Many of my Asian friends and I have experienced parenting in the form of helicopter parenting or Asian guilt to motivate us. After decades of conditioning, this becomes ingrained as a part of our psyche.
My story of how I defied being a doctor
Being compassionate with my family and their expectations
Finding a career that my family doesn’t understand
Filial piety and impact on us
Compensatory strategies of being gay
Is it wrong to defy parental expectations
Why not following our truth has health consequences
Tips on how to manage parental expectations
What are the top 5 regrets of dying patients
Steven Wakabayashi: Hello. Okay, audio levels are good. Hi everyone. My name is Steven Wakabayashi and you’re listening to Yellow Glitter Mindfulness Through the Eyes and Soul of a Gay Asian. Every episode I share with you what’s on my mind or things I’m struggling with and how I’m working through it to help you live a more mindful, fabulous life.
This episode, we talk about op piety and defying parental expectation in career and in life. Many of my Asian friends and I have experienced parenting in the form of helicopter parenting, or I. Asian guilt to motivate us After decades of conditioning. This becomes ingrained as part of our psyche. And to be honest, before I go on with episode, for me, I’m still navigating through this and figuring out, whenever I make a decision, whether it’s in life or whether it’s in career, I have to ask myself whether or not if I am being true to my heart center, or if I’m doing it out of Asian guilt thinking that I have to do this.
To be a good Asian son. In this episode, we cover my story and how I defied being a doctor, being compassionate with my family and their expectations. Finding a career that my family doesn’t understand, Phil piety and the impact on us. Compensatory strategies of being gay. Is it wrong to defy parental expectations?
Why not following our truth has health consequences. Tips on how to manage parental expectations and what are the top five regrets of dying patients. So story time. So after my father passed away when I was seven years old, my mother raised my sister and me by herself, and also with the help of one of her sisters.
My mom never remarried and my aunt either, and both of them sacrificed everything to give my sister and me as normal of a life. As we could get, both my mom and my aunt worked long hours, and even though I was a latchkey kid, I never doubted their love for me and my sister. They were trying their best to raise us back when I was in high school.
When I was thinking about my future, I had no clue what I wanted to do except to make my family proud. I had an older cousin at the time who was another aunt son, who was the very first family member to graduate a us. University. He was one of my biggest role models growing up, and he was valedictorian in high school.
Graduated pre-med from U C L A and was on his way to becoming a doctor. My mom and my aunt that was living with us would talk all the time with their friends, their colleagues, that my cousin was so successful at everything he was doing, and I could tell that they were both extremely proud of him and I wanted to be just like him, especially to make them both proud.
As I entered college, I decided I was going to go down the same route in healthcare. And during my time at uc, San Diego as a physiology and neuroscience major, I jumped between wanting to be a pharmacist, a doctor, and. Osteopathic doctor as my interest fluctuated, I never really knew for certain what I wanted to do, but I knew what I had to do to boost my resume, and for the most part, I did a lot of things in college just for my resume.
I also. Threw myself into more work. I entered at hospitals, pharmacies, small private clinics all around San Diego. Ran an organization during public health work in Honduras and worked in a microbiology lab and published scientific papers on proteins. It was a lot. I never took a breath and never had a chance to reassess whether this was the right path for me.
Come time to medical school applications. I was starting the AM c a, the American Medical College Application Service, and my advisor at the time told me to take a year off a gap year. She said it will look so great on my resume, but at the time I think she knew deep down that I had to try something different.
And as a kid, computers have always been near and dear to my heart. My family got our first computer when I was in fifth grade, and I was glued to it at all times. I didn’t get dial up internet until later in middle school, I. I got a pirated copy of Adobe Photoshop that I absolutely loved. I used it to make designs offline.
I made graphics, icons, posters. I manipulated photos of people, got rid of blemishes, wrinkles, and later on I was making websites and I started to create content for friends and teachers all around school. I. I was running multiple websites for various organizations on top of my schoolwork and extracurricular work I did in high school, but nobody in my hometown took this seriously, and surprisingly, nobody I worked with at the time I.
