle down in a different country with a totally different cultural environment from where they came from, let alone securing a job. Hence, it is not surprising why most parents continuously stress the importance of having a career that is stable and pays you well. 

However, making sense theoretically is one thing. Whether or not that logic holds in real life is another. Data published by Pew Research Center shows that American-born children of immigrants are in a better position than immigrants themselves. They have access to “higher incomes” and thus “fewer live in poverty.”

What does that tell us? Simply put, children of immigrants have access to more opportunities than their parents due to the fact they did not have to endure the hardship of transitioning from one culture to another; their parents have done it for them. Thus, it is common to observe that children of immigrants today are not motivated by the same inherent set of insecurities that their parents had. 

2. Greater social impact comes from doing what you love.

There is no need for detailed elaboration here because it is as simple as it gets.

By doing what you love, you would dedicate more of yourself to your work and the cause. So, when you zoom out, you would leave a lasting societal impact through your efforts and do better for yourself in the end, which is what your parents hoped for in the beginning. 

3. Your happiness is your own responsibility.

Most of us carry this sensation that to put a smile on our parents’ faces, we should go after the career paths they have selected for us. However, the issue is that even if we did opt to go into a career that our parents thinking will keep us secure forever, it still does not assure us of our parents’ happiness. 

Thinking that your parents’ happiness comes from you is just shallow thinking. The truth is, happiness comes from within.

However, this does not imply that we should not shower our parents with love and affection. On the contrary, we can take great lengths to prove how much we appreciate them. Alternatively, if you are one of those people who believe that small things matter, you can prove to your parents that you care for and love them by calling them a couple of times weekly, sending surprise flowers to your mother on her birthday, taking your parents out for a wonderful dinner or just telling them “I love you” just before you head back to your own space. 

These acts are of great importance. However, we should not change our lives or career goals to satisfy their expectations. Learning how to keep them separated is a skill that takes time to master.

4. Pursuing your passions now avoids future resentment.

Not satisfying your parents’ expectations and going against their wishes in the short term will prevent you from resenting them in the long term. So many children of immigrants end up resenting their parents for years because they blame their own choices on how their parents nurtured and groomed them. 

The cold truth is that once you are an adult, your life is your responsibility, not theirs. Also, it is worth pointing out that you have always been in control of your decisions. 

It is not complicated. Your life, your responsibility, your choices, your consequences. 

5. They will come to terms with your choices.

When you pause to consider what your parents ultimately want, you will discover that it is pretty straightforward. All parents want is to ensure that their children are safe and happy. So whenever they have a piece of advice to share, it is often driven by those two goals. 

Hence, if you know that you will accomplish these two goals without following their career advice and instead by following your own path, then you have the final say. When all is said and done, it is your life, and they can rest their case once they see that you have reached a comfortable position in life. 


Finally, I would like to point out that even having the ability to select a career is a luxury. The last thing I want to commit here is to unintentionally polarise people who do not have the resources necessary to journey into a career of their own choosing. 

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