Survivors – Are you groomed to be overly-tolerant?

My Thanksgiving Nightmare

During my therapy session today, I told my therapist about something that happened during Thanksgiving. Long story short. Some privileged person said something racist to me, and I ended up apologizing for it.

A family member, let’s call her A, is a pretty and blonde white girl from an upper-middle-class family, about to graduate from one of the best universities in America with some of the highest tuition rates. She is going into banking and her parents covered her tuition. Most would consider her priviledged.

During Thanksgiving lunch, A told me she doesn’t like asian international students because they don’t speak English. The problem with that statement is that I am an international student.

Photo by Godisable Jacob from Pexels

I told her about my struggling with speaking English, and she ended up telling me that I was being racist by hinting at her being unsensitive. The night spiralled down to the worst nightmare. She had a one-on-one conversation with me, seemingly about to apologize, but instead, criticized my marriage, told me my husband did not want to marry me and I forced him into it, said my husband treated me poorly, and basically tried to shatter my marriage with her words. Even though the marriage portion did not hurt me since that is one of the only areas in my life I feel incredibly secure in, I ended up apologizing after her non-apology for the “hurt” that I caused her by joining her family and taking her family’s attention away from her, and making her feel like she walked on egg shells around me for having to censor her own humor and take out xenophobic jokes.

I am easily bullied/manipulated because I am groomed to be over-tolerant

See, this, is the biggest problem in my life. I feel like just because someone else is insecure, they can walk all over me, because I am so priviledged, and I should take the high way out.

But I have not been the most priviledged person. For most of my life I wanted to kill myself due to my parents’ narcissistic abuse. I only recovered in the past few years because of my new-fround financial independence. If it wasn’t for suicide hotlines I would not be here today. When I first got to America, my gpa was around 2.5/5. I struggled with having a thick accent and speaking English. I struggled with almost everything I did, sports, academics, appearance, body-image, social life, and cultural integratin. Yet I felt incredibly empathatic toward this girl who had everything, because I am groomed to take care of broken people.

Still, when she was sad, I somehow felt like I was significantly more priviledged than her. I confused my struggles with my trophies. When I was discriminated or ostricized, I saw it as I was fortunate to see the way people treat foreigners and racial minorities, and I felt like it made me a more empathetic individual. When I grew up in a financially struggling family in a poor neighbourhood, I felt that I was fortunate because I got to see how the working class are incredibly hard-working people, so when I get my yuppie job, I will always remember the streets that I come from and not forget to represent their interests. So I turned all my pain into what I thought was confidence, and I used it to justify the bullying by every single priviledged person, because the difficulties in my life made me more priviledged in a weird way, so I should accept their abuse! (no.)

So I let people walk all over me. I let the women at work skinny-shame me, because I thought they were just insecure, and every mean person is just a broken person, right? I let people criticize me for answering questions in class, for not just completely sink into the dust like how I was expected to do, because they are just afraid of foreign competition. I let people stare at me with distain in the grad school hallway, because I’m always well dressed and take the time to do my makeup, and why did I have to make them feel bad for trying so hard to look cute when just going to class? Jeez. I let people ask me questions like how old is your husband? What does he do? during interviews, and assume I’m some bimbo trophy wife who is good for nothing. I let people shame me for being priviledged, and then immediately turn around once they are in a more priviledged position than me, and suddenly take on a winner-takes-all attitude.

In my fucked-up survivor logic, I thought those who are more powerful than me and misusing their power, just needed a huge to melt the ice in their heart. But in reality, allowing their abuse won’t make them better people, it won’t make them kinder, or happier. It will only enable to abuser, and continue the cycle of abuse. Once the abuser is even stronger, they can move on to hurt more people, in stronger ways. Toxic empathy allows you to donate both of your lungs for free to a terrist who will then destroy the world.

Photo by Gabriela Palai from Pexels

“Every person who hurt you is just hurt inside” only normalizes abuse

Every abusive person, share one trait, and that is being abusive. Every single person was hurt at some point, by someone, for something. Being hurt does not allow one to become abusive, and lots of hurt people become fabulous, helpful, compassionate people. If we allow hurt people to be abusive, then every single person could be abusive, and abuse should always be allowed, every, single, fucking, time.

