• Sharon Uy

Navigating Meaning Less

Updated: May 28, 2021

With the way my work schedule has been going, I would have never thought I'd be happy to add more screen time into my day (much less my off-days! Wednesday is my middle-of-the-week weekend. Try it if you can! It's amazing. Although I'm considering stuffing the sausages of my four-day week into a three-day stocking), but I've been fucking STOKED to have had such fruitful and deep conversations over the last few weeks with some AAPI folks who all happen to share feelings of cultural imposter syndrome.

If this is the first you've heard of the concept of cultural imposter syndrome (otherwise known as racially gaslighting yourself), here's an example:

1) As a kid, you'd rather be something--anything--else, because then you might not have to deal with funny looks or upturned noses at the "weird" lunches you brought to school (aka, you didn't quite fit in, no matter what you wore or what dope toy you had).

2) You grow older and realize that the previous way of living was super whack and unnecessary, and begin to explore and embrace the culture you'd been shunning.

3) As an adult, you are stoked to be all about it, but then there's a niggling feeling that you don't have the right to be openly stoked about it, because we've all somehow gotten ingrained into our heads the idea that we're just never allowed to change our minds about anything, nor are we allowed to acknowledge and heal societal and cultural and racial wounds.

Maybe you, too, can relate to:

  • having to "code switch" between what's valued in the culture in which you're currently existing in the outside world, and the one in which you grew up and still also exist in your home and family life

  • wanting to feel better represented in the media, in your local and federal governments, on billboards, in the fast-food menu, you name it

  • feeling you have to look like and be something else in order to fit in and be accepted (spoiler alert, that tactic never pans out)

  • having to navigate what it is to be of a dual-cultural background (i.e., second-generation)

  • feeling like you're never enough of either those dual cultures (or sometimes, maybe too much)

  • newly uncovered guilt over having been, as a kid, embarrassed by your mom's accent

  • trying to live up to seemingly impossible standards of achieving the American dream your parents came to this country to fulfill

Imagine instead feeling:

  • seen, not just for who you are, without question, but mirrored in the media (and in the fast-food menu, i.e., rice at McDonald's, you know how they do in Hawaii and Asia)

  • safe against racial slurs or random attacks with someone screaming something racist and/or COVID-related at you

  • free from the pressure to be perfect, fully this, or fully that

  • included, like you belong

  • a sense of true connection, knowing that someone else has put into words what you've always felt

Well, I unfortunately can't guarantee your safety from attacks on the street (but you know I'd be down to go to the literal bat that's in my trunk for you) or freedom from cultural or parental pressure to be the number one doctor in the country, but what if I could help you feel the least bit seen, related to, and perhaps some relief (brief or long-lasting, your choice)?

I'm prototyping a book - a collection of both humorous and solemn personal essays tentatively entitled, "Meaning Less" - exploring the ways cultural imposter syndrome has seeped into and shown up in all areas of my life, from childhood to now, with the sincere hope that this book will inspire discussion and connection, and, may I fervently and in all humility hope, healing.

I would LOVE to get your feedback, which is so unlike me, who, up until seriously 2 weeks ago, could have easily gone for at least a few more years completely closed off to the prospect of (even constructive) criticism.

Holler at me here ( so you can practice being brutally honest with zero repercussions, and we can end with my telling you how much I love you and appreciate you in a way that isn't too inappropriate for just having met (unless we know each other, in which case, you'll be fine).

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