Self-esteem is something that I found hard to build up due to my experience as a Third Culture Kid. My whole existence and experiences came from being weird, feeling unwanted, misunderstood, and relating to Frankenstein’s creation (not his monster; I refuse to see it as an abomination). He didn’t ask to be born the way he was, his own father disassociated himself from him, and no matter how much good he tried to do, eventually, he snapped and was convinced that if life deemed him to be a monster, he would give them what they wanted. However, in his moment of vulnerability, he could not bear to see the death of his creator, his father, because in spite of the pain he went through of being alone and misunderstood, he was alive and wanted to live on. He also desired another one like him to be made, one who could understand and accept him because of their shared background, so that he would not be alone with another who came from the same mold. Created from different parts to make a unique individual he is Frankenstein’s son.
Much like him, I was created by different experiences, different associations, places, peoples, ideas from a variety of sources. From having multiple backgrounds, nobody could understand me, and because I was so different, I thought I was a abnormal, a creep, and tried to force myself to be more like one culture–which was an exercise in futility because I didn’t know how to be more “American” or “Filipino”.
I remember reading Frankenstein and being upset: the creation did the abhorrent things he did because he was alone, lonely, unwanted, and rejected for being different, even when he initially had a good heart. He hated himself and wanted another like him, to be given companionship, and when it was denied, he exploded into violent rage. In the end, however, he still wanted to live, and like him, I’ve had my moments where I explode because people want to judge me more than they want to try and understand me. I still want to live too, and no matter how much I hated how my background made me feel like I belonged nowhere. I, much like Frankenstein’s creation, look at what made me and still can’t hate–because without that, I wouldn’t be me. Without Frankenstein to make him, his creation would never have come, and without the breadth of experiences of my TCK upbringing, with all of its joys and pains, I would not be who I am now.
Frankenstein’s creation was not a monster until he and others designated him to be such, and only when he let others define him did he choose to fulfill their expectations. When I let other people define me as being strange and messed-up, I became the very thing they hated because I did believe I was abnormal, I was a monster, and when I tried to be like them, I was still shunned because they knew I could act like them, but it would never change whom I truly was inside. Likewise, Frankenstein’s creation learned to talk, walk, act, and think like other humans, but it did not change the fact that he was different from them.
One thing I’ve realized is that sometimes, I am Frankenstein’s monster, abnormal and misunderstood, other times, I am Frankenstein’s son: his pride and joy. People can call me a monster from looking at me and not understanding me as a TCK, but no matter what they think of me as, however they see me or label me, I know that I choose not to be a monster or whatever label they give me. In my heart, I know who I am and what I am capable of, and I choose to be my father’s masterpiece, his pride and joy, not in spite of my background of being made up of different parts, cultures, experiences, and identities, but precisely because I take all of that and make something with it.
I am not perfect, I am not better than others, I am merely different. Even if they never see what good I can do and have done, or what I am capable of, as long as I know myself and choose to not be the monster or believe I’m the monster they make me to be, I accept and appreciate myself–whatever and whomever I may be.