I think one of the most difficult things that I have dealt with growing up Asian American are the cultural differences. I can’t speak for other generations, but as a first generation and only daughter in my family I think the direct conflict of eastern and western values causes tension. Tensions and inner conflicts that I never realized could exist until recently. I was raised quite traditionally. My parents are westernized in some aspects of their lives. After all, they chose to come and live in the states in the first place. Yet, for the most part they identify largely with the eastern values and culture of Asians. Being raised in a more traditional household has placed a large emphasis of filial piety in my life. I can notice as well that my younger brother tends to have less of the filial pious impact on his life, possibly because he is the second child and has grown up in the states all of his life. I want to insert here and say that I am an independent person and I know how to make decisions for myself, but over these past few years I have noticed that my parents and their guidance have shaped me in a way that make my personality a very … adaptable one. This isn’t a bad thing, but it can be in circumstances where you are in the real world and need to make choices for yourself and know how to stand up for yourself. I have learned the hard way that not everyone in the world has the best intentions for you and I think had I grown up in an environment that was more emphasized on transparency and openness of sharing and completing different actions, I may be different today and be able to handle difficult situations better. I had a chat with one of my close friends in regard to our romantic relationships and the linkage they have to parental relationships. We both agreed that there was a strong linkage to who we have been with due to how we interact with our parents. Moreover, there have been studies in the past where it was noted how people tend to be more drawn to others who remind them of their parents – not necessarily in a physical sense, but in a personal and emotional sense. This makes sense as it is what we are most comfortable with. I will say that my relationship with my parents has gotten better. However, it still isn’t where I wish it could be and it was rocky especially into high school and university. I would sum it up as I was very obedient and even if I disagreed with my parents and wanted to do something else, I would still say “yes” to their faces and act how they wanted me to. I figured that it was always the easiest way to dealt with situations. That I wanted to spare myself the punishments, lectures, and tears even if I would make a mistake on the off chance that I chose to do something they didn’t want me to – such as go to a friend’s house. This is a very small example, but it was one that came up often as I was growing up. So, the dynamic with my parents was always one where I would listen and they would talk. This was okay in a sense, because even though I wasn’t happy, as least I was in caring hands and my parents never took advantage of me. I would suffer and there would be verbal abuse, but I just brushed it off because I knew they didn’t mean it. What I didn’t realize though was that all the years of hearing those words and being used to that type of parenting, would translate into what I felt was the norm for any relationship – specifically more intimate ones, like romantic relationships. My last relationship was a very, very toxic one. I won’t get into details, but even I look back and cannot believe what happened. However, through my retrospection, I think one of the reasons I failed to notice how toxic and controlling it was is due to my upbringing. While I know that my parents love me deeply and that they would never harm me, I believe that growing up and being told to do things and learning that the best option is to always comply is not healthy. I agree wholeheartedly that parents do need to teach their children a lesson and be the guidance in a child’s life. However, to stimulate fear and to utilize manipulation can cause personalities to grow into those that can easily be taken advantage of (and may lead to toxic behaviors like codependency and abuse to take place).
Growing up I would hear my parents tell me that if I wanted to spend more time with a friend or if I simply did “xyz” then it meant I didn’t care for them or that I cherished others so much and I would seem foolish – that everyone would look down on me or someone would think that I am “cheap”. I think to an extent all their words held some aspect of truth. However, the reality is that every single time I heard it, I would take the message to heart and truly believe that I was being a terrible person or terrible daughter with no values. Yet, in reality, this was far from the truth. This made me question who I was and what my core values were. To be able to understand what your core values are and what you need as a person are extremely important to any relationship you build. I had lost sight of that. I’ve learned a lot from my last relationship and to be completely honest I do think I wouldn’t have dove into it so quickly if my relationship with my parents had a less authoritative bond. I think transparency would’ve led me to cling less to something that wasn’t as healthy for me, because I would’ve felt more free and known what was healthy. I believe that staying in that toxic relationship was so important for me because I felt like I finally had “freedom” away from my parents, when, honestly, I was completely misled and stuck in my own head. Of course, I understand that traditional Asian parenting doesn’t have this impact on everyone. I think my personality and my brother’s personality are complete opposite – and due to that factor, different outcomes have resulted. I am more reserved and never “talk back” or speak up for my own opinions. Yet, my brother is very vocal and will speak up. I think this has led for him to have a closer understanding in certain parts of his life with my parents as a child. I always felt very scared and would not want to disappoint my parents. So, often, I would keep to myself and not say anything if I knew they would disagree with me. I do know that sometimes parents are right, and certain decisions you make are plain stupid. However, I think freedom and the ability to speak up have always been an unknown concept to me until recently. Being able to express what you want to do and simply that you feel that it is the best
choice for you, given that no one is being harmed, should be somewhat of a good reason when you are a certain age. I know there are a lot of gray lines and that deciding what even qualifies as the “best choice” can be mind boggling even when you may be 50 years old. I just think that a lot of the growth that is experienced with evolving and growing as a person is through making choices and decisions alone – without being put down or manipulated.
Life can be very difficult, and I think parenting is an extremely difficult task. There are pros and cons to different types of parenting – so I don’t think that there is a correct way to parent. I love my parents very much and I appreciate all of the work and efforts they have gone through to give me the life I have now. I just know that through growing up, I’ve somewhat suffered and been more vulnerable to certain aspects of life due to what I have been conditioned to as a child. I think my parents have done a wonderful job raising me, but I do believe that without my own introspection and learning that I need to be open and honest regarding my own thoughts I would be very unhappy. Independence is not black and white. There will be times even as adults where we rely on our parents and that is totally okay! But just know that I am right there with you learning and growing, and that sometimes not everything your parents say holds validity, especially when it comes to your personality. There will always be mistakes to be made and there will always be moments where you disagree with your parents – but that is healthy. I am here to tell you that it is okay. It is okay to disagree with them over certain things because everyone is a different person, and no one will agree on everything. As long as you know in your heart that you are striving to be the best version of you and always improving from your mistakes, then you will always be golden.