Kimanzi Constable Reveals Pressure Of Growing Up As A Kenyan-American

Kimanzi Constable Reveals Pressure Of Growing Up As A Kenyan-American
Kimanzi Constable Reveals Pressure Of Growing Up As A Kenyan-American. PHOTO/COURTESY

My mother is African, from Mombasa, Kenya. She came to the United States for college and became a nurse. I was the first generation of our family to be born in the United States.

When I was 12 years old, my mother sent my brother and me to live in Mombasa. We spent two years living in a much different environment than we had known growing up in America.

When we got back from Kenya, life and our family were different. As now teenagers, there were certain expectations from our immigrant parents. It felt like they tied their identity to what we did and accomplished.

Growing up in an African family in the US, life was about appearances

Our home had to look a certain way, we had to dress appropriately, and we studied a lot because we had to appear the smartest. We often had to perform for visitors, anything from music, speeches, and displays of knowledge.

The pressure to keep a positive, successful appearance to the outside world divided our family. Sleepovers at my cousin’s houses faded, family gatherings became a distant memory, and our parents kept to themselves as we made mistakes.

Today, my family feels siloed. It feels as if each family unit in the United States, and those still in Kenya, live in their own Universe.

Our family is compartmentalized because kids, and parents,  haven’t lived up to expectations. How we live is not the appearance of success our parents hoped for. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard about how disappointing it is.

Because we didn’t become doctors and lawyers, there’s very little communication, and when there is, it’s surface-level pleasantries. There’s only communication when there’s an accomplishment to brag about.

When looking good is more important than feeling good, families suffer

There’s so much pressure to be perfect as an immigrant with the opportunity to live in the United States. Our African parents want bragging rights, but it was too hard for my brother, cousins, and me to live up to the image our parents wanted.

We felt the appearance pressure, and at 41 years old, I still feel it when I go back home. Appearances can be deceiving, and having that much pressure broke me — thank goodness for therapy.

As a parent myself of six children, I’ve come to understand that my identity and measure of success are not tied to what my kids do. I’ve realized that children are little humans who grow up and make the decisions they want for their lives. What they choose to do is not a reflection of me as a person and doesn’t define my success.

Every family has some version of the appearances pressure

The pressure to appear happy feels more important than being happy, and that is not a healthy place to be.

I’ve spent a lot of time working with therapists and thinking about what a successful life looks like for me — waking up every day and spending my time doing what brings me joy is enough. Being able to write for a living is my definition of success. Being the best husband, father, and human I can be is what I strive for.

I can’t control anyone else but me. Maybe our family dynamic will change one day, but until then, I’m not passing the appearance pressure to the next generation. We’re teaching our children and grandchildren that we love and support however they want to identify and whatever life profession they choose.

We teach our children and grandchildren to always embrace the things that make them happy.

By Kimanzi Constable

Kenyan-American Kimanzi Constable is a successful author, speaker, coach, and corporate consultant.

Source-https://www.insider.com/

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