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I'm a wreck..
January 24, 2009 12:25 AM   Subscribe

I need some serious advice on how I can start feeling more secure about myself.

I know this question has been done a million times but reading other people's threads about it doesn't really help, I guess since it is a personal thing and everybody's different.

So let's see.. I'm a 35 yr old guy, 3rd generation Japanese grew up in Southern Cal.. I think a lot of it does have to do with my culture and all that.. honestly I feel like it's pointless talking about this here cause I'm not sure if it's too specific, I kinda feel like I should be talking about it with people who know me, but it's too awkward. I've tried talking to my sister but I always end up changing the story or not knowing what to say. It's weird, I start getting all nervous and shaky.

It's like I hate myself because I hate my culture.. or the other way around, not really sure. There's certain things I like about it but it's all the superficial stuff.. like sushi and Japanese candy. I dunno. We made the Wii wooptie doo. Other than that I'm not exactly too proud of much else. I'll admit, I'm not one of those guys all obsessed with white guys dating Asian girls. But that's cause I just think it's their fault, it's like if you want a white girl then be the kind of guy a white chick likes and stop complaining. However, saying that, I think what I'm suffering from is a form of "group confidence".. that's a dumb word sorry.. but what I'm saying is like, as an individual, I'm fine, but it's like I inherited this larger group's mentality, this lower confidence.. that group being "asian men". I can't even type that out that's why I double-quote it. Like if I was Mexican, I'd be like yeah!! I'm MEXICAN wooot! saying it with pride. And okay, here's the thing. I'm short too. So it's like, on paper, I'm the total bottom of the social pole. Like, it can't get worse than that.

I think the fact I'm both short AND Asian is what gets me. Because it's such a stereotype. I don't want that weight on my shoulder. Also the fact that I spent waaay too much time online, all I read is garbage. Google "short" and "asian guy" and you'll see what I mean. I have this generic image in my head of what a "short asian guy" is.. and it sucks cause it's like, I'm always having to double check myself.. peek in the mirror.. whatever, to make sure I'm not that image. I think I've gotten this thing called "body dysmorphic disorder" but because it's such a taboo reason it's not like I can talk about this to some "therapist" are u kidding?? Especially a white therapist?? And if I went and looked specifically for an "asian" therapist, I'd feel too dirty.

So.. well I know it's in my head. I'm distorting things. If u knew me you'd know this isn't my character.. (or you'd think) because I've always was well aware of how ugly it is to worry about yourself especially if it's about race or physical traits, and how unappealing it makes you, so it's always been back in my mind and to this day I try not to convey it outwardly.. but the way it manifests itself is I end up spending a lot of time alone and avoiding people. I don't even talk to my family anymore. I'm so unhappy and I can't feel better knowing people in Iraq get bombed and their heads cut off.. and how insignificant my problem is.. cause to me their problems may be bad but the cause is external to themselves, so at least they have self-love, but I think when you hate yourself and cause your own misery, that's the ultimate torture.
posted by In Heaven to Human Relations (19 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think I've gotten this thing called "body dysmorphic disorder" but because it's such a taboo reason it's not like I can talk about this to some "therapist" are u kidding??

I bet that every therapist who's been practicing for a little while has seen and dealt with things that are way, way more taboo than this. That's part of the point of a therapist; it's somebody you can talk to about your problems without them judging you. Just see a therapist.
posted by number9dream at 12:37 AM on January 24, 2009




Seconding what number9dream. This is exactly why you talk to a therapist. I'm seeing one now for depression/self-confidence reasons, just so you know. There's no shame in asking for help, and a good therapist will understand and empathize with you.

I know all about these kinds of feelings - being down for some reason, and then beating yourself up for feeling that way. Or feeling guilty because other people have "real" problems and yours are trivial or just in your head. The good news is you can break the pattern and change the way you feel and think about yourself.

Therapist or not, I would also recommend getting The Feeling Good Handbook and working your way through it.
posted by O9scar at 10:46 PM on January 24, 2009


Something I seem to be missing here is any relation to your strengths. You've survived for 35 years so you must be good at something. Admitting failings is what you've focused on and I would suggest that you give your capabilities some breathing room. Take the weakness to a therapist (find one that's of your cultural background) and live your strengths in the mean time.
posted by ptm at 10:54 PM on January 24, 2009


3-rding the the fact that you can't deal with what you're troubled by if your feeling too guilty to discuss it with a therapist or anybody else. It's a pretty normal stage to work through at the beginning. I'll bet you're not alone in feeling this way and I'll even bet that there's an asian therapist who can relate to what you're going through. The thing that's most important is to find a therapist you can "relate" to. Reading your question, it sounds like you've got a pretty good sense of humour, so you might actually find that it's fun to explore these feelings with a professional (and you'll do a bit of crying too, I'm sure). Good luck.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:57 PM on January 24, 2009


You might want to look into the reasons for and solutions to Internalized oppression
posted by saxamo at 11:13 PM on January 24, 2009


I benefited immensely from therapy and, as mentioned by O9scar...Feeling Good, The New Mood Therapy (same author as he mentions...different version of same info, the book he mentions is an updated version...excellent!)
posted by mumstheword at 11:52 PM on January 24, 2009


I think I know how you feel...even though I'm a 17-year-old girl, stereotype galore.


Maybe I don't know how you feel. Well I get you with that culture thing. I'm Vietnamese/Chinese and the culture is nice but I've never been good at anything Vietnamese (tried the zither, failed, tried the language(s), failed more). There's a certain amount of pride with being able to grasp your culture, and when you can't do that it feels crummy, like it should've been that easy and you didn't do it, and went off to act like a white-washed little shit. And then when I think about, well what if I were another race, that sort of feels like betrayal.


