I was giving a speech awhile ago about my social struggles, an Indian came up to me and unleashed on how he could relate relate.
He said he didn’t want to seem racist but he didn’t connect with the white people in his area. He always gravitated towards any Asian or Indian people he saw to hang out with. The problem was that, for most of his life, he lived in places with mostly white people.
I realized this was a common issue. Many Asian Americans face it. I’ve seen people complain about it online as well.
What is the Asian American identity crisis?
As the name suggests, it’s when you don’t feel entirely part of the American culture because you were raised by Asian parents, but also don’t feel entirely part of the Asian culture because you grew up with an American culture.
You may have an accent. You may not understand the beauty of football or American pastimes like Homecoming. You may not get American jokes or references to popular movies.
Like how people will describe a Black person who acts white as an Oreo, Asians and Americans will describe you as a banana or Twinkie. Yet you’re not entirely “white” inside, which confuses you.
When you go back to China, Korea, India, Thailand, or wherever, you don’t relate entirely to the people there because you grew up with so much American influence and don’t understand the subtleties of their culture. The locals can quickly identify that you’re not part of their culture.
For me, I didn’t like the old Asian plumbing system that doesn’t let you flush toilet paper down. I also felt like I was seen as a a spoiled, American but I can’t help it because that’s me. You can feel alone because neither “group” accepts you fully as your own, at least that’s how you perceive it.
I’m not an expert who has solved this problem. But I know how it can be tough. I also know how this problem is often entrenched with self-loathing beliefs about racism and disadvantages in your life that need to be rooted out if you want to achieve your dreams and potential.
I want to share with you some tips that may help:
On dealing with insecurities about your race
In 2014, I went on Omegle and Chat Roulette for a couple hours. If you’re not familiar, these are webcam sites where you get matched with random people in the world and chat until someone leaves.
My expectations did not meet reality. Based on the compilations I saw on YouTube, I went into these platforms expecting to find fun people, hot girls, and a few trolls.
Instead, I met a ton of strangers across the world shouting racist comments at me like, “Ching Chang Chong!” and leaving. And tons of sausages.
Below is a video of some of my experience. Don’t watch it. It’s graphic and demoralizing.
I don’t know why I continued for so long when people were disrespecting me and I was feeling so demoralized. That’s a lie. I continued because I thought I would meet hot girls on there. You could also see some of my insecurity about my eyeglasses by the fact that I was wearing contacts that day to look cooler.
I turned on the College Only filter on Omegle, which filtered out a lot of naked men I didn’t want to see, but not the racism.
Since then, I’ve never been on these platforms. I felt horrible. Most of these people paid zero respect or courtesy to me and talked at me as if with the assumption that I wasn’t intelligent, couldn’t speak English, didn’t have my own thoughts, and was inferior.
The “Ching Chong!” comment said it all.
When I did respond, they ignored it, mocked or, or talked over. I was never strong with comebacks or verbal sparring, so I melted quickly.
Now, maybe you’re seeming with anger, frustration, or you can relate. But my advice on this topic may surprise you.
After having 4 years to reflect on life and this event, here’s what I have to say about dealing with racism and your own racial insecurities:
Not everyone is like this. Do not take this as a reflection of childish, discourteous, or ignorant all white, black, or any other race are.
I have also met compassionate, caring people of all races that have been nothing but nice to me and have looked beyond my race. The Internet is a breeding ground for people to let the worst of themselves out on the world with no consequences because they can have fun and remain anonymous.
I love following travel bloggers who have been all over the world. One of them is Mark Manson, who has raised some great points about racism internationally. First, he points out that you’ll realize when you travel that racism is greater and more blatant outside of the U.S. and that it seems to be a natural, biological response for tribes to put themselves apart from others who are different. On the flip side, Mark also points out that racism, sexism, and violence are at an all-time low in world history and we’ve been trending down over the centuries, something Peter Diamandis’s book Bold covers in more detail.
