-As promised, this is a rough transcript of my podcast episode. I will be following along this as my script, minor changes may occur as I speak and stumble over words. If you would prefer to listen, please subscribe on Spotify! –
Hello everyone, welcome to the first episode of UNASHAMED! I am Sharon, and I’m hoping that by sharing with you some of my stories, I can bring a little more awareness to the Asian and Asian-X community, particularly the idea of shame, and learning to become unashamed together.
I thought that the first episode can talk about our parents. Looking back I learned a lot about shame through my parents. Have you noticed that most of the stories we hear from previous generations are about how they were able to rise up above struggles? When I was younger, I had a really hard time understanding why I was the “model minority”. I knew where my family came from and how we were doing – we were not doing so well. But as I grew up, I realized the only other Asian American stories I heard were success stories! I began to feel ashamed of my family – why was my dad waiting tables and not a math professor or doctor? Why was my mom unable to learn English? Why is she not working? Why is she a useless a housewife who can’t even drive further than a few miles? As I began to feel ashamed of my parents and their inability to reach the American dream, I began to also become ashamed of myself: I felt ugly compared to others because I didn’t have money to shop for new clothes all the time. I felt like I had to work extra hard because my parents couldn’t help me out with college tuition . I just thought everyone else’s parents were in on a secret that my family had been dismissed from knowing. I learned to take pride in my suffering, because that’s all the stories I heard: that the key to success was building tenacity in times of suffering.
Social media teaches us and reminds us that our immigrant parents immigrated for us to have a better life. You hear stories like Michelle Phan, how the hardships her mother faced pushed her to be a self-made millionaire who is able to support her entire family! I’m just a regular girl sitting next to her cat in a stuffy studio, and sometimes, I feel shame creep upon me when I see my friends buy houses and talk about what hard work their parents have put in to get them there. My dad worked so hard; he wouldn’t have even retired if he hadn’t gotten sick! And even to his dying breath, he cared so much about whether or not our family had enough — where was his wealth to show for his work? Why aren’t I more successful? Didn’t I also grow up on the edge of poverty like Michelle Phan?
It’s a mentality that is very deeply rooted inside a lot of Asian cultures, and it takes time and effort to recognize that we don’t need to be ashamed of things that we cannot control. As a collective, we prefer to only let others know of our successes and what we have overcome; it’s hard to tell about our failures and things that never came into fruition. For example, after my dad passed away, my sister and I went through a lot of his old photos, and that was how we found out he had acquired a Master’s degree in Architecture! We didn’t even know he graduated college until then! It was something he never ended up pursuing, so he never talked about it. I felt like I had frauded my way into college after seeing that, because I always answered that his highest education level was high school, and always thought I was first in my family to enter higher education! I wish I had his college stories to go off of, because I wandered through college completely lost about what to expect. There are so many parts of people’s stories that are being lost, incredible parts being lost, due to this culture of shame and fear of judgement. Tell your parents that they don’t have to be ashamed of themselves, either. Maybe this episode resonates a little more with Asian-X listeners, but it’s Mother’s Day weekend! Please, reach out to your family, and remind them that they have nothing to be ashamed of! Why focus on the negative things about ourselves, when there are so many great things?
Children, we’re all children. Tell your parents you’re proud of them. Whether or not your parents are immigrants, they’ve put up with a lot of crazy things – dirty diapers, bonkers over broken bones, fever freak outs, and anything else that children do to their parents. I’m not a parent, so I can’t fully list out all the crazy things I must have put my parents through. But they deserve some love, and to remember that even though most of us did not come out as billionaires, they are successful parents who have nothing to be ashamed of. I’m sure that for the most part, most parents are not truly ashamed of us, but are ashamed of themselves. I remember when my dad got really sick, he kept telling us how ashamed he was and blaming himself for not being able to keep providing for us, and protecting us, and making sure that we grow up without any worry of money. But ultimately, even though he couldn’t provide for me the material things I wanted, he was everything that I ever needed. And I wish I could have told him how proud I am to have him as my dad. But now, I’ll have to wait until I see him again in Heaven.
Immigrant parents, whether you arrived to a Western country to better the lives of the future generations, or to just seek out a new beginning, you are so brave. God gave you courage to step into the unknown. Your suffering may feel like you’re walking in the desert for 40 years, but you aren’t changing circumstances by blaming yourself for anything. The Bible tells us about the Israelites who were enslaved and tortured by the Egyptians. When God finally brought the out of the land, they wandered in the desert for 40 years. As one can imagine, wandering around the desert for 40 years is pretty horrible. But in Deuteronomy 22, we’re reminded the circumstances were not that dire: God made sure their clothes stayed intact, their feet weren’t swollen and broken, they were well fed, and they were protected from scorpions and snakes and other deathly possibilities. Likewise, God prepared a journey for you in a new place. You are equipped to face the struggles you encounter! They can be scary and daunting, but please don’t forget to recognize the good! The Bible reminds us to remember the goodness that God has given us, but how can we be grateful if we don’t recognize the feats that He has led us through?
Hebrews 11 reminds us that there are countless stories of people, even within the Bible, who never saw the fruits of their labor. But now, generations looking back, the struggles and failures within their stories are the ones that led to the victory of Christ. Please, do not be ashamed of your story, because it is part of a greater, better plan and testimony. It is okay if your story doesn’t feel very successful, because within that story, God is present, ever moving, and pushing forward. Shame only pushes us backwards, and discourages us from following God’s plan. God has led you here, and your journey is not the end. Your journey is being continued on for generations, don’t let it be hindered by shame. Your story is just as important as any other person’s, even if it didn’t result in a crazy inspirational Olympic win, or even a comfortable wage. All of us, billionaires, Olympic gold medalists, world leaders, regular citizens… we all will die one day. What does our reputation matter; what does our lifetime matter in the grand scheme of things if we do not believe that we are leaving behind a legacy for future generations? Not all of us will end up in a history book or Forbes magazine, but that doesn’t make each and every moment of our testimony less valuable, because it was written by God Himself. Jesus has redeemed our shame on the cross, so that we can live our life according to what God has prepared for us.
So that’s the end of the first episode! Thank you so much for joining me, I hope that you all have a great Mother’s Day weekend, please stay safe, and share this podcast with your family and friends. I will be posting a new episode every Friday evening, and I will have a follow-up blog post every Wednesday on the UNASHAMED website. If you’d like to read more of my content through SSEWAN, you can also visit http://www.SSEWAN.com. As I’m transitioning into self-employment, donations in support of this podcast and my blog are greatly appreciated through www.paypal.me/sharonsewan (or the DONATE button on the main page).