As an Asian American, I learned at a young age to suppress my emotions. Whatever I felt did not matter in the bigger context of what my family was doing in order for us to survive in America. I internalized that crying was always weak, and outwardly showing any negative feelings should not happen. In other words, being stoic was expected and celebrated, and if any emotions were shown (by accident), they could only be positive (read: internalized toxic positivity). The silencing of emotions was a generational cycle that I learned, and for a long time, perpetuated within myself and the people around me.
Dr. Jenny Tzu-Mei Wang (@asiansformentalhealth) reminded me that “emotional stoicism in Asian culture is not a deficit or a shortcoming. It was a protective mechanism against the brutality of poverty, colonization, trauma, and dire life circumstances that our parents and ancestors only hoped to survive.” While I still have moments now where I withdraw into emotional stoicism as a protective mechanism, I constantly try to remind myself that I do not need to retreat into this mode of cold silencing of my own voice, feelings, and thoughts.
As I continue to unlearn emotional suppression, I want to make sure that I make space for younger me, current me, and future me to simply FEEL. Simply allowing the feelings to exist, internally and externally, is a part of this unlearning. I did not and do not need anyone to “fix” my feelings, nor do I want to fix anyone else’s feelings. As suggested by @curious.parenting, “we just have to make room for them” — for our feelings.
This acknowledgment and existence of feelings also cannot be rooted in internalized toxic positivity, bringing me to this particular moment illustrated here. If I can allow the inner child within me to feel the rage, pain, and frustration of racism through forced assimilation, then I can also feel the combination of this hurt now as an adult. If I can allow the inner child within me to feel the rage, pain, and frustration of racism through forced assimilation, then I can continue to heal my inner child with my present self as an Asian American woman.
Our social emotional learning as educators, family members, and as people part of our global community must begin within ourselves. Social emotional learning must come with social emotional healing. It is my hope that you will resonate and find a space within yourself to feel and heal alongside my inner child in “We Are Golden”.