I wanted to vomit, because I knew, deep down, that I could have handled it much better.
She had simply used a reputable website to help her finish a task for her job. My beef was with the people who run the website “diversitybestpractices.” Even though the error was fixed, I still felt bad. She was new at her job and I had called her out in front of a lot of superiors.
There was a better way to handle things, and I knew it.
Over a year later, it’s easy to reflect on how I could have handled the situation. It’s also easy to be incredibly regretful (which I was for months). But over time, I have been able to reflect on exactly what factors were at play at the time.
If you are feeling highly reactive these days, check in to see if you’re experiencing any of the following:
- You’re Tired as Heck
My daughter was four months old. I was lucky to get four or five hours of sleep a night, and not even all at once, cumulatively between 9pm and 6am. We all know what sleep deprivation does to our brains. I can’t remember how many cars I yelled at during my commute.
- You’re Feeling Extra Vulnerable
Not only was I tired, I had also spent three months at home with plenty of time to be targeted by ads on Hulu. “Why are there so many Asian women in these commercials?” I’d ask Daniel. “Why do they want me to buy a new car and coach?”
I once looked at a McKinsey report on Asian American spending power in the US and how businesses needed to target their advertising at these growing sector. This in itself isn’t a bad thing. It’s good to know that first and second-generation Americans from Asia are doing well in the US.
But it brought up too many personal things with me. I grew up learning that women spent money on frivolous things, while men spent money on essentials and used it to invest in business and stocks. Women couldn’t be trusted with a credit card. These lessons manifested in me swinging between the two polarities of extreme frugality and massive spending. The first was a form of self-punishment, and the second was a burst of “self-care” that often left me in debt.
Despite reading dozens of personal finance and business books, I still carry around the core belief that I am somehow “bad” at money. I have to fight it whenever I make a purchase, even though the thoughts are much quieter than they used to be. I know that I’m still sensitive about it.
Money also cuts straight into our survival instinct. Without it we’ll become homeless and die, right? When really, if you’re someone reading this right now, you’ll be able to live with a friend or family and likely sleep in a warm bed and have good meals until you’re back on your feet.
- You’ve Suppressed Your Voice for Too Long
I’m looking at you (and at myself, of course). Holding back our anger at frustration, constantly swallowing it to be polite and liked can’t last forever. The people who are friendly and polite who we respect, have done their fair share of work on their thoughts and emotions. They usually keep excellent boundaries and know precisely how to respond to someone who has done something offensive.
If you are an Asian-American woman who has grown up with a culture where women are supposed to be submissive, then you have simply swallowed too much for the sake of others. You have stuffed down all of your anger and rage that it becomes impossible to continue.
I have seen many an Asian-American woman “find” her voice later in life, only to discover that it’s intensely angry and mad. The currents are open, and I want to be the first person to tell you that you are going to feel really uncomfortable at first. You’ll waiver between empowerment and shame, just as I felt after righting what I thought was wrong. It’s like learning anything new. It’s going to suck for a little bit until you regain balance.
And that’s okay.
My coaching has taught me that it’s okay to feel regretful and ashamed. Feeling these feelings are like having fifty painful hangnails, but in the end they don’t kill us.
I’m constantly telling my clients to get curious about their feelings instead of judging themselves for them. Getting curious means that you simply look at your reactions, your feelings, and your thoughts, and you simply think, “well, look at that.”
For me, getting curious means that it’s my chance to look at my core beliefs in a very neutral way. Then I can think something like, “Wow, I grew up with some strong money beliefs that simply aren’t true. How interesting.” Or “It makes sense that I didn’t speak up when that PE teacher said racist things to me in high school. I wonder how I would respond to him today.”
The key here is to suspend judgment and simply observe.
If the self-judgment feels so powerful that you have no idea where to start, then get in touch. I can help.