6 THINGS I LEARNED GROWING UP WITH A TIGER MOTHER
It’s Mother’s Day in the UK and Ireland today. As always, I am going to be very honest and real in my article because there’s no point sugarcoating content just for the sake of a brand image. I want to share with you my life story - a part of my life story that shaped who I am and inspired me to create The Happiness Planner, a tool that helps people become more positive, grateful, mindful, and realise that they’re in charge of their attitude.
I believe that we all experienced pain in our life - pain helped shape who we are. You cannot build strength without having to go through pain. Light cannot exist without darkness. Your pain might have led you to develop your dark traits, but your pain could also be and very much is the source of your light - your potential. As I am now approaching 30, I really want to let it all out and be raw and real with my readers/customers because it’s the only way to really be authentic with the world. I am thankful for all of the hardships I faced growing up - they shaped me to be who I am today. And I want you, too, to own up to your story and turn your pain into a powerful source of your potential.
A lot of you probably already know that I had quite a difficult relationship with my mother growing up. We’re two very different individuals. She’s very strict, conservative, and tends to focus on what could go wrong, rather than what could go right. It’s how she was brought up and it affected me quite dramatically as a child. It’s been over 10 years now since I moved out of home. I am proud to say that this is no longer a burden in my heart - I have healed. Finally, my mother is able to loudly say to me that she is proud of me. Twenty nine years of my life as a grade-A student and a high-achiever - my heart finally feels full. Because my mother was strict, I became rebellious and refused to go on the path conservative Asian parents expect you to go on. As a result, I felt like I was constantly disappointing my mother even though I wasn’t doing anything wrong - it’s just not the path she wanted me to take. However, I was very sure of myself and I knew exactly what I wanted to do in life. I knew since little that I LOVE inspiring people. I knew since little that I LOVE beautiful stationery, art, and design. I knew since little that I am intrigued by psychology and how the human mind works. I knew since little that I was born with a gift in marketing and branding. I knew since little that I wanted to be a kickass businesswoman with her own beautiful inspirational brand that inspires people on a global scale. Sadly, my dreams weren’t fully supported. Though my father was open-minded and encouraged me to become an entrepreneur, my mother wanted me to be a doctor. As strong-headed and rebellious as I was, I went against it. My mother cried. Her smart daughter didn’t want to be a doctor. It was hard and was absolutely heartbreaking to see your mother cry. But I knew deep in my heart that I was meant for something else and that one day my mother would be proud even though she didn’t approve of anything I wanted to do at the time.
Fast forward to today, I am very happy to say that I am glad I never gave up what I wanted to do with my life just to follow my mother’s dreams. I am even more proud to say that my mother has recently started using The Happiness Planner. Every few days, she’d send me a photo showing what she wrote in her Happiness Planner including the answer to the question, “What makes you happy?”, which she wrote “Seeing my children” with a score 10 (I know I’m guilty of this, but I’ll go home to see her soon). My mum also said that since she started using The Happiness Planner, she realised that she had never felt grateful for the little things in life and that she had always focused on the negatives. Now she is learning to focus on the positives and the things she could feel grateful for every day. Talking to her has never felt as joyous as it does now. I notice that talks of worries and stress have slowly disappeared as they have been replaced by positive and encouraging words. :)
So as it’s Mother’s Day today, I’d like to share with you what I learned growing up with a Tiger mother.
1. Put yourself in other people’s shoes.
Growing up with someone who is very different from you teaches you a lot. Because that person is my mother, I had no choice but to learn to deal with the clashes and the differences. This is how my interest in psychology got started.
In order to deal with the emotional turmoil that I had, I had to learn to understand my mother. Why does she think the way she does? Why is she the way she is? Why can’t she understand my point of view? This childhood experience taught me to look deep into human’s complexity. My upbringing influenced who I am. My mother’s upbringing also influenced who she is. What I learned from parents, schools, and the environment I grew up in shaped me to be the person I am today. It’s the same for everyone and for my mother.
When solving disagreements, arguments, and misunderstandings, put yourself in the other person’s shoes. When you don’t understand why someone is the way he/she is, look into their childhood and past experiences. With any conflicts in life, big or small, internal or external, mental, emotional, or physical, understanding is key to having a peace of mind. Only when you learn about someone’s past, you’d understand the correlation that leads them to be the way they are today. When you learn to understand instead of trying to force others to accept your beliefs and your way of thinking, you will be able to find inner peace from within and will be able to deal with anything life throws at you.
