Respect vs Dependence: When Respect Goes Too Far

Hello, everyone! Long time no see! Frosted Bubble here.

As a college student, I recently began working at an internship, my first in-person one, and taking my first step into the working society has taught me more about myself, my childhood, and my flaws. Today, I will be focusing on the issue of respect and authority figures.

Ever since I was young, one thing I had always been taught to do was to respect my elders. To me, my father and mother were figures that felt untouchable because they seemed to me as people who simply knew more and knew better, and in return, I treated them with respect and complete dependence. I followed their instructions blindly and mentally positioned myself below them. This feeling of being below people did not stop with just my parents and also translated to my older siblings, my teachers, and anybody who was simply older or more competent than me. Having such a mindset made me obedient to my parents, teachers, siblings, but also gave me difficulty bringing up my own thoughts and communicating as “equals” to such people. Now, I have begun to realize that this mindset is incredibly restricting and needs to be changed immediately. 

I first realized this flaw of mine during my internship at a social event where our entire team was invited. We were participating in some group activities, and I was enjoying my time talking with other fellow interns when an unknown full-time worker joined our group. I immediately felt great discomfort trying to make conversation when I realized that this lady was at a similar age as my mom. Ignoring the fact that our age and experiences were so different that I didn’t know what to talk about, it felt weird that while the situation demanded we interact as equals, my instinct was to do the opposite. I then realized that in companies, where age ranges, qualifications, and experience were incredibly varied, the previous mental model I had would not cut it.

Have you perhaps ever seen students in school who casually converse with teachers, ask them about their days, offer their own opinions, and push towards what they want to do? To me in high school, those people seemed fearless, borderline arrogant, and it was much too difficult of a task to replicate. Thinking back, these people probably didn’t have the problem that I have now; whether they naturally grew into such a mindset or gradually worked it up, I have no idea. But I do realize now that this trait, being able to view all people as equals regardless of their position in any context, is what distinguishes people and is what is valued and necessary in modern society.

I have always been afraid of public speaking, speaking up, talking to strangers, raising my hand in class. My dad told me to “be myself:” that I needed to be confident in myself, be true to myself, and realize that there’s no need to worry about what others think. Perhaps this insight is also a part of it.

Now, I guess the final question is, how will I fix this? It’s great that I discovered this flaw of mine, but what now? Honestly, I don’t know myself either. At the time of writing this, I still have the same mindset that plagued me in the past, but for now, the first step forward for me is just quietly reminding myself of everything I wrote here every time I interact with my internship colleagues, mentor, manager, professors, parents, friends of my parents, parents of my friends, and so on. Actively changing will be difficult, but I hope that in the future I will be able to achieve this goal.

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