Stereotypes are Just Categorization
I don’t mean to bring up the race topic but it is the highlight in this post. I am Asian, and in many ways, my behaviours are shaped by my cultural background. Stereotypes are not necessarily a bad thing, they are just categorizations in the mind by creating mental heuristics. Only when it leads to discrimination, then it shed a negative light.
Most Asians, especially those living in rapidly developing/developed countries, are overachievers. I did not realize that until I was sharing my recent academic scores with a good friend, of course with added dramatic effect (in my head).
The grades release was delayed, and the educator wrote back to me to advise on that, and added that I did very well for the paper.
Ok, see, in my mind, this is how I understand scaling. Scale from 1-5, 1 being very poor, and 5 being very good. So, when I was told I did ‘very well’, I was expecting grade range of 5 – High Distinction. It is kind of logical. The grades are out, and I got 77.5, Distinction. Now, how is that ‘very well’? I am not exactly disappointed, as I had no idea how to attempt that paper – it is a more philosophical unit than psychological unit, an unfamiliar unit to me.
Asians Do Not Encourage Adequately
80 and above is High Distinction. So, even when I got 81.5%, I did not feel I deserve the pat on the shoulder. First off, I do not have very good grasp in number representation, but I can tell 81.5 is just 1.5 past the 80, the determinant line, that puts me to ‘just over High Distinction’.
Don’t get me wrong, my folks NEVER put me down based on my marks; also to be clear, I rarely failed, when I did, it was because I bailed on the test or exam altogether – I had this ‘all or none crazy’ idea in the past.
However, we also didn’t get adequate encouragement. It’s like this in our culture, if we did well, it was a given. It was assumed that we ought to do well since we went to school and did the studying. It’s like you get paid if you went to work.
Strange to Encouragement
Therefore, when I received encouragements or compliments on my academic performances, I was expecting to see scores like 90 and above!
Believe me, one of my assignments got me 93% HD, and I felt that it was a deserving mention in the class, because only 2 of us got 93%, and I was one of them. Proud moment!
Like I said, my folks never questioned my academic performances even I started to ‘stray’ from studies during high school – you know, boys and friends problems, the usual teenagers stuffs. The problem may lie with the lack of encouragement in our culture.
Asians (granted, the westernized educated generation recognized that and started to reverse that behavioural pattern with their offsprings) tend to embrace this taboo of praising their own family. Humility is one very fine line from hypocrisy, that I can tell you much. Of course, we also have the incorrigible boastful group, Asians are humans too!
Having said that, humility is a quality that is extincting by generations, so perhaps it is a virtue we ought to reinforce. The problem is in the balance. How do we stay humble about our children’s academic excellence and ensure that our children do not feel slighted? Explanation and expansion. Help the children distinguish the difference between humility and humiliation. Always explain the ‘discrepancies’ between our public behaviours and private conversations. Children do get confused when you tell them they did a ‘good job!’ and then tell the relatives in their presence that they are just ‘ok and doing their job as students’.
I can’t really say that over-encouragements are good, because that takes away the opportunity for people to improve on what they fall short on. Keyword = adequate. Don’t tell people they did a very good job when they did just an ok job. You know what they say, honesty is the best policy!
I enjoy friendship that is bind with sincerely and authenticity. When my friend called me out on being an overachiever, I was not offended, but pleasantly surprised. I count on true friends to point things out to me when needed. I adopt and embrace open-mindedness, but I do hold traits that can narrow my vision. I don’t get offended by even the bluntest remarks as long as they are not combative with a single object to cause hurt. It was a careless reaction, but it evoked deep introspection. If I ever decide to become a researcher, this quality of introspection would definitely add value in asking good research questions.
Am I really an overachiever? Did my cultural background shape me into an overachiever? Am I suffering from low self-esteem that I find compliments undeserving? Am I pretentious about good grades?
When we ask questions, we are not looking to judge, but looking to something nearer to ‘truth’ or at least a perceived truth.
I am exhausted from waking at 7:45am to do laundry (2 weeks of laundry due to too many raining days!), cook chili, and then cook stew.. When we itemized the chores, it seemed like an unproductive day! My plan though, was to use the whole day to cook meals that will last for 3-4 weeks, while I focus on meeting deadlines for assignments and research study participation. I still have one more stew to cook tomorrow!
When I am not affected relationally, I can work like a robot! Punch in schedules, execute commands, voila, things get done!
Now I go to bed. So tired.