Trapped in a pigeonhole
October 7, 2012 2:42 AM   Subscribe

How do you draw boundaries when you don't have the grounds to? Specific to first-gen East Asian immigrant family...

As my past questions reveal, I do not have a full-time job right now. Having one and being able to support myself would give me more ground to draw boundaries between me and my parents. By living at their house and relying on them right now, I have to deal with their nagging and what they say/do-- it's the necessary trade-off (and I understand that they want me to be independent too).

However, I think by giving me more space to conduct the job search, I could be more effective. For example, I feel very unonfortable and Incompetent when they tell me what to wear and what today before interviews. Today, my dad took my resume and started editing it without my giving the resume to him, and my parents want me to apply to very specific jobs short of applying FOR me themselves.

Despite their good intentions, their actions are very condescending and makes me feel very underestimated. Because I live at home, they know when I go to interviews and their attention makes me feel very incompetent, which comes across in interviews; and when I don't get the job, they know and it further confirms their (lack of) belief in me. But I can't tell them to back off b/c I do depend on them-- so this feels like something I can't get out of.

How do I deal with this? I don't mind having to search A LOT before finding a job-- but when my parents see me failing it makes me think I'll always fail, and I am depressed living in their pigeonhole for me. I know i am more confident and capable when they aren't around. How do I set boundaries when I don't have the grounds to? And when building the grounds will require them giving me the space to?

(I want to talk to a therapist about this in the long run. Also, I think my parents being 1st gen Immigrants who are scared of uncertainty plays a big role in this too.)
posted by ichomp to Society & Culture (9 answers total)
This is a superficial solution, and won't take care of the root of the problem, but how about going out each day to a library, shared office or coffee shop and doing your job hunting and personal/professional work from there? That would get them (and their good, if misplaced, intentions) out of your hair for a bit.
posted by third word on a random page at 2:49 AM on October 7, 2012 [6 favorites]

Don't take it personally - they want to be helpful/useful but are going about it poorly.

Be in your house less. Much less.
posted by heyjude at 2:54 AM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Perhaps you could have a discussion with your parents and set some boundaries? Would they respect the limits if you asked them, for example, not to nag on certain issues because you are already aware you have work to do, or you disagree with their view? You could say they are able to raise the issue three times (for example) and then no more after that.

I personally think your father editing your résumé without asking you first is an invasion of privacy and crosses the line but it is up to you what you will accept. Perhaps there are other things he could do if he feels the need to help?

Is it possible to live more independently at all eg with friends or flat mates? Can you even get a crap job to make any money or volunteer to make some contacts?

Good luck and keep at it- I know how hard it is because I have had the same problem (only difference is I'm not East Asian)
Hope you find a job soon!
posted by EatMyHat at 5:06 AM on October 7, 2012

This isn't the time for confrontations. You're too deep in the hole. Now is the time for quiet adjustments to your filters.

Going to the library every day is a great start. If you limit how much they know- like discussing only the jobs they suggested you applied for, and discussing only the interviews that came from that. You can let them do what they want (to help) without burrowing completely up your butt.

Keep your most recent resume on your email, not on a shared house computer. Let your dad fiddle with the one he knows about to little hearts content.

Dress yourself each day for interviews and leave the house to go to the library early. If they know about an interview for a job they asked you to apply to, you can humor them and bring your "interview clothes" in the car, or promise to come back for them and "lose the time."

