An Eldest Daughter’s Journey From People Pleasing to Setting Boundaries

two Latina women looking at each other and smiling

Growing up as the eldest Latina daughter in my family was a badge of honor. It was a role drenched in tradition, expectation, and responsibility. From a young age, I was conditioned to prioritize everyone else's needs before my own. "La mayor tiene que dar el ejemplo,” mom would often remind me. This familial expectation, combined with the cultural norm of putting family above all else, sowed the seeds of my people-pleasing tendencies.

People pleasing wasn’t just about being agreeable; it became a way of life. A constant endeavor to maintain harmony, to ensure everyone was happy, and to avoid any hint of conflict. On the surface, this might sound noble, even selfless. But over time, it became a heavy cloak that weighed down on my mental health.

Here’s a glimpse into the mind of a chronic people pleaser: Every "yes" feels like a silent victory, while every "no" feels like a personal failure. There's a constant fear of disappointing others, an unending desire to be liked, and a relentless pursuit of validation. All this, often at the cost of my own happiness, needs, and desires.

In the early days, I believed that the love and respect I received from my family were directly proportional to my ability to cater to their needs. But as I grew older, I began to notice the strain this was causing. I was emotionally exhausted, always second-guessing my decisions, and often felt like a hollow version of myself.

Navigating the waters of cultural expectations and familial roles as the eldest daughter often comes with hidden currents of emotional manipulation. Within many Latino families, there's an unspoken code that binds us to a legacy of care, sacrifice, and duty. While many of these expectations are rooted in love and tradition, they can sometimes be wielded as tools of emotional leverage. The pressure to conform can be intense, and any deviation might be met with feelings of guilt, shame, or the dreaded label of being "ungrateful." It's a delicate balance, understanding where genuine concern ends and manipulative tactics begin. I grappled with this intersection, often questioning if my choices stemmed from authentic desire or were the result of subtle emotional coercion.

One evening, after an emotionally draining family gathering where I once again found myself bending over backward to ensure everyone else's happiness, I had an epiphany. Was it really worth it? Was it truly my responsibility to bear the weight of everyone else’s contentment? That night, I took a deep look within and realized that the respect I sought from others needed to start with self-respect.

Recovery wasn’t immediate. It was, and still is, a journey. I had to unlearn the age-old belief that my worth was tied to my ability to please. I had to confront the deeply ingrained fear of being perceived as "selfish" or "ungrateful." I had to learn to set boundaries. And more importantly, I had to constantly remind myself that it's okay to prioritize my own needs.

Recognizing my people-pleasing tendencies was my first step towards healing. It wasn't just about seeing them, but understanding them—acknowledging the patterns, the triggers, and the barrage of emotions that came with every "yes" I forced out and every "no" I swallowed. With this self-awareness came the need to place myself at the forefront, not as a sign of arrogance or neglect of my loved ones, but as a necessary act of self-preservation.

But how does one prioritize self-care in a culture that often equates personal time with selfishness? For me, it started with small acts. Taking an afternoon to immerse myself in a good movie, going for a walk all by myself, or even just allowing myself to decline an invitation without the weight of guilt. Slowly, these small affirmations of my worth began to build into a newfound respect for my own well-being.

However, untangling years of ingrained behavior wasn’t something I could manage alone. Seeking therapy became my refuge. Through sessions filled with introspection, I was provided with tools and perspectives that allowed me to see my value outside of my role as the perpetual pleaser, learn the significance of boundaries and the beauty of assertiveness.

Being the eldest Latina daughter shaped me in countless ways, both challenging and rewarding. I cherish the values, resilience, and love I inherited. However, understanding the importance of breaking free from the chains of people-pleasing has been instrumental for my genuine happiness and mental well-being.

Remember, prioritizing yourself isn’t selfish; it's essential. We can only share genuine love and happiness with the world when we first find it within ourselves.

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Women in Texas at the National Women's March, rallying against deadly abortion restrictions.
Lucy Flores

The landscape of abortion rights in the United States has become more restrictive than ever in recent history, particularly in Arizona and Florida, where recent developments represent a major setback for women’s reproductive rights. On April 9, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in a 4-to-2 decision to uphold an 1864 law banning abortion from the moment of conception. The only exception is saving the mother’s life, but there are no exceptions for rape or incest under this law.

