Opening Up About Not Feeling Skinny Enough

I feel a little scared to write this. I was around twelve when I started weighing myself on the scales. I ran in the morning before school, and straight after school when I got home. I drank a lot of water and I ate as much as I liked because my metabolism was a skyrocket. When I left home at sixteen, I developed signs of an eating disorder. I would skip meals, exercise a lot, eat slowly, document what I was eating, weigh myself several times a day, obsess over my BMI and drink a lot of water to feel full. I had depression, anxiety and a fear of gaining weight.

When you grow up with people telling you that you’re skinny and that it’s said as a compliment, there is this pressure that stays inside your mind to maintain that body image. However, now that I’m in my twenties, my body is naturally changing. My metabolism isn’t what it used to be, and I feel more aware of eating healthy and having an active lifestyle. The beauty standard in Asia is to be very petite, but our bodies are all made differently. After many years of struggling with my weight, I feel the healthiest and happiest now. Surround yourself with people who love and support you, do the things that you enjoy and feed your mind with positive words.

There are days where I still struggle, but I know it’s not my true self. The true voice in myself says that your self-worth comes from who you are as a person, and it has nothing to do with the number on the scales. I don’t want to be defined by my weight, but by what I can bring into the world. The title really speaks about my teenage years. In the past, I went through a period where I was feeling a lot of hatred towards myself. I felt not worthy, and there was an overwhelming amount of worry and fear taking over my life. I felt like even though I was stressed, I could control my weight and what I ate. It’s not healthy, because then you end up neglecting your body.

I was 18 when I was living in Sydney in 2015, and it was a time where I really struggled with my body image. I remember gymming more and watching what I was eating. There was fear and insecurity during that period of my life. I felt incredibly lost. My anxiety was crippling at that time, and I really isolated myself. It was really during that time where I wasn’t connecting with God, and my relationship with Him really weakened during that season of my life. When it comes to eating, I used to feel quite conscious at times when eating a meal in front of people, unless it’s those I’m very close to.

Our bodies are beautiful, sacred, precious and wonderful things that keep us moving, breathing and living life. I do think that it can be damaging if one compliments too much on a persons body size. When you grow up from a child being told that you’re so skinny and that it’s said as a compliment, it’s something that can really stay entrenched in your mind as you grow older. I know that my value lies in my heart, yet there are days where I stare in the mirror and feel a sudden fear of gaining any weight. It all starts in the mind. A persons weight can fluctuate when dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression.

Everyone has insecurities. We all have something inside and out that we’re conscious of. When I think about where I was previously, it was during a period where I was unhappy, and I felt like I wasn’t skinny enough (which was when I was the lightest). I rarely ate in the dining area in a previous flat a few years ago, because I literally didn’t want my flatmates to see me eating. It’s really been this year, where I’ve felt safe in eating in the dining area. It seems like something so small, but it’s a huge change. Since leaving home, there have been periods where I didn’t eat well. When I had feelings of stress, I felt like I didn’t have any appetite.

We often don’t emphasize it enough, but your health is truly your wealth. Without your health, you wouldn’t be able to wake up and conquer the day. You wouldn’t be able to experience this beautiful life. When I didn’t have a healthy mind, it started to affect my body and I felt weak, unmotivated and a loss of energy. It was during that time where I suffered from panic attacks and had very deep depression. Our thoughts are so powerful. When I started being more present, thinking positively and accepting myself as I am, I really felt set free from the cage I’d built inside my mind.

I’ve read so many stories about those who showed warning signs of anorexia, and during those periods where they were the lowest weight, was when they were the unhappiest. Being skinny won’t make you happy. It’s embracing where you are, right here, right now. Accepting yourself as you are. Being grateful for everything that your body has done for you. Being thankful for good health and waking up to a new day. Treating yourself with kindness, love and positive self-talk. I am at the healthiest weight this year. I feel the most energy and happiness this year.

There were feelings of not being good enough. After really surrounding myself with amazing people and being kinder to myself, I feel an overwhelming sense of peace. If you can’t love yourself first, how will you attract the right people into your life? Our life experiences can affect us deeply in how we see the world. But, I really think that we can all heal from hurt, even when it seems impossible. It’s really the simple things in life that give us the greatest joy. We have to come from a place of not judging others because everyone has and is going through something. It’s easy to see things on the surface and believe what we see. The most healing comes from the periods of silence. I really believe that time heals.

