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When They Can’t Follow the Path You Wish to Go

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From this Quora question, “…I had a very sheltered and school-oriented upbringing. I’m shy and not very adventurous/willing to take risks; not exposed to any of the darker parts of life. I feel ungrateful and bitter about missing out on taking early responsibility and making decisions for myself, and gaining life experience…”

Some background.

Image by http://www.sxc.hu/profile/KaradurI’m an immigrant Taiwanese American; wasn’t born here, immigrated here, had parents – primarily mother – who wielded the “We are not American, We are Chinese” card.

I, too, was resentful of whatever I was given and whatever I was not.

My parents were not in a habit of informing us about major life decisions like moving to a new state or taking on a risky business that affected family finances. We were kids and we did not have rights to know anything about adult decisions including ones that directly affected us… like me going to a different high school every one of those high school years, because parents chased failed business after failed business. I’m not saying this is right. I’m saying this is the way it had been, until the parents decide it is no longer the way it should be. I felt like the background was necessary for you to know that I’m not the outsider-looking-in without having some of that cultural context/conditioning.

I was struck by what you said here:

“I’m shy and not very adventurous/willing to take risks; not exposed to any of the darker parts of life.”

Suppose you get exposed to the darker parts of life. Do you really believe that you’d become less shy, more adventurous, and more willing to take risks?

I find that logic unconvincing. I’m one who has not been sheltered from life, and I’ve gone through difficult years from ages 13-22 including leaving home and disowning my parents, and those years were mainly years of self-destruction and self-loathing.

Step 1. The way we inherently “are” personality-wise, is hard-wired. We then respond to the environment and allow the environment to shape us further.
Don’t buy into an illusion that “if only I were less protected” I’d be a different person than I am today. Instead, work with the personality you have, know your strengths and work those strengths so that your weaknesses become irrelevant (credit to late Peter Drucker for that concept).

Is it possible that your personality may simply be more deliberate and more cautious? Can you simply be an introvert?

I feel that one component of your angst is that you are trying to reconcile who you think you “should/could have been” and who you think you “are now.”

Why can’t you be RIGHT, as you are, now? Why do you need to have a personality that maybe simply isn’t you, in order for you to believe that you can achieve all that you can achieve?

I’m an introvert. “Shyness” comes with the territory. I achieved what I achieved in part because I stopped trying to change my personality and learned to work with my personality. I capitalize on where I am strong and I avoid situations where I know the amount of effort I need to manage my weaknesses will overtake the energy I can use to make my strengths work in my favor.

Your Parents’ Contribution. Maybe you have been sheltered emotionally, but you haven’t been physically and mentally sheltered. Your parents placing you in an environment where rebellion is celebrated and elevated (“The American High School”) made me think of a Chinese folk tale about an emperor who enjoyed hunting. I don’t remember which emperor which dynasty and I’ll be heavily paraphrasing dialog:

One day the king went hunting with his men and the king sighted a deer. The deer gave him a good chase but the king did not relent. Then the deer came upon several nets that had been set in the forest. The deer hit a net, turned around fled a different way, only to hit another net. The king sat watching on his horse. After several rounds of these with the deer becoming more and more panicked, the king told one of his men, “get rid of one of these nets.”

“But your highness, you’re giving the deer a way out,” said the king’s subject.

“You should always give a living being at least one way out,” said the king. The subject removed one of the nets and the deer took off.

Step 2. Accept that your parents have made the one contribution that counts. Your parents’ contribution to you is they brought you to a country where you enjoy the freedom to think and voice your own way without very real threats to life or quality of life. They have removed that one net of controlled thinking / speaking / being so you can set yourself free should you choose to take that path.


The fact you are asking all these questions, questioning them, questioning yourself — you are taking that path.

Step 3. Your parents have done their part. Now you do your part. This includes you making things happen for yourself that you want happen, without relying on your parents to make these happen for you.

I see an irony. This irony is where your mind is struggling.

Your mind is resentful of your parents for sheltering you to the point where your mind is making you believe that you aren’t able to do many things.

At the same time, your mind is resentful of your parents for not doing enough for you to the point where your mind is making you believe that you don’t have the resources moving forward to do many things.

Your mind is fucking with you.

[Pardon the language, but it was a term a psychologist I worked with used, and “mind-fucking” best summed up the state of mind I dealt with, back then.]

Instead of keeping your eyes on the ball moving forward, your mind has done a fabulous job teaming up with one your inner demons (“Fear”) and together they are chanting:

“hey — look behind you, see all those things you should have had, and you didn’t have — this is why you can’t have whatever you want now, that you can have, because look — look behind you — look how you grew up and where you came from.”

Fear is causing you to stall. Fear is giving you many things to ruminate on and dwell on, asking you to spend all your potential energy on regret and then siphoning all your kinetic energy on resentment.

Part of why Fear is so successful, is that your parents, in doing their part successfully and placing you in a place where you can think for yourself, have left THIS BIG HOLE in your consciousness.

I can hear you ask, “then what’s my part?”

Your part is to start filling THIS BIG HOLE in your consciousness BY FINDING ROLE MODELS AND MENTORS.

Find people whose way of “being” you admire, from all walks of life. Learn about how they had gone through the metamorphosis you are going through now —

How did that boy become a man?

How did that girl become a woman?

How did these beings who were once children become conscious, discerning, thinking, honorable, self-reliant, socially contributing human beings?

Your parents cannot be your role models on the path you wish to go.

I think deep down, you realize this, and it is a somewhat scary prospect. You get to walk this alone. But you don’t need to walk this without a compass or a road-map.

Figure out the points of your talent compass. That’s your job.

Figure out how to use your talent compass. That’s your job.

Figure out the walks of all those whose values resonated most with your own about what should matter in your life. That’s your job.

Find these travelers and learn from them. That’s your job.

Start preparing yourself as the person who will be worthy of becoming a mentor to another young person who will be like you once-upon-a-time used to be.

This is your job.


I believe in you.

Jane Chin’s [deleted Quora] answer to Self-Improvement: My parents went through tough times. They wanted to protect me from everything, so I grew up very sheltered. What’s a good attitude to take toward this, and how can I become less sheltered?

Written by Jane Chin

November 11th, 2012 at 10:48 am

Posted in Family and Parents