Also told me to take this seriously, either. There was one computer science class I took in high school and it taught me how to make a flashlight in Adobe fireworks in one entire school semester. It was such a bad class. The class was taught so slow and the professor was so unmotivated. His job was to teach one class a semester and to maintain the school’s website.
I. Which was really poorly maintained. He didn’t really seem too happy about having to teach, and this was my only example of a computer scientist. It didn’t motivate me to take this seriously either. My cousin at the time, I. Had also urged me to stop wasting time on the computer that it was such a waste of time, just like video games, as he continued his pre-med route.
But in college, my web design and dev work ended up paying my way through university. I took on lab assistance jobs at first. But realized that my pay was far greater doing web development work around college in just a few years. I had a portfolio of work I could bring around to get more work, and I always assumed that it was just a hobby this entire time and never pushed myself to take this seriously.
I never had a chance to really dive into it until my gap year and during that year, I did what any pre-med student does during a gap year. Continue to look for more extracurriculars to boost the resume, but also continue a side hustle to make money and also to survive, except. When I put myself out there for work, I was showered with so many opportunities immediately, and it took me by surprise, though I was still working at a lab and directing summer camps as my gap year homework, I couldn’t shake how much I enjoyed working as a developer, and I decided to put away in my M C A S until further notice.
My family to this day doesn’t really know exactly what I’m doing, especially even all the stuff that I’m doing now. The podcasts, mindfulness content, videos, and for the longest time, I had thought that I was letting them down, although my mom was extremely supportive with everything I wanted to do all my life.
There was a time when she urged me to push through the healthcare route because she thought that was the best thing for me as well. After my decision to leave that route, I couldn’t help but to think that I had deeply disappointed her, especially because she also didn’t talk about. My career, what I had done, my shift to the extent she would my cousin’s medical journey with everyone around her.
Looking back, technology was never big in my family. My mother didn’t start using emails until just a few years ago. And my cousin used the bare minimum as a focus on his medical school dreams, just as how I was not surrounded by computer science wizards in high school. They were probably not surrounded by examples of them either.
They were only trying their best to look out for me. My mother was born into a rural southern Taiwan farming family, and computers did not exist in that time or in that place. The only jobs around were skill workers, and in those conditions, the top skill workers are often doctors. To the extent of her knowledge being a doctor was to improve my life condition.
As Asians, you’re taught to never question authority figures, listen wholeheartedly to them without question, but the reality is, They all have biases, egos, and limitations just as we do. My cousin, my mother, they’re influence over conditioning that have led them to think certain ways, which are extremely hard to shake, especially after having learned them for decades.
And I, as I am now in my thirties, I can totally relate things that counter my belief are extremely hard to take into consideration. I assume what I have been taught and learned over the years. Are all accurate in my narrative, and so in this case, I have so much compassion for my mom and my cousin who are looking out for me, though it may not have been the best recommendation for me.
They’re trying their best. And as Asians, you’re always taught to make your family proud. They have sacrificed everything for you. The practice of filial piety meaning to be good to one’s parents popularized by Confucian, Chinese, Buddhist, and Taoist ethics. It also means to take care of one’s parents to engage in good conduct and to bring in a good name to one’s parents.
And ancestors and when taking homosexuality into consideration by being gay and born into an Asian culture that is homophobic, I felt that I had already failed my duty of opio. I was considering sacrificing my hobbies to pursue medical school. And it was partly influenced by compensating. For me being gay, if I can’t make them proud with my homosexuality, I have to compensate with my career.
Elia Piety is so ingrained within the Asian cultures that it is a customary for Asian parents to spend an entire conversation with each other, talking about their children’s accomplishments. You’re reminded, if not directly by your family, at least by Asians within the community to always make your family proud.