One of the biggest blessings is surrounding yourself with people who are uplifting, encouraging, motivating, positive and caring. They bring the best out of you. The people we surround ourselves with are important. Our bodies are a blessing. It’s important to refrain from commenting or complimenting someone on their body. I can’t emphasize how much it can have an impact on them. A reminder to myself is 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 which reads: Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies. 

How powerful is that? God wants us to take care of ourselves, and He wants us to live our lives as fully as possible. I really believe we have to remind ourselves that we are enough as we are. We truly live in such a visual world. People will constantly judge others based on their appearances, and it’s inescapable that the first impression we have of someone often comes from their physical appearances. But, we have to go beyond the surface and remember that every person we care about, we couldn’t care less about what they look like. I really hope if you are on a journey of healing and having a healthy relationship with your body, that you will realize how beautifully made you are.

When you go through a stressful period in your life or a hard season, know that there are people who care about you. I know that when I went through depression, I often felt like nobody cared and that there wasn’t a way out. But, there are so many people who love you, and often the first step is reaching out to others. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to talk about these things. Those who matter in our lives, are the ones who won’t judge you for your experiences. When I’m reminding myself of what’s important in life, I like to think of the words from The Little Prince: Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye. If you are reading this and going through a hard time, know that wherever you are in your life you are enough.

You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you. Song of Songs 4:7

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14

Articles:

Why it’s not Always Smart to Lead with a Physical Compliment

What an eating disorder IS and ISN’T

Top 4 Things Recovery Has Taught Me

We Are Afraid Of Showing Vulnerability

I was sitting in a tutorial last week, and my dear friend said something that was so gold and rang with so much truth. We were supposed to be having a class discussion about social media dating, but it somehow led to social media, friendship and uni life. I raised my hand and said, “I feel like it’s hard to make friends at uni sometimes because I’ve had experiences of introducing myself to other people, just being friendly and I get the feeling that they’re not interested, that they think they’re too cool for this.” It raises the thoughts about how we make friends now, how we interact with people and self-presentation of having everything ‘together’ online. The people I’ve got to know more and felt blessed to meet at uni, have been the ones where we weren’t afraid to be vulnerable and weren’t afraid to open up. Friendship is about being able to open ourselves up, and show that we don’t have it all together, and that’s okay.

My friend said that there are a lot of people who are scared to be vulnerable. There are lots of people who are trying to show that they don’t need to make new friends because they’re not lonely and they’ve got their own group of friends already. The idea of appearing cool and seeming like you have it all together is so much more common than we know. When I used to read the UOA meaningful confession page, there were so many people that talked about feeling lonely, talked about feeling lost and talked about the difficulty of making friends at uni. Showing sensitivity, vulnerability, and emotions are strangely often thought of as weaknesses. Ultimately, they give us the greatest connection and strength with people. However, we live in a society that hides behind a wall of expressing our emotions. I truly think this is why mental health, from anxiety and depression, are affecting more and more young people.

Growing up, I rarely said ‘I love you’ to my parents. An aspect that may play in part to this, is that generally speaking, in Chinese culture, we don’t tend to express those feelings. The love tends to be shown through one’s actions. It wasn’t until my parents separated, and after I left home that I would always make sure to say ‘I love you’ before saying goodbye. I read here, that Any strength that lies outside of vulnerability is a façade built by fear. There is so much truth to that because the true strength one expresses comes from the heart. It is honest and doesn’t hide behind a wall. What we think in our mind, is the reality we create and the world that we see. Every person is a sensitive being.

There is this gentle reminder, that everyone is going through or has been through their own hurt, their own battles, their own weaknesses and their own seasons of ups and downs. Coming back to Social Media, I do find that it’s easy to build an image of happiness. However, in reality, we all have things that we need the courage and faith to open up about. Nobody is perfect, no matter what it seems. More than ever, I think Social Media can sometimes be a reflection of the fears that we have. The feeling of not belonging, the fear of rejection and the need to be accepted. We may deny it, but this goes back to when I said about it being hard sometimes to make friends at uni. When my dear friend sat beside me, she was plucking up the courage, even if that meant the risk of rejection. I’m grateful because she’s one of my closest friends.

