Victor Ung

GROWING UP, I WAS TERRIBLE AT EXPRESSING MYSELF. Especially the uncomfortable things like my emotions. I followed the Model Minority myth, got the good grades, kept my head down, respected authority, but avoided conflict at all costs. As you can tell, that didn’t help me gain trust as a leader in the workplace, and it wasn’t attractive in dating when I couldn’t stand behind my beliefs and opinions. Admittedly, I’ve hurt quite a few women because I wasn’t able to communicate myself properly and take ownership of my emotions. And it ESPECIALLY wasn’t fulfilling for me to leave behind my child-like joy for writing, singing, and creating videos. I had so many voices in my head from my immigrant parents, and the rest of society, that I wasn’t good enough, man enough, creative enough, smart enough. On top it all, I didn’t have any close relationships or role models of Asian men around me. I love my dad and am grateful for so much he’s provided for me, but I rarely ever felt comfortable expressing my honest self around him without getting judgment or bias towards what he thought I should do. Being raised to then avoid conflict in the name of harmony and humility, I took the safe route and went into technology. And enjoyed my role, but started burning out when I was no longer feeling connected to the meaning and impact behind my work. I was drinking almost every other day. I ate terribly. I woke up late all the time. I didn’t care to reach out to friends. I was irritable and apathetic about my passions. I used to smoke weed to get present and connected, but during my quarter-life crisis, I was using to numb and it made me even more paranoid and anxious. I was also single for over 3 years at that point and felt many bouts of loneliness. I never made a plan, but I did think about how much easier it would be to just end my life. Then I found myself joining a local men’s group, after hearing a popular podcast where the guest talked about men’s emotional work. Everything they said in the interview resonated with my core. It gave me the language to feel what I had been feeling, which then gave me a new perspective on everything. With that new perspective, the way I was looking at the world and at myself changed. I realized that my life was a miracle in itself, coming from a father and mother who both risked their lives coming to America. And I have the unique opportunity to do something meaningful with the privilege that I have. After chasing comfort for most of my life, not only in the tangible world, but within the emotions I felt, I understood that I had to take more physical and emotional risks in my life if I wanted to get out of this debilitating state of apathy.

AFTER MONTHS OF OVERTHINKING. I finally quit my comfy job in 2018 and started writing and producing a podcast. Since then, I’ve been published in the Good Men Project, ThriveGlobal, as well as many Medium publications and have received so many inspiring comments from how my words have created new insights for people in their own journey. My podcast has accumulated thousands of downloads since its launch in 2019 now and I even spoke to 1000+ people on stage to share how I’m (currently) navigating my quarter-life crisis by improving my own emotional intelligence. Many, many, many thanks to the beautiful humans in JRNI to help me through it all. Doing both the inner work and entrepreneurial work made me realize that many of my Asian brothers are missing the space that allows us to feel SAFE talking about feelings without feeling less of a man. Especially those with immigrant parents, who use a lot of shame and authority to tell us what to do, rather than providing the space to explore for ourselves.

BUT THIS ISN’T EVEN ABOUT ME. It’s about the commonalities I’ve found within my community and brothers around these struggles. But the huge gap of safe spaces for Asian men to exercise our emotions, both the positive and negative. I’ve been attending a couple men’s groups over the past couple years, but in both of them, I was the only Asian dude. I’ve developed such meaningful relationships with these men, but none I could connect over my cultural identity. So I decided to start my own. And I’ve called it, the Emotion Dojo. This is the official Asian men’s group and coaching program under the 1200+ Facebook group that I co-run, the Badass Asian Dudes (BAD). Together, the BAD and Emotion Dojo is a support group that aims to empower self-identifying Asian men with emotional intelligence. Many of us are high-achievers, but lack the soft skills to create deeper relationships and take risks within ourselves. I know because I was one of them. And this community, to me, was the big brother I never had. We run a podcast under the same name and bring on other badass Asian dudes to share their wisdom in how they got to where they are.

MY FRIENDS HAVE ALREADY COMPLIMENTED ON MY GROWTH I’ve received a lot of unsolicited feedback from my friends in the past couple years about the change they’ve seen in me. From being that shy, unassertive kid to someone who owns up to his sense of joy, power, and vulnerabilities. I feel honored and grateful (and of course, so much humility to the point of rejection) that my friends even pay attention to me so deeply. And it validates for me that whatever I’m doing, I’m doing it right. And I’m so excited to keep it going.

Asian Mental Health Collective