“Unveiling the Silent Struggles: How Toxic Behaviors in South Asian Culture Impact Mental Health”
In an era marked by the rapid transformation of societies worldwide, the discussion around mental health has emerged as a universal concern, transcending borders and cultures. It is within this evolving landscape that we find organizations like SEHAR, diligently working to empower and engage the youthful spirit, through initiatives such as the Peace Club; they are igniting a platform for young minds to lead discussions on native solutions to societal dilemmas and the recognition of their inherent rights.
Recently, I had the privilege of immersing myself in one of these thought-provoking sessions, delving into the realm of “Normal Toxic Behaviors in Pakistan.” The insights shared by the attendees, a diverse group ranging from students to seasoned professionals, were nothing short of profound. In this article, we venture into the heart of these revelations, exploring the undercurrents of behaviors that silently and significantly shape our society’s mental health landscape.
Discussing the detrimental effects of these toxic behaviors on our society as a whole, such as the belief that the kitchen is exclusively a female domain, the expectation for males to suppress their emotions, the misconception of using past mistakes as a means of parenting, and the misuse of patriotic slogans to achieve personal gain through deceit rather than embracing truthful freedom of speech.
One prevalent toxic behavior is the use of guilt as a means of emotional manipulation—a behavior that is often considered normal in South Asian culture. Guilt, in its essence, is a natural and healthy emotion that humans experience, stemming from a sense of responsibility for our actions and helping us relate to others. However, in many South Asian households, guilt is used as a tool to coerce compliance with familial values and expectations, creating a chronic state of toxic guilt. This emotional blackmail leads individuals to prioritize others’ needs over their own, even to their detriment. They may apologize for things that aren’t their fault, accommodate others at their own expense, or excuse abusive behavior simply because the perpetrator is an elder.
While these behaviors may appear as efforts to maintain familial relationships, they can eventually lead to resentment and, over time, deteriorating mental health. Shockingly, 1 in 5 people in South Asia report experiencing mood or anxiety disorders, both of which often involve deep-seated feelings of shame. In the quest to preserve family bonds, individuals may end up neglecting their own well-being, unintentionally causing harm to themselves.
The South Asian community’s emphasis on high standards and reputation adds to the pressure faced by youth. Children are expected to excel academically, maintain the family’s status, and uphold its reputation. Phrases like “What will people say/think?” reverberate in Desi households, intensifying the pressure on children to safeguard the family’s honor. Failure, in particular, brings immense pressure, often leading to mental health issues in young Desi individuals.
Marriage, too, is an area where South Asian youth face substantial expectations. The community typically expects marriage before the age of 30, and the failure to meet this timeline can raise concerns and emotional blackmail. Arranged marriages are common, further complicating the process. The pressure to accept proposals is intense, and declining one can lead to extreme distress and family tensions.
For South Asian women, the pressure extends to becoming the “perfect and beautiful wife,” which includes excelling at household tasks, having children, and conforming to beauty standards. This can lead to body image issues and self-esteem struggles.
Educational pressures also play a significant role, particularly for boys who are often expected to secure high-paying jobs. Failing to meet these expectations can lead to feelings of inadequacy and despair.
One of the key issues contributing to these challenges is the lack of emotional support within South Asian families. Open expressions of love are rare, and communication is often one-sided, creating feelings of isolation and a reluctance to express emotions.
As South Asian youth navigate these toxic behaviors, they may find their future relationships influenced by their upbringing. Prejudices, ignorance, and the pressure to conform to family values can lead to division and strained relationships outside the home.
In conclusion, it’s imperative that we recognize and address the toxic behaviors deeply ingrained in South Asian culture. This includes understanding how guilt is wielded as a weapon, acknowledging the pressure to maintain a family’s reputation, and challenging unrealistic expectations. By doing so, we can create healthier environments for South Asian youth, fostering emotional support, and ultimately, nurturing their mental well-being. It’s high time we break the silence surrounding mental health in South Asian communities and pave the way for meaningful change.