I think we always have to take a risk because it could lead to something great. If it doesn’t, at least you tried and didn’t wonder what if? You have to know in your heart, that you are good enough, you are beautiful enough, you are intelligent enough without the need for external validation. As sensitive souls, we are constantly interacting with people every day, and the thing that divides us from others is if we think they are against us. If we fear judgment then we may end up judging the person, or closing ourselves off from them. It can be hard, but if we learn to gradually open up our hearts, that is when we build true connections.

When you are vulnerable, you are embracing the ability to be your true self.

Art by Yelena Bryksenkova

New Zealand Ethical Fashion: Maggie Marilyn

Maggie Marilyn is a New Zealand based contemporary fashion brand that launched in September 2016. Maggie designs pieces that are not only effortless and beautiful but are considerate of being an ethical and environmentally conscious brand in the fashion industry. The brand works with local manufacturers, and skilled craftsman that make up the small and innovative industry we have today. A combination of strong tailoring, distinct colour palettes, and youthful charm, the Maggie Marilyn collections are delivered with a sense of confidence and modern luxury.

In 2016 she launched her collection with Net-a-Porter, and sold her pieces with them as her first stockist. The label has been designed with a focus on sustainability and ethical practice. The Maggie Marilyn girl is described as: A dreamer, quietly confident, gentle and firm in her beliefs. She is not afraid to speak the truth. Her uniqueness is matched in her elegance and timelessness. A feminist, while openly vulnerable, she is an environmentalist, pays attention to detail and fights for the underdog. Obsessively passionate, she is an optimist, and believes in the power of possibility.

http://www.maggiemarilyn.com

Featuring Season Five “We’ve Got This” and Resort 2019 

Adventures In Wellington

helenI arrived back from Wellington last night, and I felt an overwhelming sense of love and happiness. I don’t get to see my family often, and so I feel very grateful when I can. My sister and I were watching this short video that talked about how one sustains longevity and good health. The three things they said were important include: healthy social life, active lifestyle and eating a predominantly vegetarian diet. They also mentioned having some red wine. Relationships are so important in our lives. They are ultimately what give our lives purpose and meaning, as the connection we build with one another feeds our heart.

Auckland and Wellington / Growing up in Auckland and after living in Sydney, there are definitely some similarities and naturally differences. However, whenever I’ve visited Wellington, I always feel like it has a homely feeling, a place to embrace your creativity and the ease of meeting people and making new friends. Whereas in Auckland, I’ve found that there isn’t a sense of that openness, although it may also be because it’s a big city with many people. Perhaps it’s the corporate feeling that Auckland and Sydney give, but then again that’s why it’s good to explore the secret corners of cities and realise that every city has its own special touch.

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Acceptance and Stories / It’s not easy to talk about certain topics with people in our everyday lives, and that’s why having those close to you where you can talk about anything is so valuable. I think the reason why it’s not always easy, is because we live in a time where people are always going to disagree on some things. I watched a Netflix video called Nanette with Hannah Gadsby, and it nearly made me cry. It was touching, emotional and eye-opening. The stories we all hold are what ultimately connects us together. She talks about mental health, LGBTQ issues, gender and art history.

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Media representation / After watching Crazy Rich Asians my head was filled with so many thoughts and I may or may not have shed some tears. I feel like when you grew up as an Asian in a Western country, you’re never quite completely seen as one or the other. When I’m in Taiwan, most people will sense that I’m a foreigner in my mannerisms and the way I speak. When I’m in New Zealand, I will always be questioned about my ethnicity through my physical identity. I hope in ten years time that the word ‘Asian’ and ‘Black’ won’t need to be in the title of films and that it would just be a natural and normal thing to have an all Asian or an all Black cast.

In an article from Variety, it says “It’s an experience many Asian-Americans, like myself, know well. Like Rachel in the film, I’ve been accused of being a “banana” — yellow on the outside, white on the inside — a pejorative assigned to Asian-Americans who have lost touch with their roots.” I was often called a banana growing up, and when I think back to it, sadly I wasn’t fully in touch with my Chinese culture. When I was younger and went back to Taiwan, there were some things that gave me a culture shock or I didn’t quite understand why it’s done this or that way. The term banana makes me think of the term assimilation. Yet, I think it’s simply important to embrace yourself for who you are, regardless of what your accent sounds like or what you look like.

