Conquering Your Worst Fears
A word of warning before I begin this section: this is probably the most important lesson in this entire guide but it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. You could, theoretically, go all in at once if you like having your bandages pulled off quickly (figuratively speaking) but you may not be ready to handle the emotional overload from confronting your innermost “demons” right away. If so, it may be wise to practice confronting your lesser fears first and work your way up gradually.
The ONE Quote That’ll Change Your Life
I’ll give it to you right here. Like much of this guide, it’s easier said than done:
Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with course and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: ” Is this the condition that I feared? – Seneca
When you choose to live on your own instead of subjecting yourself to your parents’ control, you will be 100% responsible for your life. You could end up broke and alone and with no one to turn to through no fault of your own. When you don’t have money, your days will be numbered before you face eviction and end up on the street. If you decide to get back with your parents at this point (assuming they’ll even take you back in after what you’ve done) then you’d end up owing them BIG – far more than when you first left!
For many, the fear of being caught in this worst case scenario is enough to deter them from even bothering to liberate themselves from their Asian parents but YOU will confront this fear directly and be prepared to stand up to it if the worst does play out. If you’re Chinese like me, you may have been told of the virtues of “eating bitterness” countless times growing up. Ironically, this virtue that was likely forcibly taught to you by your parents when you were young is one of your most important assets in achieving your freedom from them!
Exercise: Define Your Worst Case Scenario
Sit down for 30 minutes and contemplate what your worst case scenario is and what you would do about it. Here are some questions to guide you with the brainstorming:
- If your parents suddenly cut off your financial support tomorrow, what’s your plan? Begging them doesn’t count. Let’s assume they were caught running an illegal scheme for years and all of their assets have been seized.
- If you’re still in school, have you considered applying for grants, scholarships, and loans in case your parents stop supporting you (or use that threat to force you to do what they want)?
- You might think what I’m suggesting on this site will cause you to “lose face”. Is that the worst case scenario for you? Is not losing face more important than living your dreams?
Remember. as an adult, your parents have no legal obligation to support you financially. If your life depends on it, being cut off especially when you’re in college and having no job or even relevant skills and experience to find one is a very precarious situation to be in. You must make it a priority to get yourself up to speed in case this unlikely but dire situation comes up. And if you do choose to liberate yourself from your parents’ obligations, you won’t have their financial support anymore (and even if you do, it’s highly unethical to continue receiving it.)
Exercise: Get Used to Doing Things Anyways WITHOUT Your Parents’ Permission
You’re an adult now. You’re held responsible for every good or bad thing that happens to you in life. With this responsibility comes the freedom to live your life however you choose, within the constraints of the law of course. However, some Asian parents, in practice, do no recognize the sovereignty of their adult children so we’re gonna need to employ this sneaky tactic to exert our god-given rights to live the way we want.
From now on, especially if you live at home, start doing what you want without asking your parents for permission. Two obvious exceptions though: don’t do anything irresponsible or illegal of course. That includes something stupid like charging your parents’ credit card for a spending spree in Vegas or taking the money they gave you to pay tuition to buy a sports car, for example. But for more reasonable endeavors, they’ll likely still say “no” just to be safe if you ask them for permission. However, if you’ve already started making plans and taking action towards something they don’t really want you to do, they might feel uneasy about interrupting you and may let you slip through anyways. Try it out with smaller things first then gradually move on to bigger endeavors.
Get used to doing things of a similar magnitude as the following WITHOUT your parents’ permission:
- Want to spend the night with your boyfriend/girlfriend? Ask for forgiveness afterwards; don’t ask for permission first!
- Want to work at a new job or internship in a faraway city? Ask for forgiveness afterwards; don’t ask for permission first!
- Want to go backpacking in Europe or Asia for a month during summer vacation away from college (financed with your own money instead of theirs)? Ask for forgiveness afterwards; don’t ask for permission first!
If any of the above seem scary and insurmountable, then you definitely need read the books below for inspiration and learn to step outside of your comfort zone on a regular basis.
Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss
Check it out at your local library or click the book below to buy it.
If you only read ONE book, this should be the ONE! If you’ve ever read that book, much of what I’ve mentioned in this article should sound eerily familiar so credit goes out to you, Tim Ferriss!
You can skip the chapters on entrepreneurship if you’re not ready to start your own business but please pay attention to the following sections:
- Read Chapters 2-4 if you’re tight on time. In particular, pay attention to the section on “Ask for Forgiveness, not Permission.” This will be your core tactic for asserting your sovereignty from your Asian parents as an adult.
- Read and reread Tim’s process for defining and facing his worst case scenario in the section called “Defining the Nightmare” in Chapter 3. What’s your worst case scenario when it comes to escaping the life your Asian parents dictated that you live? Once you’ve defined this nightmare, you’ll be more confident when it comes to living on your own terms.
The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau.
Check it out at your local library or click the book below to buy it.
Pay attention to the following sections:
- Chapter 4: How to Fight Authority and Win
- Chapter 6: Graduate School vs. the Blogosphere
- The Great Apartment Disaster of 2008 (in Ch3). Afterwards, really reflect on your current situation. Do you consider the fact that your parents have so much control over your adult life a mere inconvenience in a boring but comfortable life or are you unable to stand every single moment of having your life under someone else’s control? If you equate the control your parents have over you to Chris and Jolie’s ordeal with having water cut off in their already dilapidated apartment, it’s time to take action TODAY!
Last but not least, read the story of the 5 monkeys in a cage. Reflect on the story and ask yourself if you’ve been brainwashed or deluded into thinking you have no other options in life than to follow your parents’ life plan.