“Sometimes you see the world in black and white,” my former therapist L said to me, in our last session together way back in May of 2017. We had already reviewed the ways I had grown in our two years of seeing each other, and he stated this black and white comment as an area for me to maybe explore further after our final session. At the time, I thought something like hm, that’s interesting. It’s not that I disregarded L’s feedback – in fact, I valued it quite highly – it’s just that this one comment didn’t resonate much with me in that final session four years ago.
Tag Archives: social justice
Several years ago, I judged one of my two best friends because she worked in marketing. She and I met through a part-time job we shared in undergrad, and we bonded over our enjoyment of writing and our shared Vietnamese ethnicity. During undergrad, we did not talk much outside of work, and we did not grow into best friends until a few years after we both graduated. We had different social circles back then, with hers including a boyfriend of several years. I also used to evaluate people more based on their jobs, and I thought more highly of people whose professions directly involved helping others or promoting social justice.
Our friendship intensified beginning in late 2018 to early 2019. This best friend and I love ourselves no matter what any man thinks of us, which introduces an element of irony because men helped bring us closer together. At that time, I found myself in a situationship with an academically successful, artistic, emotionally unavailable Asian man. She was in the midst of navigating a situationship with an exciting, chaotic, and uncommunicative man who shared her sense of humor. We texted each other support about these men; even now, we laugh about how she texted me while holding her phone underneath a boardroom table during an important meeting to roast the guy I found myself attracted to back then.
In May 2019, I took a risk with our friendship. Continue reading →
A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon this super hot queer Asian American politician and felt a rush of longing heat up my chest. Through investigating his social media platforms, I saw how this guy advocated for legislation to hold corporations accountable, prioritized housing for the disenfranchised, and attended healing spaces for Asian American folks in the wake of anti-Asian violence. I literally can’t remember the names of any of the men I’ve ever felt desire for before, I thought to myself as I read this man’s Wikipedia bio and almost shivered in delight.
Pre-2020 Thomas would have idealized this guy. Continue reading →
In about a week and a half I will get some photos taken to commemorate my new blonde hair. When I think about how I will look in these photos, I sometimes start to feel icky about the weight I’ve gained during the pandemic and over the past few years in general. Some of the disordered eating thoughts from my early adolescence emerge all over again. How nice would it feel to have a completely flat stomach like before? Remember that time when your face looked so much thinner and more angular? If you start cutting back on some meals, you could have your super skinny body from 2009, it wasn’t even that long ago.
These thoughts and emotions feel odd to experience because on an intellectual level, I recognize that a desire for thinness is fatphobic bullshit. Continue reading →
As I have gotten more leftist over the years, I sometimes feel increased guilt about my work within the system. I have room to grow, and I acknowledge my strengths: my therapy supervisors always affirm my clinical skills, I publish a decent amount of research, and my students tend to report positive things about me. At the same time, I often wonder if therapy should even exist. I wonder if academia should even exist. Or should we work toward building a society where we can take care of one another as a collective and prevent the traumas that call for therapy? Should we create a society where we can all contribute to the development of knowledge instead of a select privileged few?
When I question whether therapy should exist, I reflect on my own therapy experiences and the trauma I experienced at the hands of my mother. Continue reading →
Sometimes I struggle to honor my strengths. I have pretty high self-compassion and self-esteem, I just don’t like acknowledging what I’m good at. For example, I’m starting my fourth year of training as a psychologist. In my most recent therapy evaluation, my supervisor commended my “ability to connect with clients and make them feel safe with [me].” She also wrote that I have “an intuitive approach that is bolstered by [a] strong theoretical orientation… influenced by a multicultural lens, feminist therapy, ACT and CBT, and interpersonal process,” as well as an openness and genuineness that helps clients feel connected to me. Though I recognize my clients’ growth, I still think: am I actually good at this?
Even though I can grow in honoring my strengths, I like my modesty a lot. I think it stems from Asian values of humility, as well as not wanting to be like other men who have an inflated sense of their abilities. Instead of searching for the spotlight, I can spend more time honing my empathy, social justice advocacy, and mentoring. Still, internalizing modesty to an extreme may have its downsides. My supervisor also wrote in her evaluation, “I think Thomas is always a bit surprised at the progress of his clients, as he sometimes doubts that he is a good, actually excellent, therapist. I encourage his humility, but also think he would benefit from receiving the fact that he is very skilled and capable.”
Upon reflecting about my supervisor’s comments for the past several weeks, I feel like a lot of my hesitancy to own my strengths stems from my queer Asian male identity. Continue reading →
Sometimes I idealize people. For example, as someone who cares about social justice and the arts, I often assume the best about organizers, writers, people who work in social justice-related nonprofits, etc. I tend to think that people whose careers involve fighting oppression or writing beautiful essays will possess corollary qualities, like deep self-awareness, a knowledge of how systemic oppression manifests in their interpersonal relationships, and a general compassion for those around them. My idealization reminds me of how some people I know idealize therapists as like, super emotionally intelligent, all-knowing seers of the human soul.
As a therapist who’s seen a few therapists for my own mental health, I’m here to tell you that some of us suck at our jobs. Continue reading →
About two weeks ago I noticed myself judging and feeling frustrated with other Asian people. As someone who cares a lot about Asian American mental health and racial justice, I wanted to explore these feelings of judgment and frustration, because I like feeling my feelings and doing so helps me procrastinate my grad student responsibilities. Some incidents with fellow Asian Americans that have made me feel frustrated include: when I met a queer Asian American man last year who said he had internalized European beauty standards and is working to unlearn his automatic attraction to white guys; when I got dinner with an Asian American female friend who wondered about the truthfulness of reverse racism; all throughout high school when I saw other Asian American students obsess about grades and academic achievement and getting into prestigious schools.
When I sat with these emotions, I noticed a somewhat embarrassing thought emerge: you should all be better than this. I felt a literal judgment and I’m not proud of it. Continue reading →
I tend to think a lot about the people I have relationships with: what do I like about this person? What purpose does our relationship serve? How much time do I want to devote to this friendship? As someone who obsesses about having enough time to fanboy my favorite books and pop stars living a values-based life, I try my best to prioritize people who care about and act in ways that embody compassion for others, social justice, and other qualities I find admirable. My close friends know that I am very picky about who I spend time with, and I always say I would rather spend time on my own doing things that align with my values than hanging out with people just for the sake of it.
Reflecting on 2019, I noticed that I obsessed over a couple of people even when they did not align with all my values. Continue reading →
Today I got triggered when I learned that my most recent crush is dating a white man. Beforehand, because I have no chill whatsoever, I asked him outright over text if his boyfriend is white. I then texted my best friend “Bri if his boyfriend is white… I may ask for a literal 3 minutes during our [next] phone call for me to scream.”
Lo and behold, my queer person of color sense proved correct and he texted me back saying that yes, his boyfriend is white. On one hand, I could not have cared less, because men are irrelevant to my life and he can date whoever the heck he wants to and I had predicted this outcome with my closest friends anyway. And yet, after I got that text, I fell into such a funk; I felt sad and angry and disappointed all at once. Continue reading →