In Chinese culture, there is a desire to have harmony. This is why a lot of racism is tolerated and hidden under the covers. But, we have to speak up when it’s most crucial and we must educate and tell people when they are prejudicing, being hurtful, making assumptions and falling for stereotypes. I know that many parents who moved to New Zealand, have had to work really hard to build the path and raise their children in a new country. When I look at New Zealand’s media, it’s still predominantly white, even though we live in a multicultural society. I really hope that there will be more and more diversity in the media and that we can hear from all kinds of voices.

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Growing up as a Kiwi Asian / I was reading this article here while waiting at the boarding area at the Wellington airport. I say this often, but when we don’t experience something ourselves, we can often not see or understand the other person completely. If we open our hearts and learn to hear others stories, we can judge less and realise that every person is going through their own journey. I grew up eating Chinese food, with the occasional pasta or roast. I grew up reading Chinese books, going to Saturday Chinese classes, watching Chinese cartoons and when I first learned English as a child, it took a while to fully grasp the definition of certain words. This opened my love for reading because I became curious about learning new words.

Growing up in the countryside meant that there weren’t many Asians. In the article Rose writes “It provokes strange reactions in us, to be almost invisible in the stories we read.” This is incredibly true in the sense that growing up I rarely was exposed to literature that made me feel I could relate to completely. Like Rose, I grew up reading Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah. However, there always felt a lack of writing that was relatable to one’s own experience. When Rose talked about being at school, she says “At school I manufactured a clear divide between me and Chinese students in the International Students Block…I took this as a sign of my successful integration. I was Chinese, but I wasn’t Chinese Chinese.”

I made friends with others Kiwis and didn’t have any close Asian friends growing up. When I was in college, there was this feeling of not being able to completely relate to being a Taiwanese. Which was perhaps why I didn’t make friends with any of the Chinese international students at the time. Now that I’m older, I embrace my Chinese culture after neglecting it as a child and as a teenager. When I go back to Taiwan, I feel this deep appreciation for Chinese culture. The beautiful language, the rich history, the traditions and the stories people have to share. Rose writes “Before I spent time in China, I had never missed it. I hadn’t known what to miss … As I understood what being Chinese meant to me, I cast off a shame that had started so young that I never realised I was carrying it around.” 

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I relate to this article in many ways, and how as I am older, I feel proud of my background. Sadly, growing up being bullied for being Asian influenced my neglect of the culture. We change mindsets when we have conversations and raise awareness. The last excerpt I want to share by Rose reads “I want more narratives that don’t come from Pākehā-centric worldviews. I want to hear about the different experiences of being Asian in Auckland, Invercargill and Hawera. I want to know where the model minority stereotype falls flat, I want to know how East Asian privilege affects brown Asians. And most importantly, I want to read about things that I don’t know the existence of yet.” I think that the more we share out stories through conversations, the more we can all be understanding of one another.

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Bridging the gap / This audio clip from 95bfm talks about bridging the gap between New Zealand and Chinese international students. It’s a topic that’s incredibly important because often culture and language can create a divide, that stops international students and New Zealanders from being able to connect and become friends. I’ve been going to the Wednesday meet up that is mentioned, and it’s been a really great experience. It’s good to be encouraging and help others with their English. I think of my parents and other parents that moved to New Zealand from China and Taiwan, and how they had to build their path while learning English. Language can make us feel a sense of belonging, and ultimately a sense of connection.

Azure’s Cat Helen

Why We Should Read More Books

The magic of reading is that it allows you to expand your mind, use your imagination and learn something new. It helps you gain a new perspective, go on adventures and leave your comfort zone. Reading brings emotions, thoughts, and ideas to ponder on. Books were a special part of my childhood, from the bedtime stories, trips to the library and getting lost in another world. When I was younger, there were shelves of books and magazines at home. We had many National Geographic magazines, all the way from the 1980’s, and I liked to sit on the floor and read them. On the shelves were classics from Anne Frank’s Diary, The Call of the Wild, The Little Prince, Jane Eyre, Animal Farm and The Catcher in the Rye.