I'm so unhappy and I can't feel better knowing people in Iraq get bombed and their heads cut off.. and how insignificant my problem is.. cause to me their problems may be bad but the cause is external to themselves, so at least they have self-love, but I think when you hate yourself and cause your own misery, that's the ultimate torture.



Thinking about less fortunate people never works, because pain isn't relative. I always get mad when my parents tell me stuff like that, how lucky I am, because it's supposed to make me feel privileged but that just makes you feel worse. I try to make myself feel better but end up wallowing in self misery. Everyone has problems, and comparing yourself to someone else is counter-productive. Hell. Human life is meant to be complex as hell because we're able to separate between self and whole, and everyone's got problems, and there's always someone out there who has got it a lot worse, but the only way to deal with yourself and the world is to do everything, one at a time.


Therapists, I would never try it personally. I'm too self-conscious. Just talk to someone. A stranger, even. I'd talk to you. It just helps to shit out thoughts for awhile, and then maybe at the end you can come to a conclusion about yourself (like you did here). I blog and type out everything there is to say, and by the end or maybe a couple days later can read it again and have an idea of what the hell I was feeling, often am feeling, am capable of feeling. This would be my compensation for therapy, and a few people I know read the blog, and we make a point of never talking about it, but it helps to have them read it and maybe see why it is I think the way I do. I guess it changes the way people see me but at the same time it makes our relationship better.



I don't know if that was helpful at all. I talk too much about myself. But Good luck?
posted by mmmleaf at 3:52 AM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


i'm chinese, and my parents migrated to australia via malaysia. felt a bit odd growing up as a kid, from towns where i might be one of a handful of asian kids in school, to a high school where there's a sizeable number in a class. for years i thought being chinese was dragging me down in life, because i was useless at hanging out with immigrant kids, being hopeless at the language, and unassertive towards larger society to ever fit in with white people.

you are yourself, really. asian is just a generic grouping name. you don't have to fulfill commitments to this group in order to earn the title. you're japanese-american by nature of your birth, but that's only one part of you. it's up to you to fill out the rest.

short and asian is one stereotype, but so what? so is asian and female in my case, and boy has that given me so much trouble when i'm out at night. likewise, you just gotta learn to hold your own.

do something positive with whatever you're feeling. go read about it, be it adrian tomine, or derek kirk kim or even some theory via rey chow. hyphen magazine i recommend too and 'tales from outer suburbia' by shaun tan. think about it, write it out maybe.

if you want to be thought of as appealing, while your brain is in this mode, it's only going to be circular. the sooner you get yourself out of this, the better. good luck.
posted by sardonicsmile at 4:33 AM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you are really in a negative place, a therapist can be good because you are paying them to listen to you. You can offload your shit and discuss it in a way that might bum out your friends. It's their job to deal with that. Sounds like you need some talking and reflecting.

Best of luck.
posted by sully75 at 9:53 AM on January 25, 2009


Wow, I learned a lot googling around on this issue. I'm so sorry you're going through this. I had an answer ready for you but had to ditch most of it because it turns out I was mostly clueless. I hadn't realized this Asian guy confidence issue and the dating mismatch was so pervasive and recognized amongst Asians in the US. I was also surprised to see it so often paired with shortness concerns. I had never been cognizant of either concern.

Short answer: From what I've read, the only answer appears to be that you have to be confident and assertive and believe that you are worthy of the interest of whomever you're interested in. Neither your race nor your height will change, and the world won't just start working differently, so there's no gain from dwelling on them, only further erosion. Accept that those things are OK ways to be - make yourself believe it - and get out there, with the understanding that even if you were white and tall you wouldn't be the right fit for every woman and would get shot down sometimes. If she's not interested, try again or move on, but don't let it contribute to an inner I'm No Good judgment. Confidence is one of the most attractive things there is, so do yourself a favor and develop it. And don't wait for the women to come to you because it rarely works that way.

Longer answer:
The issue seems less like a stereotype ("Asian guys are all _________ and therefore undesirable") and more like just feeling rejected and unwanted. Because there isn't some popular, specific, negative impression of Asian guys (lazy, stupid, violent, dishonest, uncouth, smelly, worthless, mean, loud, cheap, whatever) so much as there is just the apparent statistical proof of them being left out of the dating scene in greater numbers (for reasons not clearly identified). If some white men will date both white women and Asian women, if white women will date white men but not Asian men (in general), and if Asian women often express interest in taller white men over Asian men, then where does that leave Asian men? I can see how that would make you feel bad about yourself, as though you were unworthy by virtue of your race and stature, and how that external perceived rejection could turn inward until you dislike and reject yourself.

When you feel like there is nobody you can talk to about a problem that's eating you up, and that you can't solve yourself, that's exactly the time to talk to a therapist. If revulsion or cultural taboos seem to prevent you from doing it, that's the one area where you have to go out on a limb. Don't suffer in silence and don't keep doing nothing. Do something. It sounds to me like the very best thing you could do would be to talk to a therapist who shares and understands your background. I've studied culture and culture clash enough to suspect that while a good white therapist may be able to appreciate your situation, perhaps even very well, they won't be able to truly feel and understand it as well as someone who has lived it. So here's a vote for an Asian therapist. And seeing a therapist doesn't mean that you are crazy or weak or contemptible. All it means is that you want a neutral third party to help you unpack your thoughts and assess them objectively as only someone outside your head can do. Go in secret if you have to in order to dampen the effects of any cultural taboos.

