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.