During high school, I went through a stage where I read a lot of books by Jane Austen and Shakespeare. Reading teaches us the virtue of patience, empathy, loyalty, kindness, humility, courage, respect and so forth. There are characters that go through a journey that we’re invited to go along with. I’ve found reading to be really helpful in improving one’s writing, even though I’m still working on my grammar. Every author has their own style of writing, and it’s good to be exposed to different styles. Writing is therapeutic, but reading relaxes the mind. It allows you to truly stay in the present, reading each word as it comes, yet being able to completely escape into somewhere else in your imagination.

Books require us to use our imagination. It creates a quiet space, which is important to have during the day. I also find that reading before going to sleep can really help with falling asleep quicker, and also the exposure to less screen time. When I use digital technology at night time, I find my mind is more active, but when I read more at night, the mind tends to be more relaxed. We can learn something new from the characters and stories. A lot of new words I’ve picked up over the years are from reading, whether it’s from a fiction book, textbook, magazine or online article. When we read it stimulates our brain, and it also helps us to momentarily focus on something else.

I’ve found this to be very healing, as it’s helped so much in lessening my anxiety. Anxiety is created when we place too much focus on ourselves and create worry in our mind. Reading fills our mind with different stories, and we can gain more perspective on life. It’s also a great way to connect with someone if you’ve both read the same book, and you can talk about the story, ideas, and characters. The best thing about books is that there is something for everyone, because of the endless amount of genres. Have you ever felt that books tend to be more colourful in your mind, compared to when you see a movie version? Although there may be exceptions to some films, I’ve always found that the books are always more detailed and graphic in the mind. Our imagination is so powerful.

Reading helps to improve your memory and ability to focus. It requires attention in order to know what’s happening, and your memory improves as you follow along each chapter. When you read, it’s a process of focusing on the page. I find that if we use our digital devices, it’s easier to get distracted because of the different functions. However, a book just requires us to read each page to the next. Enjoying the simple joys in life is one of the ultimate reasons to read more. I still like to read picture books sometimes when I go to the bookstore or sit in the library. I don’t think you’re ever too old to read children books, or too young to read a long fiction novel if you want to. Reading is a wonderful hobby to have and it’s a great way to fill the free time during the day.

What are some of your favourite books?

How Do You Identify Yourself?

This is a thought that’s been on my mind, ever since I’ve been curious to discover more about my cultural roots. My family background originates from China, with my grandparents originating from Shanghai, Hunan and Xiamen. My parents were born in Taiwan. However, it’s interesting how there is always this desire to identify oneself. We are all so unique as individuals. These ideas of identity are social constructions, yet they often help us feel a sense of belonging in a group.

Taiwan and New Zealand are where my family are. Taiwan is where I’ve visited once or twice a year since I was four years old. New Zealand is where I was born and raised, and so both places have a special place in my heart, and are where I call home. Growing up, I didn’t have any close Asian friends, and most of my friends were White/Eurasian. When I moved out of home and into the city at sixteen, I realised that there was a huge Asian community in the city.

When I meet people, I introduce myself as Katie. My Chinese name is 郭天仁, and the 郭 ( guō) literally means a wall surrounding the city. It’s one of the most common Chinese surnames. Many of the people who have the surname are descendants of Han Chinese. The word 天 (tiān) means sky, heaven and God. The word 仁 (rén) means kindness, benevolent and righteous. I was named by my 奶奶 (Grandmother), and even though I’m not often called by my Chinese name, it holds a special place in my heart.

My Chinese name is considered quite gender neutral, or maybe a bit tomboy because it’s not a very feminine name. Some of the ways that I identify myself: a woman, daughter, sister, niece and friend. I’m a Taiwanese New Zealander, but I’m also Chinese because of my family background. I’m a creative, independent, understanding, caring, kind and empathetic person. There is a way that people perceive one another in the public, but I always feel like there’s this mystery in each person.

