I went out with a friend whom I hadn’t met for months a couple of nights ago. After a few drinks and games of pool, somehow we entered a phase of sentimental talk between two mildly drunk persons. You know it. When some alcohol kicks in, people tend to let loose and talk more than they usually do.
At one point and for some reason, he told me to not look down on myself and think that I am less than Americans. He loved to hang out with me as he thought I was cool, and that it was courageous of me to leave my family & home to live in another country, to study for a Master degree and to work as I am.
I never feel that going abroad is courageous. It never occurred to me like that. It was a dream, the only thing I could think of when I was in high school. It’s more about what you want to achieve (a better education, a higher income, a better life and more freedom) than the downsides of going abroad (leaving family, friends, your relationships, whatever you achieve behind). At least to me at the time, the benefits outweighed the downsides. Talking about being young and confused!
I told him that as a Vietnamese, I was raised in a society that taught us that Westerns were superior to us in many ways. I am not exaggerating. Westerners, especially whites, are looked at under a different light and with blind admiration in my country. We were taught to speak only when we are 100% or as sure as possible that whatever is coming out of our mouth is correct. Speaking non-sense without thinking it through several times in the head is considered something that we shouldn’t do, especially to somebody of authority or seniority. I am at heart a Vietnamese and carry that baggage with me, developing a sense of insecurity and inferiority, as well as a lack of confidence. I am not rich nor magnetically charming, not even close. I am short (5’7) and not physically imposing as other guys in the US. I don’t speak the language natively and I hesitate to speak my mind on the spot.
After a few years of living abroad, I learned that people were just people. I look different than Americans or Europeans do, but at the core, we are of the same species. We go through the struggles in life in the same way. What we were or are still taught in Vietnam is not true. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s easy to get rid of.
Though I work to believe in my own values and develop myself every day, there are days, unfortunately, when the wave of low self-esteem hits pretty . Those are the days when encouragement like what my friend gave me is much appreciated. I do appreciate it a lot, not as much as I appreciate him though.