There’s a lot we can learn about how to lead and treat others to make a change from our African brothers and sisters, like Martin Luther King, Oprah Winfrey, and Nelson Mandela, who have not only overcome slavery, but segregation and racism to change the entire world.
Like them, we should stand up and speak out about the issue, but also treat and see others as equals, kindly and peacefully.
It’s easy to overlook people who are not racism when you’re so focused on those who have mistreated you. I’ve been there too. When I was young, I worked in food and hospitality and a Hispanic man kept asking me if I liked rice and wouldn’t respond to me in any other way. I could’ve found some way to make it a joke and lighten the mood to get him to stop or told a supervisor but I took it seriously because it became an attack and he kept going day after day until I finally burst out at him and threatened to screw him up if he continued.
I dwelled on that for longer than I should and forgot about white Seniors at high school who offered to drive me to lacrosse practice so I didn’t have to walk 2 miles or the other Hispanic coworkers who were nice to me and treated me as an equal.
There’s awesome people in the world too, so hang around them more and don’t go on forgetting about them with your struggles.
I’m no expert but here are some more tips on dealing with your insecurities and identity.
No more excuses or complaints
“Generally speaking, envy, resentment, revenge and self-pity are disastrous modes of thought. Self-pity gets fairly close to paranoia, and paranoia is one of the very hardest things to reverse. You do not want to drift into self-pity… Self-pity will not improve the situation.” -Charlie Munger’s USC Law Commencement Speech, May 2007
You have to stop seeing yourself as a victim in life because no magic fairy is going to come down and save the day. Trust me, I was the king of victim mentality.
I used to wish I would get a letter from Hogwarts when I turned 11; it didn’t happen. Then, I heard 16 years old was the magic year; nothing eventful happened. Then, 18, then 21. You get the point.
I couldn’t help my Indian friend that day. I tried for a while to help him but every reply he gave me was another excuse. I tried to defuse his excuses and he had more excuses for those. It got to the point where he claimed he couldn’t hang out with the people he saw because they had kids and he didn’t and he wouldn’t fit in.
I hung in there for a while trying to help him out, give him new ideas on how to meet people, and new ways of seeing the world but we hit a wall. It was clear he wouldn’t give up his excuses.
You can’t help someone who isn’t ready to help himself. No one understands this better than Gary Vaynerchuk:
Gary releases the same message almost daily. Yet people keep coming to him with the same excuses. It’s time to sit up and learn.
Sitting there and crying about how life has done you wrong won’t get you anywhere. Getting off your butt and working to improve your life will.
“Life will have terrible blows in it, horrible blows, unfair blows. It doesn’t matter. And some people recover and others don’t. And there I think the attitude of Epictetus is the best. He thought that every missed chance in life was an opportunity to behave well, every missed chance in life was an opportunity to learn something, and that your duty was not to be submerged in self-pity, but to utilize the terrible blow in constructive fashion.” -Charlie Munger
Charlie says the worst sin is envy because it’s the only one that isn’t enjoyable. So why waste your life making yourself feel more horrible?
Maybe you don’t like Gary’s blunt way of giving advice. Well, take it from me, an Asian American who is the emperor of feeling sorry for myself.
4 years ago, I wasn’t introduced to self-help. I didn’t study the world’s most successful people. My mind would naturally wander to how bad my life was. I blamed my parents, society, and my environment for my lack of social life, my grades, and most events.
It was so natural that I wasn’t even aware of it.
Over time, I’ve slowly re-wired my brain and thinking. I’ve studied thousands of the world’s most successful, happy people. I’ve so grateful for all I’ve learned but I’m no genius. I still struggle with it and have to catch myself at times.
I made a vow 2 years ago to never complain about anything again, in my head or out loud. I’ve successfully been able to not say anything out loud, but in my head, it’s a different story. Just keep tweaking. Your brain is more malleable than you think.
Stop hanging around the wrong people
I want to attract and hang around winners because they win. A winner isn’t always someone who has trophies or awards yet. It can be someone who has the thinking and habits that will set themselves up for these rewards down the road.
