TaiwaneseAmerican.org is proud to present the first in a series of blog posts exploring the topic of body image and self-esteem in the Asian American community, an often over-looked subject. We asked our guest contributor to share her most personal thoughts on the topic. We thank her for her openness.
The Fat and the Furious, Part I
By SH Chang
I’ll be honest- I hate my body. And I have for awhile.
From the tippy top of my head (too dry and itchy), down to my ears (asymmetrical), eyes (too small and inexpressive), mouth (too gummy and crooked), skin (waaaay too sensitive), neck (bloated), arms (flabby), boobs (nonexistent), stomach (growing), thighs (absolutely ginormous), calves (huge and muscle-y), down to my toes (dry and itchy), I can guarantee that no cell on my body has been left unturned in my destructive path to perfection.
And let me tell you- after almost 10 years of this internal tirade, I am exhausted. I’m mentally and physically spent, sick of caring, sick of trying, sick of hating.
Then why do I keep doing it?
Good question. Very good question indeed.
And should you be interested, I intend to answer it to the fullest extent in a later entry, but as for now, I’ll let you in on a (fairly boring) secret: I’ve been working on this post for the past 2 and a half months. And a grueling 2 and a half months it sure has been.
Two and half months ago, as a way of self- medicating, self- philosophizing, and a little bit of self- promoting (:D), I agreed to write a little something something regarding beauty and beauty standards in the APA community. A self-confessed YouTube beauty and fashion video junkie with an insight into the complex world of body image insecurities, I was ecstatic to begin my foray into the APA (and beauty) blogging world with an issue so, well, dear to my heart. After my finals ended, I had believed, I was more than ready to tackle this project.
But soon after I began to write, this amateur writer was soon blocked. Absolutely nothing came out.
I relentlessly reformatted, rewrote, restarted (I believe this is my 8th try), and furiously puzzled over how to succinctly and fully capture not just my own bursting and jumbled emotions, but also of those who struggled from the same horrible insecurities. But everything that came out was too false, boring, stiff, pushy, and just plain sucked. Why couldn’t I do this, I lamented, why was this just so damn hard?
And then it hit me. I’ve never really talked about my image issues before.
I feel so alone with my struggles. A mere mention of just how uncomfortable I feel in my own skin to family and friends, they come off too frank, unintentionally unsympathetic. And I honestly can’t really blame them- nobody really wants to hear a girl gripe and moan about her perfectly functional body. Thus, aside from one very dear friend, I have never really discussed my issues extensively to anybody. And over the years, brick by brick, my silence has willed my wall to be built up, keeping all of my negativity in and my insecurities from spewing out.
Perhaps you’re thinking right now, well, that’s quite sad and all, but what do your problems got to do with being Taiwanese American? Asian American? In other words, what does your body image issues got to do with me, this community?
Last year, the University of California, Berkeley, released some campus statistics during their annual Mind & Body Awareness week regarding eating disorders:
“Eating disorders were once known as the ‘Golden Girl Syndrome’ because it primarily occurred in middle to upper class, well- educated Caucasian women. However, eating disorders have spread to people of both sexes and all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds…on a campus of 48% Asian or Asian American backgrounds, 17% of the cases of eating disorders receiving medical help were Asian or Asian American.”
How this number corresponds to national percentages is something that is not well documented. A quick search for “Eating Disorders Statistics” reveals little about the ethnic composition of the disease, and information of how these disorders affect minority populations is not very accessible. Berkeley’s article offers a few theories for why this is, “For a variety of… reasons that include access to care and cultural attitudes toward psychological treatment, minorities are less likely to seek help therefore there is misrepresentation and focus on the prevalence, type and severity of eating disorders within all minority populations.”
It seems that me that I’m not the only one that has been rendered silent after all of these years.
So, I am here to do two things: 1) Explore and expose myself, (rather narcissistically, I suppose), and hopefully by doing so I will 2) Explore and expose at least a small part of the beauty industry, what it means to be “beautiful”, and how complex this term can get when you’re Asian in America.
To be quite frank, I don’t know what exactly I will and can accomplish by writing these posts. I think it’s a bit ambitious (and naïve) to say that this project will be my cure-all, and I’ll be free of all past demons by the end of it. But, while I cannot say I can speak for all of my hurting sisters out there, I hope, at least, that maybe my voice, my opinion, and my story can start to uncover a little more about what it means to be Asian American, Taiwanese American and struggling to love your own body.
University of California, Berkeley. (2011). Mind and Body Awareness Week. Retrieved from: http://uhs.berkeley.edu/edaw/.
SH Chang is a current senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign studying history and political science. Born and raised in a Northwest suburb of Chicago by two awesome but slightly crazy Taiwanese parents, she loves to write, read, and eat in her spare time. She hopes to travel around the world and learn at least 3 more languages some day, but is currently focusing on graduating and finding her true passions in life.