We don’t really know anyone, really. It’s not until we dig deeper, spend time getting to know someone and opening up to friends that we can see beneath the layers. No matter what, it’s only you and you alone that holds your identity. It goes for our attitude in life, and whether we identify ourselves as a positive, hardworking and engaging person or the opposite. Identity can have huge affects in our daily life, because they can affect our thoughts and actions.

The importance is not to limit yourself. I think of New Zealand, and how anyone who calls it home here are a Kiwi. It doesn’t matter if you moved here a year ago or have spent a life time here. It’s also small things, such as when I hear someone is vegetarian or don’t eat much meat, I feel glad that they may share similar values in that respect. I don’t think our job title, income and materials define us. I think it’s our actions, how we treat one another, where we call home and the language we speak that can be parts of our identity.

Most of all our personality, because that’s something that’s completely different in every person. I love being in nature, and consider myself a sensitive person. I used to be painfully shy when I was a child, but I was completely myself at home, and was silly, cheeky and laughed a lot. But it sort of shows how it’s so easy for the outside world to see one another a certain way, but there are certain parts of ourselves that won’t always be revealed to everyone.

Photography by Sun Jun

Growing Up As An Asian In New Zealand

Everyone has different experiences growing up, and we have a diverse mixture of cultures in New Zealand. A little background about me is that I was born and raised in New Zealand, and spent most of my life living by the beach, on the farm and now in the city. I consider Auckland a country town, which means that it is still considered a small city (or I like to call it a big little city) with a diverse amount of people and cultures. This is more of a ramble of spontaneous thoughts.

I have had funny experiences of being mistaken for another Asian person. Last year, I had a lovely coworker who worked different shifts. A customer came in and said “You made my coffee yesterday,” and I was a bit confused, and said that I hadn’t worked that day. Then I realised it was my other coworker, who happens to be Asian even though we don’t look alike. This was amusing. This used to happen regularly in my high school Maths class, when the teacher would call me by the Japanese boy’s name who was in the same class.

When I was interviewed by a Fine Arts student for her project, I was asked if I felt more Taiwanese or Kiwi. At first, it was a difficult question to answer on the spot. We had an interesting discussion about living in New Zealand as an Asian, and the experiences that can come with it. I feel a mixture of both. Growing up in New Zealand I never saw many Asians in advertising or media. It was mostly when I watched Taiwanese television or Chinese films. I do feel that this is gradually changing more now, and it’s good that there are more brands that are reaching a wider audience, but I do hope there will be even more increasing diversity in the media.

Growing up, there was the occasional casual racism and stereotypes about Asians. Most of the time, it simply comes from a place of ignorance and not understanding different cultures. Although, most of the time they were expressed in a joking way, and I used to just laugh a long at school, even though it’d get quite repetitive from hearing the same thing. Growing up, most of my friends were Caucasian, as there weren’t as many Asians in the small town I grew up in. There isn’t as many people who love cute things, at least not so common for those who are in their 20’s. It’s so normal in Asia.

There are times where I like to let people guess what my background is, as it always tends to come with a lot of interesting guesses. Everything from Thai, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Singaporean, Japanese, Korean, Laos, Filipino, Malaysian, Chinese and Indonesian. I feel extremely grateful to have grown up eating a lot of delicious Chinese and Taiwanese dishes, as well as Western food. It’s amazing how much food can bring so much nostalgia.

It’s far more relaxed in New Zealand, and I’m grateful for it when I think about my experience of education. In Asia, studying and working can become stressful and the lifestyle is not like the one in New Zealand. An important advice is to retain your mother tongue, never lose it, because English can be taught at school and picked up, so there really isn’t any need to teach it at home. From personal experience, I only speak Mandarin at home, and when I started going to primary school I picked up English very quickly. Language is an important part of your culture, and if you are an Asian Kiwi, embracing your mother tongue and the English language can really strengthen that bond.

I went through a period of my teenage years where I didn’t fully embrace my Asian side, and it’s something that at the time was a form of conformity in a way. However, I really embrace my Taiwanese/Chinese side now. I grew up learning Mandarin first, and was very quiet when I started going to school. We would go to Chinese school every Saturday. When I was younger, my lunch box food would be filled with red bean buns, fried rice, dumplings and other asian foods with different smells. You will always (inescapably) be asked the question “Where are you from?” although I don’t get asked very often now.