So why did I allow it? Because as a kid, it was somehow okay, for my mother to put me down, to blame me for everything that went wrong in her life, to force me to have the same preferences as her, because she was so hurt. She spent hours victimizing herself over the things that went wrong in her life, and as a child, I was hopelessly in need of my mother’s love, so it was really not an option to disagree with her pain, to stop her from abusing me, because then I will be a child without affection, or even the basic materials I needed to survive.

But now I am an adult. And I want to say no to abuse, every, single, time.

6 Comments

  1. Relationships are tricky things. It’s hard to know where the other person is coming from, and even when we say things, our intent might not always come across as we would like it. And if we did say it as we intended it, how was it received?

    You’re dealing with a lot of tricky elements because you are not originally from America. Culture is unseen, but is very much part of an unspoken set of rules and assumptions that we think everyone is already aware of. So, you’ve got the language, the meaning behind the language, slang, body language, personal baggage from other people and yourself, and CULTURE. It’s a lot.

    In seconds, we make our judgments, often folks feel under attack, even if they are not. Sometimes we feel defensive, or blindsided because we misinterpreted something or someone. It’s truly amazing that we make the progress that we do considering all the linguist obstacles!

    I try to remember to NOT take things personally. Easier said than done! Of course, with family and friends this is much more challenging to do, but even with my mom. I try to remember that what she’s saying is not really about me, but about her.

    There was a bad relationship that I went through and after we broke up, years later, he contacted me (much to my panic) to say sorry for being such an asshole. (He was and I enabled him.) I brushed it off, and said thanks, okay, and when he invited me out to see him, I said, no, and that was that. Hopefully he learned something from our relationship and will treat the next one better. And funnily, this isn’t the only time an ex- has reached out to say sorry. So maybe there’s hope that folks will reflect on their behavior.

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  2. I agree with not taking things personally, as long as they are not race-based generalizations. I’ve always felt racial anxiety, but lately I’ve been realizing that a lot of my white friends and family deal with the same issues I deal with with their colleagues. I am glad to see your ex apologized! That’s some amazing closure, I would really appreciate that personally. And I applaud your decision to not interact! I know you feel like you enabled him and sometimes we do that, but a victim can’t make someone an abuser, in the end, you just allowed him to be who he chose to be.

    I don’t think people should get the benefit of the doubt when they make a negative generalization about a race or a group of people, and express how they don’t like all of them, especially when you are part of the group being attacked. I think asian Americans have traditionally been peaceful people who are patient and give others the benefit of the doubt. But sometimes, confrontation is a good way to modify others behavior, and stop inappropriate action. I find it inappropriate to say “oh minorities are too sensitive,” when people don’t want someone to make statements like “blacks just tend to be violent,” or “Latinos are all lazy illegal immigrants,” because in the end of the day these people who say those things do influence culture negatively, and these words turn into sentiments, into policies and changing political climate against us.

    I absolutely agree with you that In our personal lives, we need to understand not all negativities are race-based. But when they are, we need to be able to say no!

    Have a great day Lani, thank you so much for the thoughtful reply 🙂

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  3. It’s especially heartbreaking when our feelings aren’t taken into account by the people who are supposed to love and protect us.

    That’s how we get brainwashed into taking other people’s abuse. Sometimes, our parents can give us the unspoken message that we should always put everyone else before us and that we’re supposed to take any abuse gracefully and “understand that these poor people are hurting and they just need to vent”.

    However, if you put others before you all the time, you’ll have nothing left for yourself. I also learned this the hard way.

    Thank you for this post. And I’m very proud of you for finally seeing the abuse for what it is and taking steps to stand up for yourself. Because you deserve to be treated with respect like everyone else.

    Wishing you all the best in love and success!

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment. When you grow up parenting your developmentally arrested parents, it’s really difficult to learn healthy human behavior and boundaries. In the case that we kind of recover, and live a normal or even good life, it’s easy to just completely forget about the damage until it resurfaced as rage and fear. We minimize how we feel and how important we are, and we’re used to taking care of others unconditionally. Like you said “they’re hurting and just need to vent,” but sometimes that venting destroys our self confidence and our social or family life because it’s so heavy. I remember people venting to me about life being unfair and I having things they don’t have, and complain about their jealousy, and I’m only starting to realize I couldn’t take others’ anger, because they shouldn’t come first. I am starting to realize I’m an important person and I shouldn’t be abused, and others don’t get to manipulate me or complain about the only things that go well in my life to me.

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  4. I don’t blame you, Justine. When others complain about the things you have that they don’t and cry that life’s unfair, it only goes to show their immaturity. And you don’t have to listen to that.

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