How Asian American Familial Expectations Affect Creative Career Decisions

Asian Americans often struggle with the contradiction between following their creative skills and meeting their families’ expectations, especially if their work isn’t one their Asian families deem “proud of” or “can be bragged about” or traditionally secure like being a doctor or lawyer.

Take Joy Woo as an example. Joy Woo’s family didn’t understand how the entertainment industry worked when she first entered it as an executive assistant. When she was 27 years old, she got laid off from her studio and started debating about whether she should leave the industry for good. It was her second time getting laid off so she even critiqued herself and worried about what her family would say if they knew.

Diem M. Nguyen, a clinical psychologist who focuses on intergenerational issues in her therapy sessions, found that her clients really struggle with taking risks due to pressures in their family systems.

Mental health practitioners like her emphasize the unique stressors that Asian American creatives may face from family members during periods of work uncertainty, and that these stressors mostly come from a misalignment in lived experiences, passing from one generation to another.

According to NBC News, Nguyen further advises that telling families about future creative endeavors can resemble a negotiating process that differs for each individual. She says that everyone should be free to decide and to share information as they see fit, depending on the kind of support they need.

They do not mean any harm, but older Asian Americans in the family frequently navigate the world in a survivalist manner. They put a lot of importance on choosing the safe, sensible course and seek assurance that the careers of their children will offer proper security.