That’s why I try to stay away from the thoughts and physical space of negative people who can’t be helped. If you have people who use their race as a scapegoat for why their life is crap and why they can’t fix anything about it, run away in the other direction.
Some of these people are friends, so I know it can be tough. It doesn’t have to be instant. You can gradually spend less time with them and love them from afar. There are billions of people in the world and there are those who will uplift your game if you help uplift their’s.
In fact, my content is geared towards attracting winners. There are plenty of Asian American complainers online who will continue to pity their lives and blame the world for how horrible their lives are. Some of them are quite toxic and I’ve seen them blame everything under the sun for their moderate misfortune in life.
And I emphasize the word “moderate” for a reason, as you’ll see in the next section.
But these toxic people aren’t going to do anything since it’s easier to be lazy and sit there and complain that what you wanted in life wasn’t handed to you on a silver platter.
Just realize that moving towards your goals doesn’t always come with the obstacles of a giant mountain. You can see tiny results today that can change your beliefs and build momentum. If you have bad beliefs about racism, it can be as simple as talking to 5 to 10 people today until you meet someone who is a different race than you who likes you and has common interests.
It’s not as complicated as it seems. Let’s say you like Anime, Tennis, or Fortnite. Go on Meetup.com or look up your school’s student groups directory. Find an Anime & Manga, Tennis, or Video Game group and meet some people there. Eventually, you’ll find someone who is not Asian who likes your interests.
Compare yourself to the right people
Is your life really that bad?
One clear theme I see with myself is when I catch myself comparing my struggle in isolation.
One time, I wrote in a forum complaining about how I heard a few of white jocks making jokes and I thought I heard that one of them was about my race. The white forum owner gave me some much-needed cold, hard advice.
He told me how he had a black friend and people would make jokes to his face about getting lynched. African Americans have had it much worse. They’ve been enslaved, tortured, killed, and segregated outright.
Yet they have risen above it all and changed the whole world. People from the remotest parts of the world know about Michael Jordan, Kanye West, and Will Smith.
What can you learn from them?
Do you think it’s right to sit there complaining about how bad you have it because people may be more racist or against you, if that’s even true? Do you think that attitude will help you live your dream life?
When I think of having it bad, I think of the Jews that were starved and massacred during the Holocaust. No matter how ambitious or hard you worked, you were screwed by the economy. What do Asian Americans really have to complain about in comparison, especially when our parents and peers have usually already proved that you can start from the bottom and make something of your life in America?
I’m not saying your life is all peaches and roses. Sure, you have tough times. But so do others. What are we going to do about it?
And on that note, get off social media and stop comparing yourself to the people who are artificially sculpting a perfect life with their content. If their content is causing you resentment, envy, and self-pity, it’s doing you nothing good so unfollow them and make something of your life.
Question whether you’re really being excluded. Stop thinking of “us versus them.”
I rarely use the words “white” or “black” or “Asian.” I did so for this article to make my message more clear. Why don’t I?
I try my best to see people as people beyond race.
Oprah Winfrey is one of my heroes because she overcame two huge minority obstacles, being female and black, to become one of the first female African billionaires.
I read her book What I Know For Sure and listened to many interviews of her talking about how she achieved success. In one Stanford interview, she explained that she often enters rooms that are filled with old, Caucasian men for business. The only way she got to where she was by looking at people and seeing them as people and not looking at their race.
I’ve seen some Asian Americans simply hang around only other Asian Americans. Their entire social network consists of 100 Asian Americans. That’s one way of feeling belonging but there are other ways.
For the influencer, Timothydelaghetto, and I, we hang around all types of different people. I’ve worked and befriended groups that were hispanic, black, white, or a mix of everything. I’ve find that this behavior is still in the minority. I’ve seen a good amount of other Asian Americans do similar stuff but the majority just hang in packs of other Asian Americans and I feel like it’s limiting their growth.
Start slow and expand your comfort zone. You may find that they’re not so mean or different at their core.
