“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” — Theodore Roosevelt
Authenticity is defined as being genuine or real. When it comes to valuable artwork and other collectibles, many sellers guarantee a certificate of authenticity (COA). This ensures that what they have is real and not fake. If authenticity is prized among material goods, shouldn’t we value our life and relationships even more so?
As Asian Americans, many of us have traversed the road of school, work, and relationships under the direction of our parents. But Asians often complain about living a life that’s not in sync with their core being. Some desire a career that their parents would not approve of, others want more empowerment and choice in their relationships.
It’s a typical cultural identity crisis that comes up in my work as a therapist. In these cases, the majority of the time is spent helping adult clients “individuate” or separate from their family of origin. The work is to help them discern and trust their own thoughts, wishes, and aspirations apart from their parents.
One example is from an Asian woman I worked with last year. She was conflicted because her parents disapproved of the men she dated (not “good” enough), and her career choice of pursuing a counseling degree (not “prestigious” enough). Needless to say, this woman was wracked by insecurity. The family exerted tremendous pressure on her to break off her relationship with a guy that her family considered too old for her. However, in our work together I was proud that she was able to stick to her convictions and pursue a counseling career.
So why are these types of interactions and relationship patterns so typical of Asian families? I believe it’s due to our collectivist nature as Asians where harmony is prized over the American traits of freedom and individualism. So as Asians living in America, how do we find our true self amidst our filial duty to be honorable to our cultural roots?
To find yourself, you must invest time and energy to grow as a person. Professional, emotional, and spiritual growth does not happen without intentionality or risk. You must take risks to grow. Oftentimes, the risk is in learning to be vulnerable to others. It also includes the risk to be vulnerable to yourself; learning to see yourself as others see you.
This is the essence of psychotherapy where clients learn how to be open and vulnerable in a relationship to another person. Through this process, clients also learn to recognize repeated patterns of thoughts and behaviors that negatively impact their relationships to others and themselves.
Whatever you decide to do for 2010 and in the upcoming decade, what’s important is to break out of your Asian mentality and take the risk to grow. There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just not trying.
*Disclaimer: “Dr. Sam” is a mental health counselor associate accruing hours towards full licensure, not a clinical doctor. All views and advice suggested in his columns are meant to be useful and are based on his experiences. To contact Sam Louie, please visit: www.slacounseling.com or e-mail [email protected].