It’s such a simple question that I often ask others. It’s a question that we have all been taught to ask as the polite thing to do. Of course, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that not many people care for the answer to that question. However, there will always be a few people who do ask out of the kindness of their heart and will sympathize with your response if you answer genuinely.
Though, what never dawned on me was how little we ask ourselves this question. We aren’t taught to check in with ourselves, and we aren’t taught to sympathize with our responses. Instead, we often critique our own emotions and judge ourselves for how we feel. I am a culprit of this as well. How ironic is this response, though, right? I know I would never respond in the same manner towards another person. So, why is that? Why do I treat myself so differently?
From my adventures through singleness, one of the most important lessons I have learned is that living in the present doesn’t just mean acknowledging my physical feelings, but also my internal ones. I started noticing my consciousness would never address my emotions until they got to be an overload on my system. This became an issue that built up. Slowly, I realized I had a choice when I felt a certain way. I could build up my self-esteem and give myself encouragement instead of pushing myself away. After all, no one else would do it for me. It dawned on me that in my past relationships while I would give and give, I would think that those actions were enough for someone to choose me as a partner. What I didn’t acknowledge was that my internal actions towards myself were manifesting into reality. Often, our external environments mirror our internal ones, and how was I to expect someone to choose me when I neglected to choose myself. I neglected my own needs. I neglected my own happiness. I neglected my humanity. The more I recognized my feelings, the more I noticed I struggled with acceptance of them. I realized that it was easy for me to judge my emotions with thoughts like“there are other people who have it worse than me” and “it’s not a big deal, calm down.”
Yet, what I needed to hear the most from myself was:
“No, it is a big deal. “
“You are allowed to feel however you want to feel.”
“You can resolve this with as much time as you need, and you will be able to do it in the best way possible.”
I noticed that it wasn’t until I let myself sit in my emotions that I felt free enough to pursue my goals and the rest of my life. The judgment I gave myself was unhealthy. I was invalidating my own feelings and assuming that the more I dismissed them, the more they would go away. However, all I was doing was building up an arsenal of grief and resentment toward myself.
Learning acceptance and non-judgment towards my emotions has given me the ability to reframe my thinking and view of even the most unexpected, maybe disappointing situations, into hopeful and self-affirming ones.
One of the most important observations was how my self-judgment prevented me from truly being open in a relationship. You could argue that I just never felt safe enough to feel like I could fully express my thoughts, but I knew deep down inside I was ashamed of embracing who I was. I was afraid that I would taint the image of “having everything together” if I showed someone else that I was human and made mistakes. (Like what was past Cindy even thinking?? Such a foolish mentality.)
I understand now how detrimental that mindset is. I would beat myself down for not meeting the shallow attributes that others desired. I had and still have a hard time understanding that externally attributed qualities about me do not dictate my character and how capable I am as a person. Where I decide to go to school or what I decide to do with my life is wonderful as long as I am happy and satisfied. And even though there will always be someone else with better “external attributes” than me, I know that I have and will live my life to the best of my abilities. I’ve been the only one on this planet to deal with and thrive through my specific trauma. After all, as said by Teddy Roosevelt, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Through the reflection of all of my experiences as an Asian American, I believe my cultural upbringing has subconsciously ingrained the idea that I should mind my own business and not ask for or expect help from others. This mentality seems to have seeped into my understanding of relationships, especially romantic ones. This concept, compounded with the preaching of “you shouldn’t do something with an expectation of someone else’s actions,” became branded in my mind. While I agree that we should never do something that turns relationships into transactions, I also disagree. Expectations of others’ behaviors can be crucial in making sure you are not being taken advantage of. The concept of giving and giving can easily be taken to an extreme. An extreme which I had unknowingly implemented in my life. I was unfair to myself. I was letting myself be put in a position of hurt by others. I forgot about the most important person in my life, myself, and how to protect her. After reflection on my past relationships, I realize now that yes, I am an amazingly loving person, and yes, it is okay to have others’ expectations. I possess the ability to observe others and decide how much power they yield in my life. I can question if they have the level of courage and strength I needed.
I understand now that what I feared was never about finding another person but about never finding myself completely.
Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.
Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.
We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.
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We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.