From what I've read, cognitive-behavioral therapy may be more effective with body dysmorphic disorder than traditional psychotherapy, assuming that's what you actually have. But thankfully it's easy to find therapists who do both. Maybe you could start with a bit of background and venting in talk therapy until you were sure the person understood where you were coming from and what your concerns were, and then expand into a CBT regimen. That sort of path is more appropriately charted by the therapist than by you or me, but you can certainly have input and choose a therapist based on your general preferences. Even if you don't have body dysmorphic disorder, you sound like a good candidate for CBT. If it was me, I would also like for someone to hear me and acknowledge me and give me some perspective, particularly if they had seen enough other people with this issue to give me the confidence they knew how to deal with it.

If you don't want to try therapy just yet, get a copy of Feeling Good - The New Mood Therapy as mentioned above. This is CBT crystallized into very easy logic and exercises. It's the same kind of stuff a CBT therapist would guide you through. It takes the irrational, poisonous narrative that constantly runs in your head and it dissects and challenges it. You can't predict the future, can't read people's minds, likely overinflate perceptions, likely sell yourself short, likely short circuit yourself, etc. This book and CBT in general walks you out of those things with irrefutable logic. Over time, with diligence, you can reprogram your irrational thought patterns and emerge from those thought traps.

You are good. You are worth as much as anybody else. And as soon as you believe that, you'll allow yourself to see that others believe it. You'll let them believe it. That sounds cliche but is fundamental. Unconditional self acceptance will be at the root of any healing path for you.

A therapist can help convince you why you should offer yourself that forgiveness and acceptance. A helpful clue is that you would offer that forgiveness and acceptance and support and love to anyone else you cared about who was having a hard time, so why wouldn't you offer it to yourself? If everyone deserves it, why should only you be exempt? The old aphorism is to treat others as you would like to be treated. Apply that to yourself. Treat yourself the way you treat others. Talk to your hurt inner self in that same way, as though it were a loved one who needed support. Allow yourself to give and receive that support without shame.

As an aside, I will venture the guess that your race and shortness are largely arbitrary reasons for your self-defeating mindset. I'm white, tall, and not bad to look at, and I've found other reasons to shoot myself down. The answer for both of us is self acceptance, confidence, and then getting out there. We must place an unwavering faith in our worthiness and then go out there amongst the slings and arrows. She's out there and she isn't concerned with stereotypes or stigmas or anything other than finding a good guy. You're him. So am I! But we have to be willing to risk and go for it.
posted by kookoobirdz at 1:13 PM on January 25, 2009



I can totally sympathize with this question. I am also a North-American born person who belongs to an ethnicity that gets a heaping platter of negative stereotypes. It's totally depressing because you feel like you hardly ever fit anywhere, and the odd time you do forget yourself and finally feel like you fit in, someone makes some dumb comment that snaps you right back into outsider status. Or yet another person you'd like to date seems disinterested because of your race, and you feel alone again. Oh, I totally feel you. I could have written this question myself a few years ago, and I've spent a ton of energy trying to solve the same problem in my own life. Here are my insights.

Reading your question, something really stands out at me: you feel like you should be proud of being Japanese. But you are NOT Japanese. You're American. You speak English as your primary language and given your 3rd-gen status, I'm assuming your parents and maybe even your grandparents pretty much do, too. You live in California and you went to highschool there, right? Dude, your culture is hamburger, not Harajuko. The MexicoWOOT people are probably much more Mexican than you are Japanese. I bet a lot of them speak Spanish at home, have wide social nets of other Mexicans and MexAmericans, observe Mexican culture, and go to Mexico frequently to visit close relatives. I bet your connection with Japan is much more distant and intellectual than theirs. There's no way you're gonna feel as connected to Japanese culture- it's so far away and you've probably never been actually immersed in it for any length of time (vacations don't count!).

I can understand how you could feel "outside" of American culture much of the time and not realize that you can legitimately claim it as your own. You should make a list of the things that shaped you during your first 20 years of life: your earliest friends, the books you read, the TV shows you watched, the toys you played with, the teachers you looked up to, the annual traditions you loved, the holiday you most looked forward to, your favourite foods, your most fascinating classes & readings in school, the band whose every lyric you memorized-- I bet the vast majority of those influences are actually American, not Japanese. So if you hang out with lots of white Americans, you'll feel like a bit of an outsider because they may see your appearance and characterize you as "the Japanese guy". And if you hang out with Japanese people or go to Japan, you won't feel like you fit there, either, because you didn't have a Japanese upbringing. Where do you fit?! Luckily, you're not some tragic little ET alien alone on a distant planet.... you're an American-born, Western-raised, Asian-looking dude, and there are LOTS of people like you. Go find them!

You need to make a concerted effort to find some close friends who share your race & your culture. That means you need a couple of friends who are, like you, racially Asian... and culturally American.

I cannot tell you the number of my beige/brown/black/yellow friends, all born & raised in Canada and the US, whose lives & self-esteem drastically improved when they made a group of friends who both looked like them and shared their culture. Note that it has to be both the looks AND the culture for it to work.

My best friend in highschool was Korean-Canadian and she had many friends who shared her culture (other Canadians of all colours) and some friends who shared her race (Koreans, who were mostly more Korean than her- born there, had lived there, spoke the language, knew Korean music & movies & etc). None of her friends were Korean-Canadian like her though- anglophone, into Western pop-culture, etc. She was the only person like that in her social circle. She was doing fine though. You know, some problems with depression and stuff, but it seemed like typical young adult angst.

And then, I remember really clearly when she met a group of other Asian-Canadian women. All of them were born here to Asian immigrant parents, like her. All of them were English speaking, English-educated, and into Western pop culture, like her. She couldn't stop gushing about how amazed she was to feel so totally understood. She could not get enough of hanging out with these women. She still loved her non-Korean friends who shared her culture, and she still loved her more-Korean friends who shared her race- but her new group of Korean-Canadian friends who shared her race AND her culture? That was MAJOR. Her self-confidence improved dramatically that summer. It was so noticeable- she really came into her own.

