An Important Message For Asian (and non-Asian) Hustlers In The Time of COVID-19

Ivy Kwong
Ivy Kwong
Apr 4 · 5 min read
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Here is a group of Asians. Hustling, apparently.

I saw the following image scrolling through my FaceBook feed this morning:

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Yikes.

This thoughtful, considerate, and totally non-judgmental message was posted in a FaceBook group called the Asian Hustle Network (which is a group of Asians who… well, hustle).

Look. I get it. I appreciate the hustle as much as the next person, but…

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Have you looked around lately? Spinoff from this original comic by KC Green.

FULL. STOP.

This is an open letter to all of the Asians and Asian-Americans out there, and really ANYONE out there who is feeling overwhelmed, ashamed, or pressured by the High Achiever expectation, Model Minority stereotype, or Workaholic-Worshipping cultural conditioning to “take advantage of this opportunity” right now.

Hi. Therapist here.

One of my specialties is Asian and Asian-American mental health and healing intergenerational and ancestral trauma.

Many of us grew up in households where our parents and grandparents were in survival mode.

They had to shut down, deny, or repress their fear and grief in order to survive, because they had no other choice. If they expressed any emotions, it was usually anger in the form of rage — anger is an “acceptable” emotion because it is intimidating and scares others and isn’t seen as weak, but beneath it is often deep sadness and worry.

We learn what we are taught. We become what we see. We repeat what we know.

And if all we know is survival, then we continue living in this way.

We don’t give ourselves rest, and we push ourselves past the point of comfort into exhaustion and pain. We harshly judge others who don’t do the same, thinking we are superior to or better off than those who choose to rest or take time to feel and to heal.

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Life becomes all about how much you can make, how fast you can go, how far you can push yourself. How much you hustle and how hard you work is praised and valued above all, even at the cost of your emotional, physical, and mental health.

When you are thriving, hustling can be great. (When you are thriving, playing, resting, and giving yourself time to enjoy what you’ve built is also great.)

During times of trauma or distress, hustling to survive may be necessary, as it was for many of our ancestors.

Resting, slowing down, and being gentle with yourself may also be necessary.

We are all experiencing something new for the very first time, and we are all figuring out how to respond to it in our own ways. We have different lives, resources, and responsibilities. One size does not and cannot fit all.

So many of us are already hard on ourselves as it is. We grew up in a culture of comparison, which is ultimately the thief of all joy. Stop comparing your insides to someone else’s outsides and do you. Do what feels right and true and needed for you.

If that’s learning new skills and taking advantage of business possibilities during this time, cool.

If that’s homeschooling your children, taking care of your parents, and caring for yourself by feeling what you feel (i.e. overwhelm, fear, sadness — let it rise, be felt, and moved, as that way it can be freed) and doing what needs to be done, cool.

If that’s laying in bed for a few days paralyzed with uncertainty and grief before you get up and slowly start trying to figure things out, cool.

I’ll end with this: Just because you can endure a lot of suffering, doesn’t mean you have to.

We are all doing the best we can in each moment. Criticism and judgment towards others and ourselves are shaming and repeat cycles passed on to us. One way we can begin to break those intergenerational patterns is by powerfully choosing to do things differently. Compassion, love, and kindness towards yourself and others is healing, not further harming.

You are welcome to choose any of the below to replace the one above:

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Stay safe and take care out there, everyone.


If reading this made you think, feel, or somehow connect more with your aliveness, click here and I’ll keep you in the loop for more.

P.S. If you need any additional help or support, you can send me a message or request a complimentary 30-minute call to talk. I also post a bunch of free content on Instagram with everything from help for anxiety and overwhelm, to developing new coping mechanisms since many of the ones we used to use are no longer available (i.e. going to the gym, seeing friends in person, etc), and more. I am here to support you however I can. We are not meant to walk this journey alone. -Ivy Kwong LMFT, BareIvy.com

Ivy Kwong

Written by

Ivy Kwong

Asian American therapist specializing in healing codependency, trauma (ancestral, sexual, racial), AAPI thriving, & decolonizing mental health. www.bareivy.com/

Ivy Kwong

Written by

Ivy Kwong

Asian American therapist specializing in healing codependency, trauma (ancestral, sexual, racial), AAPI thriving, & decolonizing mental health. www.bareivy.com/

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