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I am afraid to express myself with my mother and my teachers - please help

heart to heart
I feel as if I have a bundle of obstacles in my life. I am a 20 year old Indian female nursing student. I live at home with my parents, and will do so until I marry. My mother and I have a lot of confrontations. I understand where she comes from as she has led and is leading a very insecure life - she is also very traditional, wanting me to do as she says and only as she says.

Every time something goes wrong (e.g. I cut my hair) she says you can't do anything like that in my house, do these things after you're married (it will most likely be an arranged marriage). Basically she is waiting to pass on my leash. I truly believe that I can never be happy while hurting someone else, and I do not want to hurt my mother, but at the same time I am unhappy because I feel like I am trapped in a cage. How can I be happy without hurting anyone else?

I also have a question pertaining to school, I am doing horribly badly. The first week of classes always goes fine until the readings build up, mounted by assignments that are due. I know I can do it. I know I have the potential. I do believe I am intelligent and capable, but I always feel overwhelmed by the amount of work in front of me.

I think I am a perfectionist and if I feel I can't do it perfectly, then I do not attempt it at all, or at least put it off until I can. There have been more then a few times where I have begun the assignment after it was due (I think it gives me the excuse for imperfections), but if I start an assignment way before time, I find myself spending way to much time on it, even if I set limits.

Everyday I promise myself that today is the day I will catch up and everyday I find myself in front of the computer, or the television, or clearing my email. I truly would like to be a nurse. I enjoy learning, but it just feels like there's a truckload of information to go through! I have read dozens of articles on time management, and self motivation, but the ideas seem to slip through my fingers.

Wallace's reply
Wallace With regard to the issue with your mother, it is important, indeed vital for you to realize that you are not responsible for hurting your mother - the hurt she feels is because she expects you to behave in certain ways and you are not conforming. It is an error to have expectations of others in personal relationships between adults. In these relationships we need to feel free to act and free to negotiate points of difference as equals. We need to offer that freedom to others as well. Have the courage to be your Self. Do not conform to her expectations about your personal affairs. You are an adult - act like one. You are not your mother's puppet.

True while you live in her house you may have to conform on certain issues to do with living in someone else's home, however it is vital to discern between the issues where you need to go along with your mother's requests and the issues that are for yourself alone to determine (like your personal appearance). If your mother is requiring you to behave in a certain manner, ask yourself, "Is this a matter that is rightfully her concern or is it a matter for myself alone?" This is your big task now - to discern this difference. Learning to discern the difference between your mother's rightful concerns and those matters that are for you alone will empower you to claim your place in the family as an independent adult - a vital step for any young person.

Once you have given these matters some thought and you are clearer on which aspects of your life you want to determine, I suggest you sit down with your mother and talk these matters through quietly and calmly. Explain your reasons for wanting to decide more for yourself and remain adamant that this is your right, while listening carefully to her point of view. Attempt to find a way forward that you can both live with, through entering into a series of discussions with your mother.

If you decide that cutting your hair, to use your example, is a matter for yourself alone, discuss your choice with her and explain to her your need to decide on matters to do with your own appearance. Attempt by calm deliberation to have her see and understand your point of view, while at the same time you seek to understand hers. However if this fails and you decide to go ahead and cut your hair, because after your discussion with her you are still convinced this is a matter for yourself, and your mother gets very annoyed, let her be that way. Remain unaffected by her anger and do not cooperate with her attempt to control personal matters like your appearance. You are a beautiful woman and you need to find the courage to express that beauty in your own way.

With regard to your second issue, that of procrastination, I feel it is closely related to the first. Both are issues of failing to express your Self with confidence. In that regard addressing the first issue of fear of self-expression with your mother, will help you with the second, fear of expressing yourself to an authority figure (your mother and your teachers) and fear of being judged wrong or bad (by these authority figures).

This second issue of procrastination will not be solved by reading time management theory, but by you having the courage to break out of your shell and declare your truth confidently to the world. This will be a challenge for you. You need to rise to this challenge. Your voice needs and deserves to be heard.

If, by expressing yourself in your assignments, or by asserting yourself with your mother, you are judged harshly, this may bring up painful emotions. These emotions are your buried pain surfacing. These emotions need to be expressed and released. You need to find a private place where you can express your fear, anger and grief harmlessly, by crying or getting angry.

This self-expression of your emotions will help release the buried pain that is being brought to the surface by your self-assertion and will empower you to find your voice in the world. If you feel all alone with this and it seems like a big challenge, find a companion who can offer support. Draw on their support to help you find your voice and to work through the associated painful emotions. Your future success and happiness at home, in your choice of marriage partner and in your career all depends on you mastering this.

Further Help and Resources
My book Unfold Your Wings and Watch Life Take Off has guidelines for getting in touch with your pain and by expressing it finding your voice. In particular see "Your Calling is Elevated Through the Release of Pain" p.66, "Your Potential Needs Persistence" p.107 and "Your Healing from Fear, Anger and Grief" p.223.

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