When it happened, I was a little judgemental. I thought she was being xenophobic and elitist, and I was jealous of her new Korean-Canadian posse, and hurt; because I'm not Korean, I wasn't invited. I always thought it didn't matter what colour your friends were, and had a pretty big group of friends who were all different races. We all got along and I thought everything was fine in my life.

And then, by chance, I wound up in a social group with a handful of other people who all shared my (somewhat unusual and often negatively stereotyped) ethnicity AND my North American culture AND my firmly middle-class upbringing. We matched racially AND culturally. And then suddenly I understood.

It will be hard for most people who belong to their hometown's racial majority to understand this, but I had NEVER EVER MET another person who looked like me AND talked like me AND who liked the same tv shows as me AND whose parents sounded like mine AND who didn't make annoying ignorant comments about my looks/race AND with whom I could communicate such a depth of understanding with a mere glance. It was fucking incredible. I honestly felt like I'd come home. It was really profound. I had never ever had one single friend who both looked AND thought like me, and suddenly I had a whole party. And the rest of them all felt the exact same way- we were drunk on each other, couldn't get enough of each other. We talked about it at great length and we all felt so understood. It was a really big deal for all of us. (You're a dude, and you're older than I was when this happened to me, so all the gushing and best!friends! stuff will probably be toned down a bit for you- but I think you'll still feel it).

My new friends and I were all the same- we looked alike, we talked alike, we were all subject to the same prejudices and assumptions from others, we had all had similar experiences growing up, and not one of us had ever really had any friends who shared both our race and our culture. Weirdly, we even all behaved similarly- I used to sit in meetings with these people and we'd all make the exact same kind of wisecracks, roll our eyes at the same things. We were all a weird mixture of some of the "typical" the stereotypical traits that, according to legend, suited our race to a T.... which to me suggested that we'd actually allowed our perceived racial identities to affect our behaviour, even though we were all really obviously Canadian, too.

It gave me so much insight. I could suddenly see myself in them- I could see what was beautiful about me, what was charming about me, what was false bravado, where I was trying too hard, where I could just relax, where I should challenge myself to be better. I even started dressing better, since many of my more stereotypically racial features, which I'd always seen as ugly, suddenly seemed so lovely and attractive when I saw them on those friends.
And if people seemed to not want to date me because of race, well I suddenly had so much more
perspective on how unimportant and narrow that was. I could see so clearly how very dateable and awesome my new friends were- and yet they too had a hard time with dating. It was so clear to me that they weren't damaged or unloveable.... quite the opposite. So maybe, by extension, there was nothing inherently wrong with me, either? This was a big revelation for me, and what a relief that was.

The year I spent with those people was one of the most influential times of my life. We drifted after a while, but I know for 100% certainty that they helped shape my adult personality, helped me to find myself, and gave me the confidence to actually BE myself. I needed that so badly and I had no idea it was important until it happened.

I'm certainly not saying you should turn your entire life into a gated community of other Japanese-Americans- that would suck. I really, firmly believe in actual diversity. I make it a high priority to interact with, read the writing of (Racialicious is a good blog to read to get some other racial perspectives and thoughtful discussion) and intimately befriend people who have different backgrounds (race, gender, sexuality, ability, body size, social class, interests, temperaments, etc etc) than my own, and I think everyone should do this.

But I also really believe that you need to spend close time with other people who are just like you, if you ever want to figure out who you are.

So go out and find some short, 3rd generation Japanese-American guys and hang out with them until you can clearly see in them all the things that are wonderful and attractive in you! It's way more than sushi and Wii, and you deserve to see your awesomeness reflected in your new friends.

I really feel for you and wish you all the best. Please mefi mail me if you want to talk about this more.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:51 PM on January 25, 2009 [5 favorites]


Hey there,

I left a comment Saturday morning, but then the whole site went crazy, and now it's gone. I'm an Asian-American dude, so I kind of know what you're talking about (I'm not short, but still ...).

Anyway, I think an important thing to do is to quit hanging out at those places where they talk about this stuff all the time. Seriously. I know there's always going to be a little bit of racism and ethnic stereotyping pretty much everywhere you go on the internet (it even shows up here sometimes). But there are some sites on the internet where this is _all they talk about_. And I'm pretty sure you're referencing those sites in your post.

Here's the thing. Most people don't think that way. Hanging out at those sites where they talk about it a lot may make you think that, but they don't. Sure, some people do, but you don't really want to be friends with them anyway.

For what it's worth, a lot of Asian-American dudes I know went through a kind of phase where they were like, "So, the two stereotypes we get to choose from are super nerdy computer programmer and silent martial artist. I don't want to be EITHER! I hate being Asian!" But you know, racial stereotypes don't define you, and even if they do, they generally don't define you once people get to know you. And you know, part of my stand-up routine is making fun of the things white people say to Asian people, so maybe I'm not as completely over that as I think I am.

Oh: Two suggestions from Saturday morning which were also disappeared:

* One person suggested hanging around more Asian Americans, because they have probably gone through what you've gone through, and it lets you know you're not crazy. I'm paraphrasing. It's a good idea, but you know, me, I wouldn't hang out around bitter people, because hanging out with bitter people makes me bitter. And I don't want to be bitter.

* One person said that you're third generation, you're more American than Asian, and of course that's true, but the thing is, dude whose name I don't remember: the Asian stereotype is 'The Other', so the Asian Americans aren't the ones who are making themselves out to be all Asian.

Hope it helps, anyway.
posted by Comrade_robot at 3:33 PM on January 25, 2009


Hey thanks guys for all the replies.. I didn't think I'd get so much feedback on this..so thanks!!

