Being yourself means that you love who you are, you respect who you are, and you don’t let other people define who you are.
Many of us have been taught that being yourself is not only the best way to be, but the only way to be. While being yourself should be the most natural thing to do, it can sometimes be the most difficult.
In school, we were taught that we could be anything that we wanted and still achieve the “American dream.” However, being born and raised in America to an immigrant Chinese family complicated this notion.
At home, I was taught that the path to success was formulaic and was often reminded that certain dreams weren’t worth pursuing.
To me, learning to play an instrument or joining a sports team was supposed to be fun. To my parents, it quickly became a chore and an expectation. I felt the joy of these activities gradually seep away, as my parents continued to carve this rigid path for me.
Becoming a professional musician or athlete was not my primary aspiration, yet I was still expected to be great or there would be no point in continuing. This difference, among many, made me feel that I wasn't like the other American kids. And that wasn’t even the beginning of it.
"I can't bring this food to school, I want Lunchables."
"I want to wear what the other boys are wearing."
"I wish I looked like everyone else."
Being an impressionable little Asian boy in an ocean of white meant fitting in at whatever cost.
I knew that I looked different, but I didn't want to feel different. I wanted to be like everyone else, and recognizing this I began to reject my Chinese culture. That was what I was willing to pay in order to feel included.