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View of Cairo, Egypt
View of Cairo, Egypt
Photo by Raghad Genina

My Experience Living with Immigrant Guilt

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Toronto MU chapter.

For as long as I can remember, my parents have always prioritized my siblings and me above themselves. When we immigrated to Canada in 2012, it was for a better life and education. Growing up, I have always felt the need to over-achieve to make them proud, as I never wanted to leave them disappointed.

I mean, we came to Canada for a better life, so who am I if I don’t take advantage of that life and make them proud, right

During each of my accomplishments and every grade I received, they have always been on the back of my mind. What kind of daughter would I be if I let them down? And when I fail, the guilt consumes me until I spiral.

The catch is my parents have never forced me to feel guilty. When I was younger, of course, I felt the pressure from my parents to do well, but towards the end of high school, they started caring less and less, giving me full independence. This partly has to do with the reason why the guilt consumes me; when I feel like I’ve failed, I feel the need to overcompensate for their disappointment or lack thereof.

When I feel like I’ve let them down, I go down this rabbit hole of guilt. I don’t feel disappointed in my failure, but rather, I feel disappointed in myself for letting my parents down, even if they aren’t.

When I go to my classes every day, it’s not about being a good student but more about being a good daughter. Something as simple as missing a class makes me feel guilty. When I get a good grade, I feel proud of myself for a day, but when I get a bad grade, the guilt consumes me for weeks.

It may sound dramatic to people who grew up in this country or without immigrant parents, but this feeling of guilt is very real among immigrants and children of immigrants alike. It almost feels like a debt I need to pay that’s always weighing down on my shoulders. I refuse to let my parents’ sacrifices go to waste, but at what cost? If it’s the cost of my own happiness, is it worth it? 

The thing about this type of guilt is that it forces you to feel small and irrelevant. It makes us feel like our needs aren’t important, and it manifests itself in every aspect of our lives. It affects my personal life and my friendships, and somewhere along the way, it has turned into this anxiety that I struggle with. An issue I often find myself in is the feeling of guilt when good things come my way; I feel as though I don’t deserve it when good things happen to me. 

At what point does this feeling end? I find myself asking this question very often. Will I have to deal with it for the rest of my life? Will I always feel the need to overachieve in everything, or will there be a point in my life where I learn just to be and enjoy my life without feeling guilty for enjoying it? No one is forcing me to feel this way, but it’s an issue that I need to face. 

I am well aware this mindset isn’t healthy, and I can’t go on living like this for the rest of my life. Slowly but surely, I have been trying to unlearn this mindset. From learning to enjoy the little things in life to learning to prioritize myself and taking a break when I want to, I am starting to learn new habits that will help me in the long run. 

There is nothing wrong with resting, and there is no need to prove myself to anyone. Instead of feeling guilty, I am learning to use that energy elsewhere, and until I have unlearned this mindset, I will use that guilt to fuel me and keep me motivated until, somewhere along the way, I learn to let it go.

Raghad Genina

Toronto MU '26

Hello! My name is Raghad and I am a journalism student at Toronto Metropolitan University. My deep-rooted passion for journalism is a testament to my commitment to the truth and giving a voice to the voiceless. When I'm not doing my uni work I'm either scrolling on tiktok or writing!