And this focus on external validation gives no room for being selfish. In no way filial piety exists in the same sphere as selfish needs to put your parents first is to put yourself second with that belief. We think that in the sacrifices we make the act of giving something up that we too can pay our family back with this suffering that we have gone through as we lose our sense of selfishness.
We can finally become that perfect son, daughter, child that does everything in their life for their family. But what’s wrong with this picture? As romantic as sacrifice sounds, it isn’t healthy. Sacrifice lacks balance, communication, and is riddled with expectations. We believe that as we make sacrifices.
That we can make the receiver happy when the truth is, no matter what we do, we can’t make anyone feel anything. They were not willing to feel themselves. We have no control over what other people feel or think, and in that sacrifice we have given up the only person we had control over. Ourselves and just like our parents and caregivers, we never demanded them to sacrifice for us.
Their underlying assumption is that the more they sacrifice, the happier we became. The reality is the toxic sacrificial behavior continues to be passed down, generation after generation, and nobody has been able to live their truth in fear that it was not serving anyone else besides themselves. Instead of doing for others, we need to do for ourselves first.
We need to shatter this belief that we have control over the happiness of others because we don’t, no matter what we do, where we work, how much money we make, those things are never guaranteed to bring anyone happiness. Even the richest people can be some of the most depressed people in the world. What we need to do, Is to chase happiness itself directly.
We need to move ourselves towards the activities we enjoy, the careers we love, and the people that nourish us. And as far as our family goes, we can feed them the happiness that overflows out of us and hope they will in turn. Become happier. Life is so simple and we complicated with trying to follow these social rules and constructs that were made centuries ago.
The trauma of sacrifices and the expectations that were never met continues to be passed through generations and for families. Trauma becomes more of the family’s history rather than the principles of filial piety. So now it takes us to define these expectations. Is it selfish? Is it wrong? I’ll give you four things to consider.
I’ll give you four thoughts to consider The first thought. We should never compromise our honesty to ourselves. We should never lose ourselves for the sake of following expectations. Out of anyone in this world, you are the most responsible for yourself. Honesty is finding yourself, keeping yourself accountable, but also creating a path forward to find happiness, joy, and love.
Without honesty, we will never be happy. The second thought. It’s about finding balance. On one side, we have our logical thinking brain. On the other, we have our intuitive feeling heart. Both are designed to keep us safe and to propel us forward by working together, the thinking logical brain is our lizard brain that keeps us safe.
Based on the stimuli around us, our intuitive feeling, heart is our higher self that propels us forward to our true calling when we force expectations and operate only from our logical brain. I. We have no vision, and when we operate only from our intuitive heart, we have no direction. When we take on a career, we know that is good, but deep down we don’t love.
We quiet the feeling intuitive heart as we continue to quiet this voice more and more. The pathways of communication completely shuts down. We not only lose our sense of vision and purpose, but we also lose our intuitive abilities like empathy, being able to read people and understanding our own feelings as well.
Just recently I read a book by Dr. Gabor Mate called When the Body Says No. In the book, he says that repression of our feelings lead our bodies to become prone to chronic illnesses, inflammation, and even cancer. Our body’s immune system becomes confused based on the signals we send it, especially when we attack ourselves either by shutting down what we want to do or shutting our truth, our body then misinterprets the signal.
And in turn attacks ourselves instead to shut down our intuitive feeling, heart re risk so much more than just our careers. And I’ll put the book in the show notes. I. I really, really briefly summarized it, and I highly recommend you take a look and read. And for the third thought, we only know what we know.
The thinking logical brain is inherently biased, how we perceive the world based on our limited experiences, the younger we are, the less we know about the world and for us to make decisions that would impact one, five or even 40 years of our life based on our limited experience. That is extremely naive.
