You’re so fit. You’ve got strong legs. Do you work out?
I get those comments a lot and maybe in a “normal” person’s head, or in an “empowered woman’s mind”, they would own those “affirmations” and feel really good/proud/happy. When I get those comments, this is what I hear:
You are not skinny. Those legs…yikesSSSSSS. You are so average-sized.
You might judge me and think I have no grounds to complain. Whatever. You're not in my head. You're not in the dressing room with me. We all have our inner demons. I have spent my whole life struggling with body image, most of us have, especially females. There’s a standard of beauty that is plastered all over magazines, internet and in our daily conversations. Being Asian and growing up in America gave me a very confused mapping of beauty. To be a beautiful Asian, I should be skinny, pale and smiley. To be a beautiful “American”, I should not be Asian, fail, I should have a nice bridge on my nose, thought about plastic surgery, and I should make heads turn, I get random cat calls from sketchy people. I didn’t know how to be beautiful, so I just did everything to get to this idea of it.
I am acquainted with many diets: Whole 30, journaling, apps, Master Cleanse, only coffee, Paleo, Atkins, Binge & Starve, don’t eat after 5pm, only eat after 5pm, only eat fruits, never eat fruits, only eat lemons, "be happy and eat"...
I have fallen prey to many diet fads: green tea pill, Hydroxycut family of pills, apple cider vinegar, pills.
I have spent hours googling: How can I get my legs to shrink? Are calves genetic? Are there safe surgeries to make fat genetic calves go away? Do people like women with big legs? Can you be famous with big legs?
I don't look in the mirror and immediately think, damn girl. But every time I look in the mirror, I know I have a choice to make. Only recently have I been able to look, breathe and think how what I see in front of me is the exact me I need to be right now. I look at my legs. My mom has the same legs. She worked in the farms, she worked in the factories, she is a hard working woman. My legs remind me of my mom. My arms are big and dark. My dad is darker than most Chinese people. He cooks in the kitchen for 12 hours a day and even though he’s so skinny from all the cigarettes, he’s got definition. My arms and my color remind me of my dad. My round face reminds me of how I am Asian and how God specifically and uniquely created certain people to have certain features. I have a round face and that reminds me of God’s diverse creations and how even though I am here in New York or Los Angeles, I am somehow connected to a lot, a lot of the world.
I carry in my body, this imperfect, scarred but sometimes soft body, (I do give myself that - I have very soft skin), my history, my cultures, and the breaking of what should be. I am not skinny, and I am beautiful. I am not pale, and I am beautiful. I don’t always smile, and I am beautiful even when I am sad. I might be more beautiful when I'm sad but stand still without smiling.
I don’t feel "small" like someone can easily pick me up. I get nervous that I look like Pillsbury dough boy on the screen because the camera is unforgiving like that. I still want to be skinny, but I can’t stop eating chips and salsa. I just can’t because the crunch, the salt, the margaritas are too damn good. I'm already thinking of my next happy hour.
I am working on respecting the “strong” that is my body. I am working on owning “strong.” When I see other women who are strong and fit, I think they are so beautiful and so powerful. Why can’t I afford that same grace to myself?
I am strong.
Maybe my body is a beautiful gift from God to remind me every day that I don’t fit into some standard and that’s special.
I am beautiful because I breathe.
We all want to be powerful
But what if power means bending down and washing another's feet
Because having power means an ability to meet others where they're at without thinking it sacrifices your own position
What if being confident in your gifts and talents
Means sitting down and giving another person the chance to shine
Because you trust that what they bring will never be exactly the same as what you bring
What if power means standing still in the midst of circumstances
Stripped from this need to prove that you're something when everything seems to be going to shits
What if power means you are
Exactly where you need to be and exactly what you need to be to
Make the people around you feel a smidgen more seen, more loved, more empowered
What if power means a willingness to share
Because even if you invite other people to the table
You realize the table is big enough for everyone
What if power attracts those who are in distress because they know you can bring them out of that stress
What if power attracts the outcasts because they know you know what it feels to belong
What if power attracts not the people who can help you, but all the people you can help
Isn't that power
Isn't that more powerful than refusing to let go of ego
Isn't that stronger than people unwilling to budge because they're too afraid change would affect their worth
What if power is scary because it pushes you into uncharted fields that outside of God
You would not be able to handle
You think you could move mountains without the help of something outside of you?