I should probably mention I have no problem with my identity as far as this conflict between being American, Asian-American, Japanese, or whatever is concerned.. being in LA there's enough diversity here that I'm not alone in that regard and it wasn't a big issue for me.

I think it has more to do with just daily life in Los Angeles. I'm not really sure. I feel jealous that I can't feel the way Mexicans (Or Filipinos, Viets, Armenians, Blacks, etc) feel.. cause I think Japanese-Americans are different. It seems like JA's (I'll abbreviate it that way) tend to feel more a part of the larger, American "white" society than say, all the other Asian races. Probably because we were here longer? So we integrated back since the 60's or 70's.. like my dad is from LA and my mom came from Hawaii.

My family are all well off. They're all girls too, not sure what significance that has but I know it effects me in some way. But they're all, well they seem more accepted in mainstream culture. Like I always noticed how whenever we'd go out, and I was with them, I'd be accepted by association. My sisters, they knew people, even some actors or people who are just somebody's, and it's like oh so this is your little brother? How's it going man.. etc etc.. But if I'm out by myself, or with my friends, they're not like that with me.

And so I'd notice with my friends--not only Asian, but Latinos, Blacks.. they didn't have family's like mine. They're families were more.. like them. Like I didn't have some short Asian friend who had all these older attractive sisters and he was the little shit.. instead they had little dorky sisters who were just like him. And I was so envious of that. Or my Mexican friends, they're bros and sis were all gangsters or something.. and I was envious of that. Cause they didn't have to reach so high to be like their family. It was like.. the whole family was the same.. like they shared the same feelings about their place in society, so they felt more real and down to earth, and seemed more like how most people I knew are. I felt more comfortable with their families.. I hated my own. I felt like my family acted more like a White middle class middle American family than a minority family from LA. All my sisters and cousins dated and married the quintessential handsome white guys.. the last one looked like Steven Baldwin, and when he'd come over he'd try being all buddy buddy with me, but I could just see that look in his eyes.. like had he not known my sister, he'd never come talk to me out on the street. I felt like I'm talking to some salesman at Circuit City, those "salesmen" eyes that I come to attribute to being a purely white male phenomenon. And yet, all my family members, this is what they admire..

And so I just had this 'Whateverss' attitude. I'd rebel by being the exact opposite. I'd go hang out with pot heads and gangsters or anybody who was as different. And all my friends I strictly kept minorities.. or like, ghetto whites or whatever, just because it was in defiance of my family. I didn't want to "join the oppressors" so to speak. My family could, yeah, cause they're all admired by the oppressors. They're hot Asian babes. They're social. They know how to carry themselves, they have that thing about them.

I'm this short little shit.. that's how I felt. But I knew I wasn't shit. I had confidence in myself. I knew I was liked, but I felt like I was liked by different people than my family. My family was liked by mainstream America, I was liked by the minorities, the younger generation, like I'm part of the Obama generation. My family is all McCain. Seriously, they all wanted McCain and I was like WHAT??!?!!?! Are you fucking kidding me??

Anyway, after a while.. something snapped in me, and I realized I was WRONG. That all this stupid, rebelling attitudes were only bringing me down, and isolating me, cause as the world started changing, especially this past century, since the "internet" generation, it's like all these attitudes aren't here anymore, yet I still feel this way. I feel like I have this old mentality of "us, them.. white people, Asian, blah blah" like how the Blacks did in the 90's.. and yet, while I'm still locking myself in my room paranoid of "what people think of me".. people in their 20's and 30's of all races are out having a good time, being friends, dating.. and I feel like there's no way I can get back out there now.

I just can't get over "image". The short thing is only effecting me as I'm getting older. I just read this guy's post above, you're a comedian, that's cool. So you'll understand this.. I HATE BOBBY LEE!!! I look nothing like him, but I feel like that's the packaged image of me by my label of "short Asian guy". Like, yeah, in person, nobody will confuse me with being like Bobby Lee. But if I'm .. say, posting a message on a forum, and it somehow comes out that I'm short, and Asian, people's image in their head will be.. Bobby Lee? Whereas if you say.. I'm average height, Latino.. you know, they'll have an image of a somewhat normal cool hispanic dude. I mean, that's what it feels like. Say average, latino.. and girls think.. he might be Arrrite. But say, short, asian.. Eww Bobby Lee. Tall, black.. hmmm NBA? short, white.. hmm Seth Green, nerdy but hot white guy oh yah.. U know, short + asian is like 4 arms one legged.

It's this thing that's "in the air". This is a problem when you're like me, like I have this innate mindset of social commentary, you know, I think I'm a naturally "intelligent" kind of person, (maybe the "Asian" in me) so I analyze, observe, find the nuances.. and my mind goes in overdrive. It's like I'm on speed while observing social behaviors.

Basically, it's like this. I live in LA. There's a gazillion people here, a gazillion places and things to do. But I feel like, I'm somehow limited, not by force or law, but by the flow, of what I can or can't do. One time, I was desperate. So I signed up on meetup.com, and wanted to go to this art show. I got there, arrived, was standing in line at the door, and the thing is.. nobody cared.. this tall, funky artsy chick behind me was like.. said something, but I was so in this anxious mindset, I was all stiff and unnatural, and feeling like.. well.. the fact I was by myself, like a short Asian guy can't be by himself.. A white guy can be by himself, but not a short Asian guy. All the other Asian guys had their little artsy friends with them, so they were okay. A few white guys were by them self, but I'm sure they could join a group and be one of them in an instant. But me, being by myself, I'm not going to walk out of there with a new friend.. and it's probably "my fault" because I wouldn't engage or be quirky or spontaneous enough.. But that's because of the pre-existing thinking that even if I was, I wouldn't be instantly accepted like the funky looking white guy who looks like he's straight out of the latest Indie art band or whatever.