When we major in something during college and choose a career only because we had studied it, we’ve dictated 40 plus years of our lives based on four years of education. And the fourth and last thought I’ll give you to consider, we are disillusioned by our ego. Our egos were made for survival. If I’m better, I can have more resources to survive, except we’re not cavemen or women living in the jungle anymore.
The ego is built for survival and impressing the parents. That’s also to survive. If we don’t make our parents and caregivers happy, we will be cut off, except we’re not living at home anymore and we have our own lives to figure out. Now our parents’ feelings like being proud, we’re never ours to begin with.
No matter what we do. We are never guaranteed to make ’em feel anything. The ego always wants more and more. Unless we set limits to it, it will incessantly nag us until we have no more time and resources to give and to test the ego, ask yourself, when will it be enough? When will you have done enough to make your parents caregivers family proud?
When will you finally be able to live your life? Your truth? When I was at uc, San Diego, I also picked up a second major as a part of my medical school application, thinking that another major would boost my resume even more. Yes, it’s that competitive. And so I majored in dance and in hindsight it was probably my inner self calling me to do something for myself.
I love to dance and love to be around artists and after graduation, I gave it a shot. I. I became a professional dancer full-time and danced 10 to 16 hours every single day. Contemporary ballet, hip hop, tap, you name it. I did everything, but I was so exhausted. I would drive home and not have enough energy to get outta my car and into my apartment and end up falling asleep in my car.
In the parking lot. A few times I almost fell asleep at the wheel and it was an eye-opening moment to reconsider this career. But during that time, I met some of my closest friends this day. Sure, I’m not a dancer now, but it was not a waste of my time at all, and I’m so glad to have at least tried. And so I end with a few tips on how to manage parental expectations in career and in life.
A few nuggets of wisdom first, don’t put so much pressure on yourself to make others proud. You can never guarantee or force anyone to feel anything that they aren’t willing to, no matter what you do. If your parents or caregivers just don’t want to feel proud. They won’t be proud, and that doesn’t lessen in any way what you have done.
You are only responsible for your feelings and yours alone. Two, don’t put so much pressure on your past if you’re just finishing college or any other schooling. I. Don’t let the years of education dictate the rest of your life. I know so many stories of doctors and lawyers that have pivoted their lives and found even more success doing something they loved, but I will let you know.
All of your education and life experiences will come in handy one day, I promise. But just because you don’t know it yet doesn’t mean it won’t happen. And if you are on a job you dislike, is there a way you can try something else for a little bit? Take classes, be in organizations, launch a mini project, shadow another vertical within your company.
There are so many ways to get your hands on another experience to see if it’s fit for you. Time is yours to decide what you wanna do with it. And if the job is not serving you at all, let it go. Trust in yourself that you’re resilient to move on and to find something better. Though I will note, make sure you can set up some stability before making any risky decisions.
Ensure that you have some savings to get through a transitionary period, but don’t let this go on forever. Set boundaries. Three. You want to live life with no regrets. There is this nurse, Brawny Ware, who worked in palliative care looking after patients as they were dying after eight years. She distilled patients top five, regrets as a inch closer to death.
Number five, I wish I had let myself be happier. Number four, I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. Number three, I wish I’d had. The courage to express my feelings. Number two, I wish I hadn’t worked so hard, and number one, I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
Break the generational trauma. Live a life true to yourself, and find happiness in your own path, even if people fail to see it. At least you gave yourself the opportunity to do so. Give yourself the chance. You deserve it. Well, thank you so much, uh, hope that was helpful. You can reach out to me on my Instagram at Stephen Waka Bayi.
I love hearing from you. Let me know your thoughts on this episode, anything else that interests you, and I also publish a weekly mindfulness [email protected]. To hear what’s on my mind every week and links to things that I discover online that inspire me. And if you enjoyed this, please share on your social media.
Tag me at Steven Wahi on Instagram, Facebook, and at waku W A k UU on Twitter. My full name was way too long for Twitter. And with that, so much love for you and hope your day can be a little bit more mindful. Bye.