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The Burden of Singapore “Suck It Up” Stoicism

Part of “The Mindful Singaporean Uncle” series

We #Singaporeans love a good “can-do” approach to life. Facing problems? Get practical, solve them, carry on. Whining doesn't fix MRT delays, make that overseas deal close faster, or miraculously create more affordable childcare.

That pragmatism has built a (somewhat cynical) nation, and for a 53-year-old uncle like me, has undeniably shaped my way of confronting life's hurdles with hard-nosed decision-making.

But is there a limit? Sometimes that tough "suck it up" voice in my head turns from motivating to draining. It says to take one more night call even when exhausted, put clients’ needs ahead of any hint of self-care, and bury life and career disappointments with a mental "no use dwelling on them".

I've stumbled onto mindfulness as an unlikely answer. See, it's not asking me to abandon that sense of stoic responsibility. Instead, it's like a pressure valve amidst the "doing".

Simple shifts are already surprising me. When overwhelmed, instead of defaulting to a grumpy autopilot, I pause. Do I actually need to push harder or will that lead to poorer decisions? Taking a break might seem illogical, but mindfulness says it could save time in the long run. Two-minutes of breathing after every 45 minutes of work aren’t too much to ask.

Is every little annoyance worth getting riled about, or should some situations be met with a mental shrug and a refocusing on what really matters to me (ie. my values)? in fact, the more mindful I get, the clearer I have become about what values matter most to me.

I won't magically transform into some carefree dude; that's not me and not how things get done here. But perhaps mindfulness can become a gentle life skill alongside our hardwired practicality. It’s our way of enduring tough times without sacrificing everything to a silent battle within. To remain that tough Singaporean uncle, just one a little less worn down by the relentless expectation to simply suck everything up.

Anyone else finding that balance? How do we use mindfulness to support our Singaporean brand of stoicism, instead of trying to replace it?

You can also find The Mindful Singaporean Uncle on Instagram at @thedoingwellcentre and on Facebook at

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