A second-generation immigrant is opening up about the guilt she feels when visiting her parents.
On June 24, Sandy Sattar (@sandyisc00l), a 22-year-old Pakistani American woman originally from San Francisco who currently lives in New York City, shared a video on TikTok in which she candidly talks about the guilt she feels about moving away from her immigrant parents.
“does the immigrant child guilt ever go away real question,” she asks.
“I feel so guilty when I go home and visit my immigrant parents,” Sattar, a self-described “finance girly,” says. “I love my parents to bits and pieces, but I always knew that I had to move to New York to live a bigger life, and it breaks my heart to visit home and see my parents stuck in the same loops and the same cycle of emotions and struggles on a daily basis.”
Imi Lo, a psychotherapist and author of Emotional Sensitivity and The Gift of Intensity, explains that the “heaviness of unspoken guilt” may be more intense for second-generation immigrants.
“Children naturally blame themselves for their parents’ pain. Your unwarranted guilt is worse as a second-generation immigrant when you know that your immigrant parents came to a new country to ‘give you a better life,'” she writes for Psychology Today. “As a child, you might have automatically blamed yourself for your parents’ struggles because you thought you did something wrong or did not help enough.”
‘And that’s a privileged perspective that requires going out and living a life of your own and adventuring the world…’
Sattar notes the privilege she enjoys, in being able to leave home and live a life of her own.
“It feels like the world is too big, and that life is too short, to be having the same arguments over and over again,” she says. “Like it must be exhausting. And that’s a privileged perspective that requires going out and living a life of your own and adventuring the world. And I feel so guilty because they didn’t get to do that. Because their life is their kids.”
Sahaj Kaur Kohli, a mental health and wellness advocate based in Washington, D.C., offered “strategies for learning to manage guilt” for a reader of The Washington Post who articulated feelings similar to Sattar’s about moving away from their own immigrant parents:
Identifying your parents’ beliefs and values and then exploring your own, so you can redefine the merits of your guilt. Are you internalizing what’s expected of you?
Knowing that if you don’t nourish yourself, then you can’t show up as presently for your loved ones. The last thing you want is to start building resentment toward your family members or parents.
Remembering that multiple feelings can be felt and acknowledged simultaneously. Your family can feel sad you’re leaving and it can be the right thing for you. You can feel guilty for leaving and you can love your parents and your family fiercely.
‘They left their parents to pursue their dreams. Now it’s your turn to pursue yours. Visit when you can and enjoy your new life’
Fellow children of immigrants are sharing the ways Sattar’s video resonates with them. Many TikTok users seem to feel a similar sense of guilt.
“1000% this. Or when I spend money on myself for vacations or things that they never did/could or would do,” @freenster wrote.
“No the guilt does not go away, it only increases as you age(trust me). Make sure to balance your quality time with them while you pursue your dreams,” @jiinesh commented.
“They left their parents to pursue their dreams. Now it’s your turn to pursue yours. Visit when you can and enjoy your new life,” @dogmantras wrote, to which Sandy responded, “Yes this is def a great & positive angle! Just feels different, that was bred out of necessity where is this is bred out of desire.”
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