Once you are out of the house, then you can start making hard lines for them to repect. I also agree with EatMyHat- get any part time job you can and escape asap. It's hard for people to nitpick what they can't see.
posted by Blisterlips at 5:35 AM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Just going to throw out several ideas:

• Strongly agree with Blisterlips as to how to maintain your privacy, but you may still want to consider having a conversation with your parents "Thank you for helping me the last few months, it means a great deal to me. I know that you want the best for me. It makes me uncomfortable or eats away at my self confidence, though, when you always give advice or ask about my job search. This job hunt is likely to take several months. Would it be possible to only give feedback when I request it and not go through my things, etc.?" But ask for their feedback sometimes, but in very controlled ways. Ask your father if he has any suggestions for your CV. Or could you do a mock interview with him? Do let him know that in the end, you will decide what suggestions to use/not use. You can also control when these happen (mock interview a few weeks before, the CV at a random time). To be honest, getting as many people's feedback into the package (CV, presentation) can help ...and you decide to use/not use. You can also control how to get the feedback (the mock interview can be in a conversation at the end, etcl) I agree with the other posters, I would not tell them specific dates and keep that part of your life separate. But they want to help and don't know what to do and it will feed into a cycle of them trying to do things and crossing the line...unless you throw them things to do and express the boundary, they are going to constantly push them and ask questions, etc.

• Do you have friends or family nearby with whom you can stay the night before an interview?

• Part of the problem may also be that your world is contracting if it is mainly your parents, you, and the action of looking for a job. What may help is to focus your attention just for a little while on other people. So some random ideas....are there meetups in your area for underemployed on unemployed people? Or job hunting clubs? It may help to hear their stories and as a group, review on another's CVs, go to meetings that tell you how to network, or whatever. But you will be focused on how the other people are doing, too, and you may learn a job hunting strategy or two from them.
posted by Wolfster at 10:05 AM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

You have a right to set boundaries, regardless of your circumstance. The question is how to do so effectively if you don't want to unnecessarily alienate anyone.

Others have suggested you move out. If that is possible but not desirable, I would ask another question: How likely are your parents to toss you out into the street if you politely but firmly push back?

When I was living with my parents and job hunting and my mother was too up in my business, I ignored the "suggestion" to do things her way. Instead I asked "Do you want me to leave?" I was very clear that the only thing she really had the power to enforce was whether or not I lived with her. I was equally clear she was butting in out of concern and that it was not going to help. For the sake of everyone involved, I had to work it out myself. I was willing to leave, even if that meant sleeping in my car, in order to have freedom to do what needed to be done.

My mother got very upset at the question and after a couple more comments left the room. She was not willing to throw me out into the street. After that, she let me job hunt as I saw fit. I did eventually get a job. It was one she suggested I apply for, but without the previous problematic butting in and being controlling.

So if you can line up alternatives (for where to live) and you are clear this is sabotaging your job hunt, you can push back. If you are willing to accept the consequences (of possibly having to leave), they cannot make you do anything, really.

If you think they will toss you out and you can't accept that, then go with some of the other excellent suggestions to avoid or minimize the problem. Only do this if you are sure you can accept moving out promptly (so it might be an option later even if it isn't now). I will add that I had previously proven my willingness to leave. My mother knew I was not bluffing.
posted by Michele in California at 11:56 AM on October 7, 2012

I will add that my mother is also an immigrant, though European, not Asian. If that makes any difference to you.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 12:06 PM on October 7, 2012

I wonder if you have any activities that make you feel confident. Like taking a run (and quick shower at home, hopefully while your parents are at work), before your interview.

I also thought maybe letting your parents know that finding a job is important to you, but you'd really like their advice about something else. They're paying a lot of attention to you, maybe you can redirect their energy. Are you a good cook? Are there any dishes you'd like your parents to teach you? Are there any crafts your parents know that you'd like to learn? While you're still living at home is a perfect time to learn these things. And keeps at least some of their energy focused on your shared project instead of your job hunt.

Good luck with your job hunt.
posted by Margalo Epps at 4:24 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

find a relative of yours who is older than your parents: older uncle or aunt, maybe one of your parents' friends if you know them well, or a grandparent if they are still around/you can speak the same language. complain to them about how the scrutiny from your parents is making you feel less confident and is hurting your job search. the relative you talk to will then tell your parents to back off. a younger brother or sister of one of your parents could also work, but it would come better from an older relative.
posted by cupcake1337 at 4:53 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

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