Like I don't have that image that gets me into the inner circle. I feel like I'm relegated to hanging with a bunch of short Asian guys who stand in a circle and smoke. But that ain't me. I like all those whites and Latinos and the whole artsy fartsy crowd. I just wish I didn't feel this way around them. It's like, you can't be short, Asian, quiet, and have no friends, and be part of that. You can be short Asian loud and no friends, or short Asian quiet but have friends, or white, short quiet and no friends. Maybe tall quiet Asians w/ no friends can't either.. But point is, I have all the ingredients that make me unable to have a social life in LA. Period. The only thing I got is that despite all this I have a few good memories from a better time in life that's still in me today keeping me strong. But that's it. Those are fading and I'm not forming new ones.
posted by In Heaven at 6:03 PM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, you might consider talking to a therapist.

It's tough because, as you said, there is a kind of a negative stereotype associated with Asian dudes. Yeah, there aren't any really good Asian role models on TV or in the movies. Yes, white people do love themselves some William Hung.

Here's the thing, though. Stereotypes generally seem to last right up until people get to know you. That's where all the "I can't be racist, I have (ethnicity) friends! Anyway, let me tell you all about (ethnicity)" comes from. After that, you're pretty much on your own. To put it another way, back near the turn of the last century, so I've read, a Stanford professor escorted a Chinese scholar and his wife on a trip around the country, staying at various hotels without incident.

After the trip, the Stanford professor sent a questionnaire asking, "Would you allow Chinese people in your establishment?"

Surprisingly, hotels which let the Chinese scholar and his wife stay answered no.

This was, of course, back in the time of the whole Yellow Peril thing, when Chinese people were depicted as rat-eating opium-smoking savages. While hotel owners were unwilling to let a rat-eating opium-smoking savage into their hotels, they _were_ willing to let a Stanford professor, a quiet Chinese scholar, and his wife stay.

The point, is, I guess, is that image is one thing, but what happens when people meet you is another. You may be short and Asian, but that's not all of you. If you have more than that, people will start thinking of you as that. (Well, I don't live in LA, so YMMV.)

As an aside, a lot of the time, people tend to fixate on things they can't change as an excuse for not changing. On one hand, it's not their fault, because they can hardly be expected to change that! On the other hand, you can never fix it. Not saying you are or you're not, but me, I used to be kind of heavy. I blamed a lot of stuff on that. Then a while back I took up a sport that I love, and I lost the weight. It turned out that stuff wasn't because I was heavy after all.
posted by Comrade_robot at 7:59 PM on January 25, 2009


I know what it's like to have someone in a thread who keeps just refuting the poster, and they're wrong, but they won't let it go. I don't want to be that guy for you. I also know what it's like to ask a question and nobody quite gets what I'm asking and they keep derailing me with side issues. I don't want to be that guy either. I also know what it's like to realize only after everybody keeps saying the same thing, that I was denying something that I didn't want to acknowledge. I hope I can be that guy. I won't respond again after this, regardless, for the reasons above, but here are some additional thoughts:

My sisters, they knew people, even some actors or people who are just somebody's, and it's like oh so this is your little brother? How's it going man.. etc etc.. But if I'm out by myself, or with my friends, they're not like that with me.

You might be reading more into this than is there. My thought on this is that when my friend has a friend or relative along, of course I'm going to be friendly and polite to that person. But when my friend is absent, I'm less likely to be best palz with the friend of that friend, because I don't really know them. And if the friend of that friend is quiet and withdrawn, it's a lot less likely. Asian and short don't sound like the primary issues here.

I didn't have some short Asian friend who had all these older attractive sisters and he was the little shit.. instead they had little dorky sisters who were just like him. And I was so envious of that.... ... ... I'm this short little shit.. that's how I felt.

It sounds like some of what you're dealing with might be a sort of "youngest child syndrome," again, not unique to Japanese families or short people. You feel like you were the runt and didn't measure up and got left behind, left out, and you maybe therefore turned against the ideal you might have liked to attain. I don't have an answer to that, but hopefully that can be a starting point when going to talk to somebody. Feelings of "not measuring up" are a huge issue for lots of people.

...I hated my own. I felt like my family acted more like a White middle class middle American family than a minority family from LA... ... ...and when he'd come over he'd try being all buddy buddy with me, but I could just see that look in his eyes.. like had he not known my sister, he'd never come talk to me out on the street. I felt like I'm talking to some salesman at Circuit City, those "salesmen" eyes that I come to attribute to being a purely white male phenomenon.

Sounds like you have resentment for white people and their place in society. You want to be accepted by them (maybe like your sisters?) but feel like you're not and so you resent them. Or maybe you just resent them and want what they have, but they can go jump in a lake as far as you're concerned. And you wish your family wouldn't be sellouts to them and would act in a more minorityish way. You also refer to whites as the oppressors. You talk about their fake salesman eyes. I'm not judging, just trying to dig down to root causes here. Those are issues to maybe address on their own, but still aren't direct justifications for hating your race or yourself, as you mentioned originally.

I don't know your brother in law, but I will say that I think marrying into a family of a different race and, realistically, culture, would be very difficult for anyone. People are different. Races are different. I bet he was trying his best to be gracious and fit in. Given that you lack a vagina and an outgoing social nature, I agree that he would be less likely to talk to you on the street than he would your attractive sister. But if he married your sister, he can't really have a problem with Asians. So maybe he's not all salesman. Consider giving him the benefit of the doubt.

