Social #1- Asian Concept of Face

Note: Published for University editorial. 

Why does the Asian community value the concept of “face” so highly?

Picture this; in social gatherings after a meal, you will often see people fight for the bill. Going Dutch (splitting the bill) is not entirely common within Asian culture. The initiation of wanting to pay for the bill brings an imminent sense of accomplishment towards the individual. It is as if whoever pays the bill is more financially affluent, showing an air of dignity and pride to others. Now my friend, this act commonly situated in Chinese culture, is the concept of ‘face’.

Losing ‘face’ or gaining ‘face’ is a concept very common within Asian culture. Yet, what exactly is this ‘face’ we’re talking about? ‘Face’ is basically the idea of an individual’s importance—self worth. It is the value in which we see ourselves, as well as how others see us. It is a sociological concept, in which it evaluates the value of an individual’s entity. One of the main concerns of losing ‘face’ for the Asian community is that they fear they will lose the respect of others. The prevention of embarrassment and loss of honor is critical in the average life of an Asian.

Whilst you may scoff at such a silly concept, with its jittery lack of self-confidence, ‘face’ is far more complex than how you see it. Its concept isn’t as simple as doing wrong things and being ‘shamed’ for it, but rather on the permanency of one’s actions. The Asian community is considerably close knitted, where social relations constitute most of their behavior.

Status and reputation is a main concern. Their demeanor has to match the front of their position, and if they do not fit the criteria, people may think of them differently. There are certain standards being set, in which expectations are made to shape how an individual would need to behave. For example in education, many families love to compare the successfulness of their children by how clever they are, as well as what high ranking school they attend. If their children do not fall in the criteria, they would be too afraid to announce it to others, in fear of being gossiped about. In addition, the parents could harness bitterness towards their children for not meeting their expectations.

All in all, an individual’s fear of the concept of losing ‘face’ is no more than a mental state of self-criticism. People judge themselves far too soon on how others would see them as—successful or not. They automatically assume that what they have could simply either be not good enough to show off, or does not hold significance to be proud of. Their insecurity of finding reassurance and acceptance of others can be linked to the harsh expectations they have over themselves.

With the constant upbringing of competition and comparisons of one another, whether it is in academic or social standings, it brings an unfortunate deal of stress within the community. To most extreme cases, their fear of rejection from others, when they have done something deemed as reputation tarnishing, makes them unable to face the outside world. Thus shutting himself or herself off from everyone.

Now isn’t that a terrible thing? The constant paranoia of how others think of me would definitely put me on the edge. Please keep your chin up, and head held high! Because, remember people, you are your harshest critic. How you live shouldn’t depend on the judgments of others.

– Charlotte T.


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