2. Attitude is everything.
You are in control of your attitude. And that’s the only thing that affects how you feel, act, and react to situations and things that happen around you. Learning to understand that attitude is everything is crucial. Life depends on the lens you look through and your attitude is the lens. Take control of the situation by learning to adapt your attitude to situations. The earlier you learn to control and adjust your attitude, the more you do it, and the easier it becomes. The ability to adapt your attitude is the secret to achieving anything in life - from success to happiness and beyond.
3. Be the kind of friend to others how you want others to be to you.
One thing I absolutely admire about my mum is her kindness. My mum loves to help people. She has a kind heart and gets a sense of meaning from helping others. One thing she said to me that I still reflect upon today is that if I want a good friend, I have to be a good friend. However I want my friend to be, I have to be the same. If I want to have a supportive friend, I have to be supportive. If I want a friend who listens, I have to be a good listener too. You see? Your friends are a reflection of who you are. So if you look around and find yourself surrounded by a bunch of idi*ts, then it’s time you take a look in the mirror and reflect on the things beneath the image you see.
4. Develop both sides of the brain and learn as much as you can when little.
Something I am absolutely grateful for for having a Tiger mother is that I got to learn SO MUCH as a child. Besides math, I got to take piano lessons, guitar lessons, drum lessons, art, language, and dance classes. My weekends were never free. I loved learning so much and my Tiger mother was supportive with everything as long as I followed through with it. Both of my parents majored in science. So they knew the importance of learning in children and brain development. My mum wanted me to develop both sides of my brain, so I got to learn advanced math and language as well as art and music. In hindsight, if my mum hadn’t encouraged me to take so many extra lessons when I was little, I don’t know if I would have had the initiative and the desire to pursue them and the willpower to master them now. Learning new skills is much easier when you’re a kid. Though now I do want to learn French, Spanish, German, and Saxophone, the time it takes to learn and to master something is the major factor that makes me keep pushing them off.
5. Confidence is compounding. Fearlessness is a mindset one can master.
My mother really encouraged me to participate in all sorts of competitions — be it in academic, music, and art. Luckily I really enjoyed them, so that worked in my favour. However I’ve realised as I grow up that participating in all sorts of competitions all my life has made me become fearless. All the little wins I gained help me build confidence in my own ability - little by little. I never thought this would affect me as much into adulthood, but it does. I am fearless and confident in my own ability today because of the things I learned and did whilst growing up.
If you’re looking to build your confidence, realise that it’s compounding. The sooner you gain it, the more you gain it, and you gain more of it each time you gain it. Fearlessness is a mindset. Just like changing a habit - you can train your mind to become fearless so that you feel confident in your own ability no matter how hard or small of a challenge you have to face.
6. Embrace your inner talents. Never lose touch with your childhood passions.
I believe in living with passion. As a child, I had several hobbies I was passionate about and I feel very lucky to have been able to explore all the things I wanted to explore as a child.Looking back now, it all makes sense. Everything I was passionate about as a child is everything I am passionate about today. The different dots I plotted as a child - I can now draw a line that connects them.
When looking at who you are and what you enjoy doing today, it’s no doubt that it’s related to what you naturally loved doing as a child. Everything I used to love doing as a child has come together and become everything that I do today for a living. You never leave who you truly are. And being able to engage in and embrace your innate talents gives you happiness and satisfaction in life. If you have been following someone else’s dreams or someone else’s advice on what your dreams should be, instead of your own, take this as a chance to really listen to your own heart. Can you crawl back to embrace your inner child and turn your childhood passion into a hobby again with the skills and expertise you have acquired over the year?
As it is Mother’s Day today, I hope you’re spending time with her. If you had a painful relationship with your mother growing up, do you think it’s time for a reconciliation? Sometimes the pain that we buried; the pain that is deeply rooted in our heart never really goes away until we dig it up and look at it with a wiser mind filled with compassion, understanding, and forgiveness. After all, every parent does the best they could at the time to show love to their children. Whether what they did was good enough or not depended on their life circumstances and who they were/are. People are different, and sometimes, they also have different love languages. Understanding is the key here - the key that will set your soul free. And always remember, focus on the positives.