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My Issues With My Identity: My Asian American Heritage

I identify as an Asian American through and through, but it’s not always fun and rainbows.


Throughout history, one of the most identifiable features on a person is their skin color. Even today, as we fill out important documents – whether we’re applying to college or trying to obtain a driver’s license- we must indicate our race. While I am proud to be Asian American, it doesn’t mean that I don’t acknowledge the flaws within my own identity.


One aspect of my cultural identity that I struggle with is my hatred towards the living style and “norms” of modern China. I spent 5 years of my childhood living in China and experienced a lifestyle that few can say they have the chance to. The happiness I have felt living there is something I still love to mention and talk about to this day, however, from a young age, I was told that I was too loud and talkative when other boys in my very class would do the same thing and face minimal consequences. I was told to do chores such as folding the laundry, because that was what a lady did.


Of course, I see myself as someone who rebelled against most of my culture’s rules, since I am a psychology major, which in itself is a negative career choice in my culture,  My father originally tried to discourage me from going down this path, stating that this was a career that I could never live off of, despite me saying I wanted to be a doctor. I have an alpha personality, loud and headstrong. I was never the girl that wanted to be quiet, who obeyed others, and my childhood goes to show how rebellious I am.


Even the way I choose to dress is faced with intense scrutiny and criticism. I adore dressing myself in big sweaters and baggy pants because it is my favorite form of comfort, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not willing to wear dresses, skirts, and makeup according to the situation. I never wanted the way I dressed to be the center of my focus, however, it doesn’t mean that I don’t get comments like “You should dress more like a girl” or “Try more feminine colors, like pink”. I love to wear darker colors and have a more androgynous style, often stealing hoodies or shirts from my brother for my outfits.


Some aspects of Chinese culture are unfortunately negative. One of the more controversial topics in our world today is the Black Lives Movement, centralized around the increased use of police brutality towards the Black population. My mother lost a friend because of her support of this movement. To note, this friend had never met a black person in their lifetime, yet always looked upon them negatively. Racism is still a prevalent thing in Chinese culture, and it often takes the form of labeling others based on skin color and assigning negative connotations to  whoever does not fit the preconceived notions of “worthy”. 


Despite all this, it does not mean I hate every aspect of my identity. I love celebrating beautiful traditions like Chinese New Year, enjoying the holiday with my immediate family, making traditional Chinese dishes, as cooking is very therapeutic to me. I also relearned Chinese upon my grandparents moving to America so I could communicate with them, and I am proud of my abilities. 

Although this article may seem like a rant, I hope that others who struggle with the divide between positive and negative aspects of their culture can see its message. Do not feel shame for coming from a place or have a heritage that, while rich culture, may not always be good. Continue acknowledging the flaws in it, but remember the aspects that you adore. These things – whether big or small – contribute to you as a whole, and it’s your choice to make your culture whatever you want it to be.

Eileen He

Adelphi '24

Eileen He is a student at Adelphi University, with a psychology major and a premed student. She has lived in China and now is currently living in NYC. She continues to travel the world, having been to multiple countries like Canada, Japan, and Korea. She is a member of HerCampus for her university, and wants to share her voice and thoughts to the world as much as she can.
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