I want to point out what appears to be a good bit of mind reading on your part. This is one of the cognitive distortions described in Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. It's a subset of the jumping to conclusions category. "You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion." You seem to be reading people's minds in terms of what they think of you, but from the way you word it each time, it sounds like you don't have any proof that that's what they actually think:

I'm still locking myself in my room paranoid of "what people think of me"

What do they think? Have you asked? Has anyone offered an opinion? If not, consider whether it's worth it to suffer the pain of your paranoia. Also, this is a great time to quote Eleanor Roosevelt. Let's pretend you did ask and somebody did think badly of you. Mrs. Roosevelt would say, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." You are the final gatekeeper on whether somebody's opinion of you is true.

I just can't get over "image".

Has anyone confirmed your perceived image to you? If not, maybe you should suspend worry about it for a while.

I feel like that's the packaged image of me by my label of "short Asian guy"


You feel like that, but has anybody confirmed it? Have you asked? If not, maybe put it aside for a while as an experiment.

But if I'm .. say, posting a message on a forum, and it somehow comes out that I'm short, and Asian, people's image in their head will be.. Bobby Lee?

Are you sure? Have you polled all of these people? Or even one of them? If not, maybe let it slide. And if they did think that, would you be ruined? Or might your personality distinguish you from him?

Say average, latino.. and girls think.. he might be Arrrite. But say, short, asian.. Eww Bobby Lee. Tall, black.. hmmm NBA? short, white.. hmm Seth Green, nerdy but hot white guy oh yah.. U know, short + asian is like 4 arms one legged.

So you've confirmed all of these thoughts that girls have with all of the women in the greater L.A. area? Surely with at least one, right? Wait, not even one? Hmm. Maybe you can resume this line of thought once you've gotten more data. One problem you may run into is that people have different tastes. Take baldness. Every guy with receding hair is desperate to keep it because he thinks no women will like him. And he'll be right about some women. But so many other women say they don't care and have never cared. Let's hope those guys don't lock themselves in their rooms, because they'll miss out on all those women. So at the least, your automatic thought prediction categories may need to be expanded a bit to accommodate people's widely varying preferences.

I got there, arrived, was standing in line at the door, and the thing is.. nobody cared..


Really? When you scanned their brainwaves, how many out of the total group thought that way? I think it's totally awesome that you can stand there paralyzed with anxiety not speaking to anybody and yet still get accurate readings of everyone's unspoken thoughts.


You're also imagining limits on yourself, rules, which only exist if you let them, because they live inside your head:

I feel like there's no way I can get back out there now.

Guess you should just give up then.

It's this thing that's "in the air".

That sounds very powerful. It's no wonder it controls your life. No point in fighting it, I guess. How terrible that you are powerless and can't do anything to combat this.

But I feel like, I'm somehow limited, not by force or law, but by the flow, of what I can or can't do.

The flow sounds even more controlling than "the air". Surely nobody could expect you to overcome that and go engage socially. That's asking too much.

A white guy can be by himself, but not a short Asian guy.

Everybody knows this. The rules clearly say that short Asian guys must accompanied by an enabler. Don't rock the boat. Don't go strike up a conversation. This is only for white people.

Like I don't have that image that gets me into the inner circle.

Well that's true. No short Asians allowed. I've read that. Can't be done. Better just stay home and be alone. There is no point in trying. Because what if you tried to be friendly and engaging and got rejected? You'd be ruined. Don't risk it. Play it safe. If you never give anybody a chance to reject you, if you never talk to anyone, you can preserve an idealized image of yourself that never suffers any harm. It can go to lots of cool parties in your head. It's more comfortable at home alone anyway.

But point is, I have all the ingredients that make me unable to have a social life in LA. Period.

Well you've convinced me. It is not possible for you. So now that it's confirmed that it is not within your power to have a social life, what are you going to do with the rest of your life?

Of course I jest in all of the above, but I encourage you to play your conclusions out to their logical end. If all of your conclusions are true, then what? Are you done trying? Will you accept that kind of life for the rest of your life? And if maybe some of them haven't quite held up to scrutiny, what might you try doing differently tomorrow?

I'm trying to figure out how much of these limitations are in your head. I'm willing to bet most of them are. So, A) Maybe it's all only in your head, or B) Maybe lots of Asian guys are suffering from identical delusions in their heads and that's why it seems legit to you, or C) Maybe there is indeed some kind of vague hurdle out there. I don't know. But I do know that you don't have to be bound by any of these notions if you don't want to. Black people will tell you that they have to be twice as good at anything as a white person to get an equivalent amount of credit for it. That sucks, but it's their reality according to them. So they can either do that and win or not do it and lose. Not fair, but there it is. I think that if you open up and go for it, you'll get all the social acceptance you want and these supposed rules will evaporate. But let's say there is some kind of actual social hurdle out there for you as an Asian guy and it's not all in your head. Are you going to try twice as hard and win, or not try and continue to lose? You shouldn't have to try harder, but if that's the world, that's the world, and it's not going to change no matter how you rage against it. So go win.

Easier said than done, I know. If you've never been outgoing, can you really start now? If the pressure to have a social life is greater than the pressure not to be outgoing, then yes, you can. I've seen people do social 180s before. You can do it. A guy I grew up with was a tubby, effeminate, inwardly-turned nerd with no social skills and he looked like a cabbage patch doll. And you could tell he was really down on himself and had no confidence. Really unfortunate. There was no chance this guy would ever have friends or kiss a girl. Nobody wanted to be around him. But something happened when he went off to college. I saw him again a couple years after college. He didn't look much different or act any less effeminately, but somehow he had become the guy that knew everybody at this large university and that everybody knew. I couldn't believe it. He was very social, happy, got married, etc. I still don't know exactly how he pulled it off, but it just shows that nothing is written in stone in that regard. It's all in your attitude and in what you decide to do. He had to have decided to be different. It had to have been scary at first. He had to have feared rejection and failure. And he had to have ventured out anyway.

this tall, funky artsy chick behind me was like.. said something, but I was so in this anxious mindset, I was all stiff and unnatural, and feeling like.. well.. the fact I was by myself

Wait, what did she say? Did she say something to you, like trying to start a conversation? And you were just too paralyzed to participate? If that's the case, that's awful - that was your "in". If you're too shy to initiate with anyone, but don't like it when that gets you left out, take advantage of it when somebody else initiates. I wonder if you've got some social anxiety disorder going on. Your friendly neighborhood therapist can help with that.

