Roses are red, violets are blue, there's always an Asian that's better than you!
Asian parents friggin’ LIVE for clout. On Saturdays, they get together for potlucks, poker games, and karaoke. And then on Sundays, they go to church together and grab lunch afterward. During these get-togethers, one of them would casually mention a Science Olympiad competition their son has gone off to in DC while another brings up the Rice University acceptance letter their daughter received the day before. Word travels speedy quick within the Asian parent circle, and so do the expectations that these parents have on their children.
BACK IN THE DAY (lol literally just a few years ago), my mom had me participating in a lot of extracurriculars. Swimming, art, ballet, modern jazz, piano, cello, karate, and Chinese school. If I wasn’t at school for actual school or orchestra rehearsals, then I was probably at the dance or art studio. My name was rarely mentioned (at least I hope) during parent tea time because I was always that child who was too busy to be perfecting my SAT scores 24/7. Overall, I’d like to think that I was a well-rounded student that had decent grades. But not decent enough for the Asian-parent standard. I didn’t bring honor nor shame to the family: I was just an average kid that did the bare minimum academically on an Asian parent scale. My parents were actually never as strict about my grades like other parents were but deep down within me, I was always ashamed of myself because I felt that with better grades, I could be one of the Asian daughters that parents would die to brag about.
Unfortunately, social comparison also bled into the circle of Asian-American students at my high school. Some became obsessed with outdoing one another and it created an unhealthy environment of sneaky yet passive-aggressive competition. As we were getting closer to becoming seniors, a lot of my friends passed cheat sheets between classes and created spreadsheets that would automatically calculate each students’ GPAs. More and more people were doing anything in their power to raise their own GPA as high as they could — even if it meant cheating the system. Then as senior year came and college acceptances were rolling out, emotions ran high. Jealousy hit hard for certain people which put a lot of friendships to the test. For a few months, classrooms remained tense as students would watch their peers receive another acceptance letter as they anxiously waited for their own. Those last two years of school were especially hard for me as my GPA along with my self-confidence plummeted. I felt like the people around me (including my closest friends) were too smart for me to even sit next to them at lunch. Whenever the topics of grades or college acceptances were brought up within conversations, I’d immediately close up and fall into a state of self-loathing and pity. The pressure that I felt at home intensified at school.
It’s been years since I was in high school but I still can’t help but feel that there’s always someone close to me that is keeping tabs of everything I have/haven’t done and then judging me for it. It’s been ingrained in me to constantly measure self-worth by comparing myself to others in all aspects. Anytime I’ve done something that I’m remotely proud of, I unconsciously remind myself that there’s probably someone else that is more capable and can do it way better than I did. I’d say it’s one of my biggest flaws that I have still yet to tackle since leaving that toxic community. Especially during quarantine — when I feel stagnant and incapable of doing anything — my mind is more prone to feel discouraged by the gradual increase of amazing things the people around me are doing post-grad. And then I’d go into a Youtube hole of watching Asian families reacting to their child’s Ivy League acceptance letters which remind me of that time in high school when I felt that nauseating pressure to not be a disgrace to myself or my family. I’d beat myself up while watching their parents scream and cry tears of joy because if I tried harder in school, I’d have a chance at making them this happy too. I know that I’m being too hard on myself so I’ve made it a thing to constantly remind myself that in a couple more years when I look back on my life, I’ll only appreciate the personal milestones and goals that I’d achieved, and not the fleeting moments of accomplishment that came from comparing myself to others. Comparing myself to others will only do more harm than good.