So you have strict Asian parents.
They over-controlling. They have unreasonable rules. They set ridiculous expectations and talk down to you. Maybe it doesn’t even end into adulthood.
How do you deal with this?
We all want to be happier. But when we’re young, it seems impossible to deal with. Here are some tips I’ve learned from studying successful communicators and experience:
Embrace Self-Love and Realize Them For Who They Are
Your Asian immigrant parents are not gods who know the best way to parent. They can seem like that when you’re a child because you don’t know any better.
But in reality, your strict Asian dad is likely a low-income immigrant worker who is trying his best to come up with the best way of parenting based on his opinions. And opinions can be wrong. That’s why I prefer listening to advice by professor John Gottman, who has leveraged decades of relationship and communication research to find out what works and doesn’t. It’s data-driven rather than opinion-based.
The sad fact is that most people don’t use data or history to govern how they should parent. They use their flawed judgment. Thus, many are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.
That means you need to embrace self-love and celebrate yourself for your achievements even when your parents will not. Strict Chinese parents often under-praise and over-criticize, even when you have achieved monumental career success and have followed their directions to a tee. If you buy into their criticism, your self-loathing can destroy your assertiveness, self-esteem, and self-worth, which can cripple your happiness, dating, and career potential.
Change Your Attitude
Stay positive. It may sound cheesy but your perspective clouds how you feel. I know people who have bright, happy smiles in horrible situations. It is what they choose to think about it that makes the difference.
Negative feelings only begin after you have taken in your experiences and decided to react in a certain way. There are books about prisoners of war who have gone through torture and imprisonment, with no end in sight. But they still held in there until they somehow escaped.
Humans are one of the few creatures that have the ability to choose and control how they respond after a stimulus.
Discover What’s Normal and Not
As mentioned, studying what is and isn’t good parenting and communicative behavior from research and experts can help you find out what’s okay and what isn’t.
Over-reactive behavior and excessive criticism for a small mistake like leaving a sock on the floor is not normal. Nor is threatening to disown you for getting a B even though you’re already in an Ivy League university and getting straight A’s.
That doesn’t mean you should use what you learn to logically argue how they’re wrong, as you’ll see in the next point…
You Can’t Change Them
I tried for several years to change my typical Asian parents’ inflexible attitudes. But some people don’t want to change or can’t change. The older you get, the more ingrained your habits and viewpoints are.
Your can’t change other people; you can only change how you react and behave.
The second step you can take is to realize it’s okay if you do not reach your goals and that happiness can happen now. This does not mean you should stop trying your hardest to get to your goals. You can still keep up the intensity, but stop beating yourself up in the process.
Realize that high levels of happiness can be achieved with close to nothing except food, air, water, and shelter. A good example is the Dalai Lamai. He doesn’t have fancy cars, women, mansions, or gourmet food. His life is ordinary. He spends all day sitting and meditating. Yet you can see in any of his interviews that he is cheerful and happy.
One good reason you should still move towards your goals is because some of them will make you a bit happier. Obviously, a toxic relationship will pull you down, for example.
Losing All Hope Is Not Always Freedom
Some people say that “losing all hope is freedom” (a quote from the movie and book Fight Club) because the torment of believing something you will never achieve gets eliminated. I respectfully disagree.
I think it’s better to have hope if you can first come to terms with being happy even if you never achieve your goal. You make the journey as enjoyable as the destination.
Why not give up hope? Because in my studies of successful people, I have seen so many “impossible” dreams come to reality because someone kept believing and working towards their crazy dream despite many naysayers. Just look around. We can create light or fire with a flip of a switch. We can travel large distances with a swipe of a credit card or push of a pedal. We can talk to someone on the other side of the world like telepathy with a click of the mouse.
Steve Jobs is a great example. Watch this video below as he explains it:
After thinking about these accomplishments, ask yourself, are your dreams really that crazy? Are they as crazy as visiting the moon? Because if not, they could be achievable. It wasn’t that long ago when any of these achievements would have been considered “impossible.”
Your mother may want to control how you act, where you go, and what you do. But know this: At some point, you will become an adult and have your freedom.
You will be able to make your own choices. At that point, you can slowly remove the chains of culture and expectation that are limiting your growth, potential, and enjoyment of life.
If you’re young, realize that it’s tough to do anything when your parents provide your food and resources but make the best of what you can.
It is rare that a situation cannot be changed forever. We live long lives, sometimes up until our 70’s, 80’s, or 100’s. Perhaps you can’t travel the world right now because you’re still a teenager, but your time will come. People who say there is no way are sometimes just trying to convince themselves (and maybe you drag you down) because they couldn’t achieve it themselves. Other times, they just don’t know any better.
Some situations just take time. It may seem like every day seems like eternity, but eventually, you will graduate from school. And you will have only lived a small fraction of your life. There are decades and decades of life for you to seize from there on out.
