Underneath my yellow skin

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Fake It Until You Make It, Part II

Hi. I wrote the first part of this post here. I have more things to say about it, so this is part two.

Another part of my problem is that my father has the inability to look at things from a viewpoint other than his own. He brought up an example that has been a sore point between us for many years. Rather, it was a sore point, but then it kind of got glossed over, and I eventually shrugged it off. He’s brought it up the last two times he’s visited, so obviously, it stuck with him. When I was a kid, he had a firm belief that having wet hair meant you’d catch cold. In addition, he has a lower set point for coldness than do I. And, in case I haven’t mentioned it a time or a million, he’s a narcissist. When I was a kid, I used to go outside after taking a shower. Or I would go outside without a coat on in the winter. He would say, “Put on a coat; I’m cold.” To hear him tell it, I rebelled because he didn’t ask me nicely such as, “Please put on a coat; it’s cold outside.” He’s framing it as a question of etiquette and culture. (Taiwanese culture it’s more acceptable to order your child around.) My issue isn’t because of the politeness, however. I still would have resisted because I wasn’t cold. I don’t care if he’s cold–that won’t change by me putting on a coat.

Now, I’ve come to realize that this coat thing is a power struggle between parents and children of different cultures, so it’s not strictly a Taiwanese thing, but the difference is, he told me to put on a coat because HE was cold (looking at me). Or, as he explained it, he would have been cold in that situation, so he just assumed I would be, too. Now, once, OK, I can see that. But, if the person in question tells you repeatedly that she isn’t cold, then wouldn’t you eventually believe her? The fact that I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease years later (hyperthyroidism) validated my point of view. One of the symptoms is never feeling cold, grossly simplified, and it’s one thing I can point to now when I question whether I’m right to feel a certain way. I shouldn’t *need* outside validation, but when you grow up with two parents denying the way you feel, it can be helpful. I still hate the heat to this day, though I’m now hypothyroid, and I still don’t wear a coat in the winter except on the chilliest days.


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Fake It Until You Make It

I have a hard time believing in myself for many reasons, most of which are boring and way too common. Low self-esteem, perfection, all-or-nothing, blah, blah blah. Part of it is because in my family, every decision is made only after all the possible problems are talked about and dealt with. Endlessly. It’s not bad to think about issues, but it can be bad if it’s ninety percent of the conversation. I was just talking to my bestie, and it reminded me of something we used to talk about back in the day. When she was having problems with her husband, her mom told her that she would be fine either way. that struck me because if I were in the same situation, my mom would tell me why it would be hard to deal with either way. Neither mom is wrong; it’s just a different way to focus on things.

I mention this because I was talking to my parents about going back to school for a grad degree in psychology. We were discussing the pros and cons (mostly the cons as is our wont), and somehow, we got on the topic of the actual coursework itself. I said that would not be a problem, and my father told me not to be so sure. What I heard was that I was overestimating my intelligence and that I would have a nasty shock when I was actually faced with reality. I talked about it with my mother at a later date, and she said it’s probably because he had such a difficult time when he was earning his PhD (in econ) and was just projecting his feelings onto me. Which, duh, because narcissist. Anyway, I said to her, “I have enough worries and anxieties about going back to school. This isn’t one of them, and I don’t need it to become one.” The one thing I’ve counted on my entire life is my intelligence. More to the point, school is easy for me. I’m not saying the work won’t be hard, but will I be able to do it? Of that I have no doubt.

It upset me because it’s a pattern in my family. Don’t you dare show anything remotely resembling pride about anything because then you will be seen as arrogant. It’s part of Taiwanese culture, but it’s also my father’s neurosis. He needs to be validated from the outside and the center of attention, but he also has a horror of appearing arrogant. He was scolding my mom for telling people she went to a sandplay conference in Hawaii because he thought it made her look like a braggart. He said, “I’ve gone all over the world and participated in OPEC conferences, but you don’t see me mentioning that!” I said, “Why not? It’s what you did. There’s nothing wrong with saying it. Also, if I ever made it to the NYT Best Sellers list, I would be bragging about it all over the place.” He went on to say, “Is she the only one who can do this?” in reference to the conference, which made me gleeful because I could say, “Yes, she is. She literally is the only person who could have done this.” I mean, how many times do you get to say that in real life? My mother established the Taiwanese Sandplay Association and is the only person qualified to represent it in certain circumstances, and she should be fucking proud of herself! She wasn’t even saying it to be proud, however, just stating it as a matter of fact. It’s only my father’s neurosis that twisted it into something perverse, plus the fact that he hasn’t handled being forced to retire* with any grace at all.


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