Then you're dreaming must be way too small, way too human
We want godly intervention
To be powerful is to act beyond your comforts
To be powerful is to see something bigger than yourself
To be powerful is to dream so high that when things happen
All you can do is drop to your knees and
And say thank you
And ask, what can I do with this to serve the world?
I want to be this kind of powerful
Over 20, just since June.
Don’t be ridiculous. I am not talking about sleeping around as in having sex. I actually don’t have sex. Not anymore at least. Well, except for a handful of lonely, often alcohol-lubricated times. But that confession is a discussion for another time because it entails longing and heartbreak; and lots of Jesus, tissues and whiskey.
My sleeping around is literally sleeping around at different places this year. I had planned to go to New York City to attend the Circle in the Square summer program in June. I immediately sublet my room for two months. After seeing that there was no way I could afford a no-financial-aid program, I had to stay in Los Angeles. Except now, I was without a place to sleep.
Whoops. I shared my stupidity with several friends. People offered up their couches, but I didn’t want to be a bother. I figured they didn’t really mean for me to take up their offer anyway. I also didn’t want people to think I was an irresponsible free loader who was living this stereotypical struggling-hustling artist life. What now?
A week before I was going to be without a home, a petsitting gig trickled in. Then another petsitting gig. Then my friends offered up their home because they were going to be in Italy for 3 weeks. The serendipitous and humbling offers kept coming and somehow I pieced together a summer of beds and new pet friendships. The requests overflowed into the rest of the year and into even more diverse sleeping arrangements. I slept on the train to Portland. I stayed with the maker of Beard Balm in Detroit. I nursed a constipated cat on the Upper East Side. I had never been more pumped and proud to see another’s poop. My tale of homes and homies have taught me 4 things:
Ask for help.
I was honest that I was in need. It’s vulnerable to ask for help because it meant I couldn’t do things on my own. It teared at my self-reliance and grew my love for community. It made me sensitive to every blessing and provision that came by way. It helped me see the generosity of others. People want to help. “It is more blessed to give than receive,” Acts 20:35. But receiving grace is difficult.
I want to work for the things I receive so I don’t owe anyone and I can say I did it on my own. Grace can’t be earned. It is uncomfortable. Grace tells us that we are worthy regardless of how much we contribute. Jesus is grace personified. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not for yourselves, it is a gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast,” Ephesians 2:8-9. He is a love and forgiveness so undeserving that puts you in the spotlight, gently brings you to your knees and embraces you with wholehearted acceptance exactly as you are right now. Being seen yet fully wanted seems far-fetched, especially when I have to battle the voices in my head.
Address your insecurities.
I am an actress/writer living month to month who shared a room and relies heavily on free food. I didn’t want people to think that I was scheming to save money because, well, I cared so much about what people think. I want people to see me as generous, not needy. I want people to see me as successful, not scrounging for change. I want people to see me as a planner, not a play-it-ear kind of hustler. Being in an situation that made me feel uncomfortable brought up a lot of my insecurities. I had to examine them, accept some of them, and work on others. Sometimes who I want people to see me as isn’t who I really am. I need to be sanctified and come back to a worth not determined by others. Look, people are going to think what they think. Sometimes we really suck like that. I just have to do me in the most generous and honest way. If I can live like that, then I am not run by people’s opinions of me, but led by the Spirit that is in me. That is the only way to live.
Attack life with radical faith.
Only by living a life led by the Spirit can I live radically because the “fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control,” Galatians 5:22-23. I want to be marked by these traits. I want to trust in the power of God. This year God provided from day to day. It was scary. I had to be more present to see how he was going to provide outside of the box, in ways I could not predict. My predictions are humanly drawn. His provisions are always heavenly colored. So trust in a perfect timing, with enduring patience. Be present at all times and look everyone in the eyes. No one is merely mortal. Dream projects that if done by human endeavors will fail, but with God all things are possible. Hope for the deepest kind of love that makes your knees tremble. Be exposed because that is the most beautiful you. Besides if people can’t take you with morning hair and bare faced, they don’t deserve you at eyelash extensions and NARS red lips. Life is scary and hard and out of our control, so why not jump and trust in the biggest?
2017, the world flipping on its head aside, I want to say thank you. I default to self-pity, preaching to myself that no one actually loves me, but when I recall the radical generosity I have experienced this year, I know I am loved. I tend to isolate. I think many things are fixed, that I will always struggle with the same thing and always default into anger and heartbreak. Things can change. 2017, you let me sleep around. I have experienced love. I have been humbled. I have become more fearless. God provided through people. More than ever I know that we are called to live in community, rely on community and heal in community.