“We are Asian”, that’s what my parents say when I tell them something they don’t agree with. I’m suppose to do better than others because I’m Asian. I’m suppose to not fail because I’m Asian. I’m suppose to hide my emotions because I’m Asian. It seems I’m expected to perform like a robot because I was born Asian. Today I wanted to talk about the challenges of growing up in a culture that shuns emotion. Not to be stereotypical but my parents are the parents that ask you why I didn’t get a 100 when I tell them you got a 95 on my exam. This doesn’t mean they aren’t proud of my achievements, they just expect me to be the best. Expectations aren’t usually bad, they give us the motivation we need to better ourselves. Yet for many Asian kids expectations are like quicksand. We get drained under the pressure and burden to live up to those expectations. I’m not saying all Asian kids but the vast majority of us struggle to deal with what is expected of us vs. what we desire. We don’t hear praises very often and expressions of love are rare.
The first time I heard my dad say “I love you” to me I was 16 years old. I literally thought I was dreaming, I didn’t know what to do or how to act. This is something most Asian kids relate to, we all joke about it. It’s easier to turn serious topics into comedy than talk about the negative aspects of our childhood. Opening up and showing emotion or offering comfort is very awkward for a lot of us. We don’t talk about the anxiety we feel when we don’t reach our parents expectations. We don’t talk about our fear of failure. We don’t talk about our feelings period.
My first big adult failure was the catalyst for my depression. Up until that point I did a good job of putting my emotions on the back burner but that one failure kept repeating in my head over and over again. That dark voice in my head kept calling me a failure and telling me my parents how ashamed of were of me. Here is where I wish my parents were the hugging type. One hug and a “we believe in you!” was all I needed. But my dad rejected me, he stopped talking to me again. This time for a year. We lived like two strangers who kept drifting further and further from each other. I thought at some point we would change, that we would both find the middle ground. But those expectations just grew bigger, every time I look back it’s like an avalanche that keeps following me. Ever time I think I can finally breath it keeps dragging me down again. Over the years I thought I was getting stronger at ignoring these expectations that are different than what I want for myself. However, us Asian kids seem to be ingrained to seek our parents approval. To not cause shame on our parents. We all probably want to escape from the expectations of others, live just a little selfishly. I haven’t yet learned to find my place within my parents expectations but for now my motto is “this too shall pass”.
To all the parents:Learn to accept your child’s failures and weaknesses. If you ignore and reject the idea of your children’s failures then all you are doing is hindering their growth. If all you expect is unattainable perfection then your children are going to be chasing it for the rest of their lives. We get that you don’t want us to make the same mistakes you’ve made but if we don’t make those same stupid mistake we won’t become wise like you guys.
Seek happiness for your children not based on what you consider should be their happiness but what they find joy in. It’s hard to love something we feel no passion for just because you want it for us.
If your child fails, let them know that’s it’s okay. We know we need to try harder but your encouragement will make us run longer than your judgement.
Listen to us. Try to understand a little of what we think and feel.
Most importantly, let us know that you support us. You don’t realize how much that support can mean to us.
An Asian kid