I can remember when, as a child, I first realized someone saw me differently—and not in a good way— than how I’d always experienced myself. It was like a blow to my chest. In an instant I understood that the difference between who I was on the inside and how others saw me on the outside could be dangerous. I felt hot with shame at what they saw, that their words, so piercing and certain, pointed to a version of me that might be truer than what I had always carelessly assumed was me and was okay to be.
Of course, this is how consciousness develops, and it’s part of socialization and personal growth—hopefully without the shame, which is so central to Asian (and other) culture(s), but we can talk more about that another time. It’s how we learn to live with others, to navigate between our needs and theirs. I became more careful of what I showed to the world, a habit that has served and hindered me ever since.
For those of us who have been told in spoken and unspoken ways that we are not good enough, that we need to justify our existence and earn our way in order to belong, it can be a lifelong task to believe in our birthright: to be loved and accepted just as we are right now. That's been my struggle. And my counseling work—both when I’ve been in counseling myself and when I’ve provided counseling to others—has confirmed my belief that each of us can find ways to survive, and even thrive, through it all.
Even when things are going well and you’re managing your demons—or maybe you don't have that many to manage in the first place—everything can fall apart when bad news hits or there are just too many balls to juggle. We get overwhelmed and it’s all we can do to put one foot in front of the other. I learned early on to power through but it’s exhausting. So now I’m always on the lookout for ways that are just a little easier and really work.
And that’s what I hope to offer you—ways that are a little easier and really work for you because they come directly from who you are and the life you’ve lived. It's a process that requires both of us to trust that you know the way forward, you just have to reconnect with your source through talking and insight, through your body, by connecting more deeply with the people who care about you and with your spiritual beliefs, if you have them. This helps me along the way, and it just might help you too.