Just a few days earlier, on April 1, the Florida Supreme Court also ruled in favor of upholding a 6-week abortion ban, which will take effect on May 1. This further reduced the legal threshold for abortions in Florida, which used to be 24 weeks of pregnancy before Republicans passed a law in 2022 banning abortions after 15 weeks. Both of these rulings have sparked intense debate and outrage about their impact on women’s rights.

Overview of the Near-Total Abortion Ban in Arizona

The Arizona Supreme Court voted to uphold an 1864 law, a law passed even before the state officially was a part of the United States of America, that makes all types of abortion illegal, including medication abortion, from the moment of conception. Though there are exceptions in cases where the mother’s life is at risk, the ban makes no exceptions for cases of rape or incest and imposes severe penalties, including imprisonment, on medical professionals performing abortions.

Medical professionals have spoken out about how dire the situation will become for women with this near-total abortion ban. Dr. Jill Gibson, chief medical director of Planned Parenthood in Arizona, told CNN that this ruling will have “absolutely unbelievable consequences for the patients in our community.” She continued by saying, “Providers need to be able to take care of their patients without fear of legal repercussions and criminalization.”

Representatives from Arizona and other states across the country have also spoken up against this near-total abortion ban.

Video by Shontel Brown Member of the United States House of Representatives on InstagramVideo by Shontel Brown Member of the United States House of Representatives on Instagram

Image by Rub\u00e9n Gallego Member of the United States House of Representatives on InstagramImage by Rubén Gallego Member of the United States House of Representatives on InstagramImage by Rubén Gallego Member of the United States House of Representatives on Instagram

Until this Arizona Supreme Court decision, abortion had been legal in the state up to 15 weeks of pregnancy. The right to abortion via Roe v. Wade prevented the enforcement of the near-total abortion ban, but since a majority vote in the Supreme Court of the United States overturned Roe, those opposed to abortion rights had been fighting to enforce the 160-year-old 1864 law.

This new abortion ban in Arizona is not effective immediately as the court has paused its ruling for 14 days until additional arguments are heard in a lower court about how constitutional the law is. However, the law will likely come into effect in May, a few weeks from now. Planned Parenthood Arizona, the largest abortion provider in the state, will continue serving the community until the ban is enforced.

An Overview of Florida's Six-Week Abortion Ban

The landscape of abortion in Florida has also undergone a significant change with the enforcement of a 6-week abortion ban, replacing the previous 15-week limit. This ban, similar to Arizona's, severely restricts access to abortion care and poses a significant challenge to reproductive rights in the state. Providers are bracing for a public health crisis due to the increased demand for abortion and limited options for patients.

Practically speaking, a 6-week abortion ban is a near-total abortion ban because pregnant people often don’t even realize they could be pregnant by this early stage. Combined with Florida’s strict abortion requirements, which include mandatory in-person doctor visits with a 24-hour waiting period, it’s nearly impossible for those who may want an abortion to be able to access it before 6 weeks. Not to mention that fulfilling the requirements is particularly challenging for low-income individuals.

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Moreover, this Florida law also restricts telemedicine for abortion and requires that medication be provided in person, effectively eliminating mail-order options for abortion pills. While exceptions for rape and incest exist in Florida, the requirements are also strict, asking victims to provide police records or medical records. For victims who don’t always report sexual violence for many different reasons, these exceptions don’t make a difference.

The consequences of Florida’s ban extend to neighboring states with more restrictive abortion laws. For instance, residents of Alabama, facing a total ban on abortion, and Georgia, with its own 6-week abortion ban, have relied on Florida for abortion services. That will no longer be an option, further limiting care alternatives.

The Road Ahead

These recent abortion bans in Arizona and Florida are a major setback for women's rights, particularly impacting Latina women who already face barriers to accessing quality healthcare. These bans not only restrict women’s reproductive freedom but also endanger their lives.

Efforts to challenge these bans through legal means and ballot measures are ongoing, but the road ahead is uncertain. While there’s hope for overturning these abortion bans, the challenges of conservative laws and legal battles are formidable. The November ballot in both states will be crucial in determining the future of abortion rights and access for all.