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Never Good Enough for your Asian Parents

Buy experiences, not things.  © bohodaily

Brené Brown studies vulnerability, courage, and shame. She describes courage (from the Latin cor, meaning heart) as telling the story of who you are with your whole heart. This is my story...

A 20-year Repartee with my Asian Parents

I got my highest grade ever! 99%!!!
       

Where did the 1% go?
       

 

I got my highest class average ever! 100%!!!
       

Were there no bonus points you could earn?
       

 

I got 109% on my programming project!
       

Where did the 1% go?
       

 

I got 150% on my graphic simulation project.
       

You'd make more money as a doctor.
       

 

I'm starting my web design company.
       

Shouldn't you be studying harder to become a doctor?
       

 

I'm going to study International Development so I can save the world.
       

Doctors save more lives.
       

 

I completed a Bachelor of Engineering with honors on full scholarship.
       

Doctors make twice more money than engineers?
       

 

I put $10,000 of my own money to buy you guys a car that has heating. 
       

Why did you buy a Japanese car? We hate Japan.
       

 

I'm expanding my digital consultancy.
       

When will you get a real job?
       

 

I'm using my technical expertise to help Action Contre la Faim (ACF) end world hunger.
       

Did you know YouTube sold for $1.65 billion?
       

 

I put $20,000 of my own money to buy you guys a townhouse so you can retire comfortably in Vancouver. 
       

How come there's no garage?
       

 

I'm using my technical skills to help Doctors Without Borders (MSF) save lives worldwide. Look, doctors!
       

Did you know Microsoft offered Yahoo $44.6 billion?
       

 

I bought my first home on my own dime!!! No trust fund, no inheritance, no loan from you guys.
       

Why are you getting a mortgage and paying the bank interest?
       

 

I'm leading a profitable coaching business to help entrepreneurs self-actualize!
       

But what about a pension? What become a real doctor?
       

 

Give up and Surrender

After 20 years, I lived with 4,000+ frowny-faced days. I didn't know how to smile anymore. People often commented or asked why I was so serious all the time. Probably because I had nothing to smile about. Probably because there was nothing funny about being a complete failure in the eyes of your Asian parents.

The greatest burden a child must bear is the unlived life of its parents.
– Carl Jung

What do you do when you've never lived up (never could and never will live up) to the standards expected of you?

You give up. You surrender. And then... along comes Brené Brown. You watch her TED Talk:

"Shame is universal. It’s the fear of not being worthy. The less you talk about it, the more you have it."
– Brené Brown

The Other Voice in the Repartee

At first, the other voice in the repartee was my dad. Like any typical Asian immigrant parent, he often asked where the 1% shortcoming went. 

Along the road, it became this collective societal voice, telling me who I should be, what I should do. How come you don't have a boyfriend? Why aren't you married? When will you have kids? Blah. Blah. Blah.

Eventually, the voice became... my own voice. No matter what I did, I kept hearing, "Not good enough. Nope. Still not good enough. Nope. Never, ever good enough."

I started resenting my parents for putting so much pressure on me to secure their retirement and my siblings' tuition, on top of my own financial well-being. I resented the whole world for pressuring me to fit the school / 9-5 / mortgage / marriage / kids / death mold.

Above all, I blamed myself for not being able to secure my parents retirement, nor my siblings' full tuition, nor my family's hopes and dreams for their eldest son, aka me.

 

Blame and Connection

I found Brené Brown's work with tears of gratitude. Her research had finally helped me understand why and how we numb vulnerability: we numb it with blame. Blame is a way to discharge pain and discomfort.

The problem is: when we numb vulnerability with blame, we numb all our emotions. We numb our sense of worthiness; we numb love, we numb joy, and we numb creativity. Numbing creates a vicious spiral of feeling even more shame and disconnection.

Connection is why we're here. It's what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.
– Brené Brown

What Brené Brown's research taught me

What my parents / culture / society taught me

You must have the courage to be imperfect.

I must be perfect in everything that I do.

You must have the compassion to be kind to yourself first.

I must always sacrifice myself to please others, always.

You must connect with authenticity (be who you are, not who you should be).

I must hide who I truly want to be and conform to what others expect.

You must pursue passions even though there are no guarantees.

I must not rock the boat and make other people uncomfortable.

You must practice gratitude and joy in moments of vulnerability.

I must fulfill my duty, obligations, no questions asked.

Most importantly, you must believe that you are enough.

I must do whatever it takes to outperform everyone else because I'll never be good enough.

 

THE SHADOW & THE LIGHT

Even though I've had this "You are not enough" fire burning under my ass for the last 20 years, there is a bright side: it has driven me to pursue incredible experiences like live in NYC, setting baby turtles free in Nicaragua, paragliding in Nepal, and visiting 40+ countries.

Through years of counseling and coaching, I've finally found a place of gratitude for how my parents raised me. I mean, I can strip and renovate a kitchen, change a flat tire, rewire electricity and reposition plumbing pies. Yeah, super handy for attracing a husband :P

I wonder if I'll ever feel like I am enough...

    Freedom on!

    xo, Ella

    Ellany LeaAbout the Author • Ellany Lea is an elite success coach. She's traveled 100+ countries and writes about freedom at the intersection of: entrepreneurship, enlightenment, and enchantment.
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