I was placed into ESOL (English for Speakers Of Other Languages), when I was 8 or 9. Thinking back, I can understand it because I was extremely shy and quiet, which can be a quick assumption that I didn’t know any English. Being one of the only Asians at school, I faced my first lessons looking at images of animals. I was no longer in ESOL after that first lesson haha. As an Asian brought up in a Western country, I didn’t feel fully Asian for a significant part of my teen years. It’s difficult to express that feeling.

When I visited guest’s homes, I was surprised as a young girl that some people wore shoes inside the house. It’s a custom in Taiwan (and many other Asian cultures) to provide slippers for guests. In many Asian cultures, we call our elders Auntie or Uncle as a sign of respect. It is extremely rare to call an elder by their first name. Respecting the elders is heavily taught from a young age. Another thing I learned was how high my tolerance for spicy food was. I grew up in a household where at least one or two dishes each night would have spices in them.

Having subtitles on was a huge habit from a young age. It was because my parents did it ever since they arrived in New Zealand, and that was one of the ways they learned English. I remember sleeping over at a friends house, and before bed time she would always say “I love you” to her Mum. As a teenager, it felt strange to me, because (as some people may be able to relate), in Asian culture many people are less likely to say I love you to their parents. However, after being long distance from my parents for so many years now, I always say it!

One thing I wish to tell people is to treat everyone how you’d like to be treated. Also, the importance of not making assumptions. Be respectful of different cultures, even if you cannot understand why people do things a certain way. Travelling is important, because seeing different parts of the world and absorbing different cultures allows you to open your eyes. I truly feel so grateful to be able to grow up with two cultures, that have intertwined in a way in my life that has made it colourful and exciting. We are all people who live in this beautiful country. A New Zealander is someone who lives here and feels at home. That’s the most simple way I can put it.

How To Buy Less And Support Ethical Fashion

We live in a consumer society where the media and advertising industry is telling us that we lack something in our lives, which can only be fulfilled through purchasing a product. In the Fashion Industry, fast fashion is constantly encouraging consumers to buy clothes they don’t necessarily need. I’ve previously written about minimalism, because I find that when it comes to the clothes we purchase, we should take a simple approach. The clothes we have should have quality, longevity and reflect our personal style. They should be an investment, rather than a passing object that will be gone in a years time. Most of my clothes are second hand, because in my teenage years, I realised the side effects of purchasing fast fashion.

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‘Home’ by goddess @lordnewry_ 🌞

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The clothes we wear have a story. Often it’s untold, and we may not know it’s background or the person who made the piece of clothing. I think it’s important to support businesses who practice what they preach, are transparent, live and breathe a positive and honest approach and have an ethos that strives to bring awareness in having a piece of clothing to treasure (not throw). When we buy less, and buy carefully and thoughtfully, we have pieces of clothing that truly reflect who we are. We don’t conform to trends, but we wear what feels most ourself.

Buying less saves money, and it also allows one to spend time to buy in places which have good values. It allows you to stop for a moment, and consider the company you are supporting and how much clothing end up in landfills. There is this desire to buy, because we are always introduced to the new, exciting and colourful. We are told that we shouldn’t be seen wearing the same thing often, but I think it should be the opposite, in that we should wear our favourite clothing as many days as we love. I think of during the colder days, where I can wear the same outfit for 2 or 3 days, by mix matching.

There is a lot of leftover clothing. When I go thrift shopping, the overwhelming amount of clothes that are looking for a new home is huge. The fashion industry thrives on mass production and as a result, mass consumption. It profits off of it, and it also in a way, thrives off telling us that we are always in need of more. However, in many aspects of our lives, we have what we need. For example, if we have a comfortable home, food and loving friends and family, we don’t have that desire to keep seeking more. We’re deeply satisfied. Yet, the media feeds us sensations to persuade us that we deserve to feel good, but only temporarily, which in turn, makes one always striving to feel that level of satisfaction.

