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The Pressure of Disappointed Expectations as a Young Adult: Why Pleasing Your Parents Is Not The Most Important Thing

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As children grow up, they look to their parents for just about everything. Parents care for and nurture their kids, providing them with education, food, and a place to live and instilling morals and values that have passed through the family.

Once children reach a certain age, they begin making choices on their own. Whereas one path might follow parents’ dreams and expectations, the other leads to their own dreams. This is where the fork in the road can lead to confusion, uncertainty, and the pressure of not disappointing parents.

The pressure continues into adulthood. Many adults worry about disappointing parents and end up in situations they don’t want to be in just because they feel they need to adhere to standards instilled in them long ago.

Don’t let pressure from your parents, whether conscious or subconscious, define you – pleasing your parents is not the most important thing.

The Effects of Pressure from Parents

When you feel the pressure of pleasing your parents, it can affect you emotionally, socially, mentally, and physically. Between the expected timelines, pressures on yourself, waning self-confidence, and how your parents define success, you may feel you’re spiraling out of control.

A lack of support from parents directly affects mental health. For example, in one study, children who have had inadequate support from their parents while growing up were more likely to have health problems, both psychological and physical, as adults. Lacking support led to increased levels of depression and lifelong physical illnesses.

Another study involving pressure has shown that about one-fifth of children who experience time pressure end up with mental health problems. Parents put pressure on children to finish tasks on a deadline or to have a well-thought timeline for the rest of their lives. It’s essential to stop the cycle when you’re an adult who can make your own decisions. Realizing that pleasing your parents isn’t the most important thing can help your mental well-being.

Why Pleasing Your Parents Shouldn’t Be Your Motivating Force

Overall, it’s unrealistic to hold to anyone’s standards but your own. That doesn’t mean you don’t care about what your parents think of you, but you can’t allow that preoccupation to consume your life and shape your self-esteem or your choices. You are your own person, which is why pleasing your parents shouldn’t be your motivating force in life. Here are a few ways adhering to others’ expectations can harm you:

It Prevents You from Taking Risks

If you only ever care about your parents’ opinions, you are less likely to take risks in your life. Perhaps you have a goal that you haven’t pursued because you don’t want to fail and disappoint your parents. Of course, no one likes to fail, but without failure, there wouldn’t be success. No doubt your parents have failed before, so don’t be afraid to take a risk and fail yourself.

It Holds You Back from Your Dreams

Following your parents’ dreams holds you back from your own. Sure, they might want what they think is best for your life, but you and your parents are different people. You don’t have to have the same interests or career path, and your life doesn’t need to look like theirs to be fulfilling.

It’s Not Realistic to Hold to a Timeline

Parents often hold timelines for their children. They want to see them successfully graduate school on time, obtain a job, rent an apartment or buy a house, get married and then have children. That trajectory might work for some, but often, that’s not the way things go. You might have multiple jobs after schooling. Maybe you still need to live with friends or a parent because purchasing a home is too expensive in these times. Realistically, not many hold to this trajectory.

Remember, your parents’ expectations of your ideal timeline are about them, not you. They’re based on your mom’s or dad’s preconceived notions — including what they did in their own lives or what they wish they did. As a result, your parents’ expected timeline might not even be based in reality or current with your generation. For example, 39% of millennials graduated with a college education — more so than any other generation — but only 64% of Americans own a house, and millennials are having fewer children later in life than any previous generation. Life milestones that were once markers for “success” aren’t the same anymore, and they might not be right for you anyway. Go easy on yourself — your parents’ standards don’t define your timeline. You do.

It Affects Your Health

As previously mentioned, pleasing your parents can affect your health. There’s enough stress in the everyday necessities of your life without a constant sense of pressure or disappointment that comes from not meeting your parents’ goals. Your mental and physical well-being should be more important than pleasing anyone, even your parents.

If your parents’ expectations genuinely affect your health, then it’s time to have an open conversation with them. The odds are that they want you to be happy and will understand your choices — if they can’t accept them, that’s on them and not you. Be honest and move on.

It Can Alter Relationships with Other People

Finally, parental expectations can alter relationships, specifically romantic ones, with other people in your life. Choosing a path that you don’t truly want may prevent you from making genuine friends or finding a significant other who feels right for you. Plus, if your parents have expectations for your love life, you might miss out on being with someone who would truly make you happy.

How to Overcome Fear of Disappointing Your Parents

No matter how difficult it might seem, you can overcome the fear of disappointing your parents. Use these tips to help overcome parental expectations — and the pressure you put on yourself because of it:

  • Put yourself first. Not meeting your own expectations can be more disheartening than disappointing your parents. Be confident in your decisions and the way they affect you
  • Be open with your parents. Have a conversation with them about your own expectations. Remind them that you are different from them. Thank them for raising you, but be assertive that you want to live your own life. Additionally, try to understand where they’re coming from.
  • Remember that you’re good enough. Be confident in your self-worth. You are valuable, and your voice matters in your own life.

You Do You

Expectations from parents can help guide you to good choices at times, but ultimately, it’s up to you to make your own decisions and do what’s best for your life. No one knows you better than yourself. Go get that different but exciting job, go to your dream school, travel, start your own business or do whatever makes you happy — and be honest with yourself and your parents.



About the Author: Ginger Abbot is a lifestyle and learning writer who talks about mental health, career development, and personal growth. Read more of her work on Classrooms, where she serves as Editor and contributing writer.

July Is BIPOC Mental Health Month

In 2008 the United States government designated July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month “to enhance public awareness of mental illness …. among minorities.”

Bebe Moore Campbell was an American author and mental health advocate who wrote works of fiction, nonfiction, and children’s literature about the harmful effects of racism and the mental health impacts on those affected.

Each July, www.rtor.org and its sponsor Laurel House, Inc. honor the legacy of Bebe Moore Campbell. We believe in using language that puts people first and emphasizes their individuality and unique contributions rather than their health or demographic status. Just as we do not refer to people living with schizophrenia as “schizophrenics,” we avoid terms such as “minority” and “marginalized” when referring to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and BIPOC Mental Health Month.

Please join us in recognizing the unique struggles BIPOC face and bringing awareness to the need for adequate, accessible, culturally relevant mental health treatment, care, and services.

Our recent blog post, 8 Accessible Mental Health Resources for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), contains several links to online resources promoting the emotional wellbeing and access to mental health care for these communities.

www.rtor.org and Laurel House are committed to the advancement of racial equity and social justice and to making mental health services available to all.

Photo by Jonathan Chan on Unsplash

The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.

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1 thoughts on “The Pressure of Disappointed Expectations as a Young Adult: Why Pleasing Your Parents Is Not The Most Important Thing

  1. Danielle Leblanc, RtoR.Org Resource Specialist says:

    Hi Michael,

    Thank you for reading and commenting on the blog post. It is good to hear that you have tried, perhaps another approach such as counseling can be beneficial. I will contact you directly with some resources, please check your email.


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