BY: ANGIE PICCIRILLO
I recently learned the term “tiger style,” which refers to a strict and demanding parent who pushes their children to pursue high levels of achievement. Supposedly, this is done to ensure the success of the children in the competitive global economy and is most common in Asian American communities. However, I think this style of parenting is relevant to most of the world: a “Tiger Society,” if you will, exists as an invisible pressure of the media to obtain certain milestones and materialistic “achievements.”
I know for a fact that many western young women who don’t achieve certain milestones by the time they are thirty consider themselves to be a failure—and often end up depressed or with heavy anxiety in trying to obtain these “achievements.” A recent article from The Huffington Post shows a video that in China, women who are not married by the time they are thirty are considered “leftover women”—and often are viewed as “disrespectful” and “failures” in their parents’ eyes. Unfortunately, I think this is pretty common in many cultures and countries all over the world.
For me, I can’t exactly recall where these “pressures” came from as I don’t recall being taught specifically about them from my parents or in school, and I definitely don’t consider my mom and dad “Tiger parents,” in any regard. If anything, I think my parents were hippies who gave me many avenues of exploring my creativity, and if I didn’t like something or wasn’t good at it, that was usually the end of it.
When I was in my mid-twenties, I too fell victim to the pressures of this so-called “Tiger Society,” which often reads like a checklist and includes things like getting a college degree, getting engaged, getting married, buying a home, having a career, having children, etc. Because people often give themselves a time limit by when they have to achieve such goals or become competitive with others around them who seem to be obtaining their milestones on the checklist at a quicker pace, it’s easy to feel like you’re being left behind in the race. It’s hard to see everyone around you with all these “things” that have been burned into your mind by culture and society as measures of success, especially when it’s not YOU getting them.
As I got older, after reading many books—about quantum physics, religions, cultures, and studying psychological patterns—I started to realize that your “checklist” can actually be whatever it is you want. It can have whatever you want on it, and it can have (or not have) a time limit on it. But since society makes these milestones seem like some passage of “normalcy”—along with measures of beauty, body norms, gender norms, etc.—it’s often easy to feel anything but normal if you wander from this chosen path. It’s easier said than done to go against this pattern of “normalcy.” Once you realize that you can create your list, it’s also often sometimes hard to remember not to fall back into your old patterns and ways of thinking, especially when your social media is taken over with pictures of babies and weddings, etc.
It seems as though society needs to advertise that you can create your own list; it can include traveling the world, having a career in another country, going on tour with a band, becoming a trapeze artist, climbing the largest mountain, designing your own clothing line, writing a book, or whatever it is that you most want. Just because you aren’t married by a certain age, having a child by a certain age, or doing what is “expected” of you does not by any means make you a failure.
As for me, a few years ago, I found myself wearing boring clothes to a job that I secretly hated because I felt that was what was expected of me. My next steps were to get married and have a kid and my checklist would have been complete. However, my inner gypsy-punk-rock-anarchist returned when I most needed her and reminded me that society’s checklist and timeline doesn’t exactly match up with mine—and that it doesn’t have to.
I’m still hoping I’ll get married and maybe have a kid one day—but it will be according to my very own checklist, and probably not while wearing boring clothes.
After all, what if you achieve everything on society’s checklist and realize it’s not actually the list you wanted to complete?