OPINION SERIES: American dream restrictive, traditional maintenance limits self-expression

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This is part of a series of opinions various Viewpoints staff members have on the American dream. Read the previous one here.

By John Michael Guerrero

The weight of family expectations to uphold old and outdated cultural beliefs overwhelms our current generations.

Those who uphold traditional cultural beliefs and standards in the age of social change should learn to adjust to accept new social norms rather than suppress others for challenging tradition. 

Overwhelming pressures to uphold one’s familial culture can lead to unnecessary stress and toxic ideologies. Conserving tradition rather than evolving cultural practices is one of the most significant issues in many households, especially ones where the value of tradition is placed above everything else.

American and Canadian societies have continued to push for equal acceptance of gender fluidity. These movements aim to break the conservative ideology that men have to be masculine and women have to be feminine. The same movements also aimed to raise awareness about the LGBTQIA2+ community

While social standards continue to evolve to accept people, various cultural values continue to promote putting both family and loved ones down for not being the “ideal” human.

Coming from a very conservative family with old-fashioned ideals and traditions, I know the personal struggles of trying to please one’s family while trying to express oneself authentically at the same time. These conflicts can lead to increased stress and anxiety, rifts between family members and decreased motivation for education or work.

A correlation was found between increased suicide, depression and anxiety among young adults and teens and restrictive family traditions, especially among cultures with old, ethical beliefs. Many immigrant families strive to fulfill the American dream, yet they fail to realize the stress of cultural conservation, and the struggle to be part of this dream, can lead to internal moral conflicts.

Current and future generations should not be hyper focused on pleasing family traditions but should instead be allowed to do things how they want while educating older generations. Having an open line to communicate the stress of not being masculine, feminine or normal enough in family members’ eyes is a step in the right direction. No individual should feel ashamed, embarrassed or depressed about who they are, whether it be within or outside our families.

It’s natural to feel pride in our traditions, culture and heritage, but when these practices lead to unhealthy struggles, we should be able to challenge these beliefs and build foundations for more accepting traditions.

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