Fill your mind with role models
Along the lines of Oprah, think of role models that you can put on your phone and PC screensavers and vision board to constantly remind you of how to think and act.
Bruce Lee was a man who didn’t care how tough he had it. He came out of China to Hollywood with nothing but a dream to be the highest paid Asian actor. And he did it. He also inspired the world and made people of every ethnicity a fan of his, including some of the world’s most famous and successful stars. He married a white woman in an era where racism was much more explicit. His wife’s parents were against the marriage because of race.
He didn’t let racism, poverty, or having children stop him.
Somehow, we’ve forgotten about him in our own self-pity.
Find some great role models and stick with them. They don’t have to be Asian. I learned a lot from Michael Strahan’s book because of how positive he always is and how much more positive I want to be. There’s also Will Smith, which needs no introduction or explanation.
There are successful Asians American winners, like Ken Jeong, Steven Yeun, Eliot changand Ryan Higa that are killing it today. What group do you want to be in: the losers or the winners? It’s your choice.
Here’s the famous musician, Steve Aoki, on growing up Asian American:
Be PROUD of your culture and sculpt your traits
Are you ashamed or proud of your ancestry and who you are as a person?
Since my childhood days, China has become a global superpower that has built a ton of respect from the world, so much so that American schools are offering Chinese classes alongside Spanish and French. I even overheard a wealthy parent encouraging his child to take Chinese over the other language classes. People are recognizing the business might of China and are prepping for it.
That’s something to be damn proud of. This country has lasted for thousands of years and has come around again to become a commercial empire.
High performers spend a lot more time thinking about what type of person they want to be and how to get there. That’s the magic of it. You are in control of adopting all the traits of people you admire most.
Every month, at least, reflect on what traits you admire most in people and plan out activities to move towards that person. For me, I respect the work ethic and focus of Will Smith, the ethics of Warren Buffett, the charisma of Bruce Lee to bring in the respect of anyone he met regardless of their race, and the perseverance of Arnold Schwarzenegger. I take steps every day to work a little bit harder, be a little bit more honest, offer a bit more value, and not give up as soon.
Make an effort to learn about American culture and be a part of it
You’re going to stay feeling alienated about American culture if you continue staying so far away from it. Rather than hiding in your room with Korean dramas, League of Legends, Fortnite, and Anime, why are you so scared of getting out there and learning about why football or beer is so amazing?
Not all Americans bite. Some are more than willing to teach you about what they learn about.
In a similar vein, stop withdrawing when your family speaks Chinese or Korean. Make an effort to learn the language. Take an active effort to ask questions about why your parents love moon cake, force you to wear red, or play card games.
You’ll be light years ahead of others in time because they’re ashamed or walking through life like a zombie while you’ll be becoming more familiar and adept with your culture.
Addressing the meat of the issue has to do with realizing that there is no perfect group and being open to learning about a culture.
If you let shame of not fitting in prevent you from admitting that you aren’t as familiar with a culture as you like to be and expressing your ability to learn, you aren’t going to be more part of that culture.
Dr. Robert Glover, best-selling author of No More Mr. Nice Guy, says that most Nice Guys feel alienated because they never engaged in male sports growing up and feel they can’t contribute when the topic of sports gets brought up. This is also a common Asian American issue.
But Dr. Glover says that you should come into these situations with an open mind and interest to learn about the sport. It turns out that other men aren’t always as nasty as you picture it in your head. They are often eager and excited to teach you about the sport.
One of many ways I’ve integrated this philosophy is becoming a core part of my CrossFit gym’s community. This is clearly an American-made culture but anyone can learn about it and become a part of it. I got so into it that I was named the Athlete of the Month.
While you may not have had the privilege of learning about all the aspects of a culture growing up, that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn more about it now and become part of that culture.
No group understands this better than travel bloggers, people who make a living traveling the world and blogging about their adventures.
What’s the #1 tip you learned from this article? Let me know in the comments below.
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