You're also indulging in what the Feeling Good book calls Fortune Telling:

A few white guys were by them self, but I'm sure they could join a group and be one of them in an instant.

If you are sure of it, it must be so. You should let them know next time. They'll be like, "hey thanks!" and then go make friends.

But me, being by myself, I'm not going to walk out of there with a new friend..

Guaranteed. Good thing you determined this ahead of time so you didn't have to try, only to fail. That would have been embarrassing. Thanks, crystal ball!

and it's probably "my fault" because I wouldn't engage or be quirky or spontaneous enough

What an injustice. People who say nothing to anyone and are paralyzed with anxiety should totally make friends everywhere. Whitey be holdin' you down.

.. But that's because of the pre-existing thinking that even if I was, I wouldn't be instantly accepted like the funky looking white guy who looks like he's straight out of the latest Indie art band or whatever.

Chalk another one up to the crystal ball. It has saved you from yet another social encounter. It's a good thing you didn't speak to anybody.

The only thing I got is that despite all this I have a few good memories from a better time in life that's still in me today keeping me strong. But that's it. Those are fading and I'm not forming new ones.

Bottom line, I think you are scared of failure and rejection, so you don't try, and you're deflecting responsibility for that onto these other issues so you don't have to own it. Never trying means no possibility of failure. You can bat a thousand without ever stepping up to the plate. But you have to have better reasons for not trying, ones that let you off the hook, absolve you of responsibility. It's the white man that's holding you down. It's Asian girls. It's your race. It's your height. It's your sisters, damn their good-looking faces and outgoing attitudes. It's your parents for buddying up with whitey. If ONLY your parents and sisters and height and race were different. THEN you'd do just fine. Because aside from those things, you're totally ready to go, right? Well, just as soon as you work out this whole I'm-quiet-and-don't-engage-with-people thing. But THEN, THEN you'll knock 'em dead. I guess while you're waiting for your parents, sisters, height, Asian girls, and your race to change, you could work on the social skills part, just to keep busy.

Okay no more funny. How you are is incompatible with what you want. One of them will have to change. It's scary. It's also doable. There's nobody in your way but you. Eleanor Roosevelt would tell you, "You must do the thing you think you cannot do." What's it going to be? Good luck, buddy.
posted by kookoobirdz at 10:12 PM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sorry. It's hard to be different from what is normally considered cool or good looking - especially if you watch a lot of TV, movies, and read popular culture magazines. I'm Asian and I've had similar self-hatred.

FWIW, today I went skiing up at Tahoe and I saw this totally tiny Asian girl, 5 feet or under, with a ratty ski cap on, a huge beat-up snowboard, and the biggest teenage American attitude I've ever seen. She was a little toughie. She looked like a really stereotypical northern Californian snowboarding, potsmoking, beer drinking teenager to me, because she was; she just happened to have black hair and Asian features. It really made me realize that a lot of our "identity" is what we want it to be and what we project. People take us at face value. She definitely was not believing any messages, subliminal or spoken, she might be getting about Asian "girls" being petite, submissive, sweet or docile. She was projecting bad-ass and cool and confident and so that is what I was seeing and getting. And it didn't look like a facade. It just felt like she was being who she thought she was.

Good luck. I don't really know how to get rid of the self-hatred and self-loathing, except to say that I've noticed that as I get older, other people's opinions don't seem to matter as much. So a lot of that self-hatred starts to fade away.
posted by gt2 at 10:59 PM on January 25, 2009


I wanted to also tell you that I had cosmetic eye surgery about 15 years ago. I had small Asian eyes without a fold and my mom talked me into it after nagging me for about a year. I had spent my entire lifetime hating my small eyes. And the way I was convinced into doing it was that my mom told me some humongous number of Asian women, like almost 1/4 of women in Korea and China, get the surgery done to have bigger eyes with a fold. I don't know what the actual percentage is, but you can see that there is a lot of cultural self-hatred and shame going on. It's probably the same self-hatred thing going on with people with huge noses, or why people feel compelled to get liposuction. ( She was right about the surgery too - the cosmetic surgeon I went to had tons of Asian women in there getting it done.)
posted by gt2 at 11:08 PM on January 25, 2009


Getting yourself out of a deep funk isn't easy, but sometimes doing little things to help bring your mood up is a good start. You've already made a good start with this post.

Your self-confidence needs a hug. You should get some paper and a pen, and write down the good things in your life: the things you like about yourself, what you're good at, your accomplishments, the nice things you've done for other people. Even if they seem small or insignificant. When you find yourself starting to dwell on a negative thought, take some time to focus on the good things you wrote down, and write down some new things to that list if you can.

And when you need to let out the frustration and anxiety, again writing it out can be immensely helpful. Writing out my thoughts helps me organize what I'm thinking, so I'm not caught in a loop (like a broken record) and it becomes a little easier to work through the mess with things laid out before you. Part of your anxiety about talking with your sister is because you don't know where to start, this can help.

You might be afraid to ask for an open ear from those you love, but it can be surprising to see how much support they'll give when you need it.
posted by lizbunny at 8:07 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


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