Therapy Is Your Gift
Therapy is not something to be ashamed of. We have doctors to heal our bodies, but what about our minds, the most important muscle of our body?
Different Asian American children suffer with different issues. Some have arrogant, emotionally reactive fathers with temper problems. Others have manipulative, passive-aggressive mothers with mood swings. I can’t generalize here but I can say that there are common issues, as mentioned, that are leaving an imprint on your mind and behavior negatively. Just like them, they can manifest in poor behavior that can affect how you interact with others ineffectively without your awareness.
You can change your life for the better with a good therapist and fix these issues. Many of these psychological problems are not unique to being Asian. Many races suffer from these problems and there is decades of research done to help you see these in a better light and heal.
I’ve learned a lot myself through my internal healing journey, discovering that passive-aggressive or stone-walling (avoiding all communication) behavior is never a good sign of a healthy relationship. I also learned the importance of limiting my contact with unstable people.
Ask Yourself If It’s Really Unchangeable Right Now
No more excuses. There are certain things you can change right now. You just assume you can’t.
There are extreme situations where children run away from home or go into foster care because of horrible parents. That’s not what I mean.
A lot of kids think their parents are unfair but they are just doing what’s best for you. Sometimes, not giving you more candy is the right thing to do. But sexual abuse, on the hand, is another issue.
What I can say is that removing yourself from a business, career, or location when you are older than 21 is tough but not impossible. I read a book by Brian Tracy that mentioned how his friend spent years failing to sell his business because he was just trying random tactics. He finally decided to check out a legitimate book on the topic and sold his business within a year.
Sometimes, you need structure, process, advice, or real-life support to get there but it is possible right now. A simple insight could clear up false beliefs. Some people assume that they cannot live in California because they have a vague idea of how expensive it is. Yet if they just looked up the specific numbers ($2,452 on average a month in rent), they would find out it does not cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and would get to work moving there.
I love watching interviews of the billionaire John Paul DeJoria to get advice. In the video you’ll see below, he shows how he thinks when others tell him he will never accomplish anything. It’s tough to decide when you should listen to others and ignore them, but for John, he clearly did not listen when it came to other’s opinions on his own success. For that, I agree with his saying, “Oh, what does he know?”
Get Around Successful, Healthy People
We’ve established that your parents mode of thinking and behavior has only gotten them so far. There’s a reason they’re not as financially wealthy, mentally sound, and physically healthy as they want to be.
To find out the proper successful way of thinking, you have to get around successful people.
I heard stories of one Asian parent preventing her child from exercising because it costs money. But if you follow successful, fit people, they’d tell you this thinking is absurd given that exercise is an investment that will pay off and you can stay fit without spending much.
Don’t Demonize or Angelicize
When we’re young and naive, we tend to demonize or worship our parents. They’re the center of our world. If you do this, you can fall prey to falling to the opposite extreme of a behavior to “be nothing like my father and mother.” The issue is that extremes are often two sides of a coin to the same dysfunction.
Having no emotion and all logic because your father had anger management issues is just another disservice to your child. Dr. Robert Glover’s book, No More Mr. Nice Guy, breaks this down well.
In reality, like most people or objects, there’s good and bad parts. We live in a world of grey.
Avoid getting overtaken by confirmation bias, where you only look for what you want to see. If you catch yourself with a growing sense of hatred for someone or even your culture, stop. Identify the good you’re forgetting.
Final Action Steps
Here are some more action steps you can take right now to think more positively and move towards a brighter future:
1. Surround yourself with success
It’s simple yet so effective. I still have negative thoughts that clearly came from a specific person I hung around years ago. How do I know? Because he was the only one who thought in such a way. As you can see, who you surround yourself with can influence how you think for years to come.
2. Commit to a positive attitude NOW
Some of us are truly born with a higher genetic inclination to be negative. Now that you realize it, you can choose to have a positive attitude and stomp out negative thoughts as soon as you notice them.
3. Change your attitude
Say phrases like this at least 10 times a day: “I am an awesome, positive individual.” and “I am in control of my destiny and I decide where I am headed.”
I found that saying these phrases while you look at yourself (through the eyes) in a mirror helps, especially with self-esteem boosting affirmations.
4. Therapy is golden
Get some therapy. Group therapy is an affordable alternative.
Unsupportive parents suck during college and beyond but it’s not the end of the world. We must deal with life’s obstacles as effectively as possible so that we still achieve our goals. We can’t just sit there and feel sorry for ourselves.
Not all Asian parents are unreasonable or strict. Some of them rock in almost every way. I apologize if I’m generalizing but there are some common obstacles many Asian Americans face I must address. Hopefully, these tips will help you overcome some screwed-up situations and achieve your life goals.
These are actionable steps that you can start taking immediately! You may not see the results overnight but I guarantee you that over an extended period of time, you will get disproportionate returns and results for the small time you invest in this.
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