Defying Stereotypes: Being Asian & Curvy
Self-acceptance. Body image. Self-esteem.
I think of family members telling me to "lose this... fix that... change this." I think of the pressures to get plastic surgery at much too young an age. "Don't wear that skirt; your legs looks fat," they say. "No one will ever marry you if you don't lose weight and do your makeup like that." My intent is not to make my family look bad, but I need to be honest, if I'm going to write about such an important, personal topic. To omit these details would be to mask my reality.
By high school, these words had thoroughly distorted my self-image; depressed, I developed an eating disorder, and learned to cope with my emotions by not weighing myself and consciously forcing myself to eat. That phase of my life ended quickly, but those thoughts never fully went away - they just lessened in severity.
I always struggled with the shame of not fitting the mold. I was a good student, but I was never the one with the top GPA, or the highest test scores in my math and science classes. I could not speak Korean fluently. I had a pear-shaped body, which didn't resemble the stereotypical Asian figure. All these shortcomings made me feel like I didn't even belong to my own culture. I understand that, for many, these are JUST Asian stereotypes, but they were still part of MY reality because that was what my environment defined as MY standards.
My experience with boys was not positive, either. One year, I had taken track & field, and my legs became significantly bigger, due to muscle growth (my calves, in particular). I was sitting in my physiology class, minding my own business, when a Korean classmate next to me exclaimed, aloud, "Wow! Your legs are bigger than mine, and I play football!" I was MORTIFIED, and it took me a while to recover from that moment. I caught wind of another rumor - started by a group of Korean boys at our school - that I had been ranked among the ugliest of the Korean girls in the class. Ouch.
I am now 23 years old. Way past high school, and two years out of college, I am STILL curvy, STILL NOT the ideal body shape, and STILL not the ideal weight. In spite of all this, I still entered the blogosphere - a space seemingly saturated with other beautiful, skinny, "modelesque" Asian fashion bloggers. In all my vulnerability, the process of allowing myself to be photographed - seeing what I have to offer, in comparison to others - I truly see what differentiates me, and makes me unique. It may sound cliche, but this process has allowed me to become more objective about my body, and I finally feel comfortable in my own skin. Now, when I look in the mirror, the negative thoughts are nowhere to be found, and I only see the emotional progress I've made in learning how to love myself.
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Photography by Full Frame Photographs