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Repost from @fash_rev. 💚 No one should die for fashion. But five years today, 24 April 2013, the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed. 1,138 people died and another 2,500 were injured, making it the fourth largest industrial disaster in history. There were five garment factories in Rana Plaza all manufacturing clothing for big global brands. The victims were mostly young women. Earlier that morning, workers were threatened with loss of their monthly pay if they did not proceed into Rana Plaza to work. Despite the cracks being identified the day before and their requests to not return to the factory floors, without any form of union representation they had no collective strength to stand up for themselves. There were 29 brands identified in the rubble. It would take years for some of them to pay compensation. For some families, providing DNA evidence to claim that compensation, would never be possible. To this day a high percentage of survivors are unemployed and suffer from severe trauma. Today is the reason we need a Fashion Revolution. Today we think of the true cost of our clothing. The hands that make our garments and the families they belong to and the stories that they carry. Today over at @fash_rev they will be sharing stories of garment workers from the Rana Plaza collapse and looking at what’s changed since 24.04.13. Please follow along and encourage others to join this vital movement 🙏🏽 Let’s show the industry we care about the people who make our clothes. Ask brands #whomademyclothes? www.fashionrevolution.org #fashionrevolution #tradefairlivefair Repost @fash_rev

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There are many clothing companies that are raising more awareness on transparency. Where we spend our money, is essentially who we are supporting. Spending can be a form of addiction, and the satisfaction of buying materials can become a habit. Everything requires balance. Invest in well-made materials. It’s easy to buy cheap clothing, and feel good because we can look good. There’s so much behind the scenes, and it’s easy for us to let it slide by when we ignore it. The more we question #whomademyclothes the more we can encourage companies to improve their standards.

Buying less, is asking oneself, do I need this? It’s also considering if you have a piece of clothing of similar style. I’ve found from buying clothing nearly every week as a teenager, to buying two or three times a year, it’s a huge change. The clothes I wear are long lasting, whereas in the past, the clothes bought from fast fashion companies, were disposed of in the end of the year. It’s made me more confident in my own personal style, and allowed me to save money and shop more consciously.

What are your thoughts on clothing consumption? 

Photography by Merab Chumburidze 

A New Zealander’s Story On Being Chinese

I finished reading Being Chinese – A New Zealander’s Story by Helene Wong in two days, and it really made me think about my own background, experiences and thoughts on being a New Zealander. Wong was born in Taihape, with a mixture of second and third generation in her family, and in her book, she explores her family history. She shares her experiences in acting and theatre, and the stereotypes and often lack of authentic representation that occur within the industry. I really encourage anyone to read this book, as it really makes you think about the importance of cultivating a society that treats everyone the same. It’s something we should all strive for. It makes one reflect on their own background and the portrayal of Asians in the arts and media.

Being Chinese final cover lr

I think about how when I was younger, I sometimes never felt quite completely Taiwanese, when I was in Taiwan, and yet not quite completely Kiwi when I was in New Zealand because of my appearances. Even though I was born and raised here. There is a sentence in Wong’s book where she writes “I ask myself, just how Chinese am I?”, and as she writes about her childhood, there were many parts that I could relate to and I believe many Asian Kiwi’s may have also experienced.  

Growing up, there was this feeling of Other as my last name would say. There would be the constant mispronunciations during school assemblies and prize giving, yet it was something I simply got used to. In Chapter 3 titled ‘I never think of you as Chinese’, she shares a story in which someone said those words to her. She talks about assimilation, and it made me think about an English paper I took last year, where I did an essay on Amy Tan’s essay on Mother Tongue. It made me think about accents, and how often I noticed growing up that because my parents had Asian accents when they spoke English, they were perceived a certain way compared to an Asian with a Kiwi accent.

I related to Wong’s love for writing, as English was always one of my favourite subjects, and I loved writing essays, reading books and spending time thinking and analysing about texts and meanings. Wong talks about how because of one’s physical identity, we will be viewed a certain way. It made me think of when I was placed into ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) in primary school, even though my English is fluent. It makes me think about how because of the way one looks, I will always be inescapably asked where I am from. If we look at the arts, media, advertising and many other industries in New Zealand, we have to emphasise that there is a need for more representation.

Wong writes about the films she grew up watching, and how often stereotypes and whitewashing occurred. She writes “…there only for their ‘Chineseness’. Worse, if they were anything more than exotic colour and had dialogue, the parts were usually played by white actors in slitty-eyed yellowface. They made me squirm with anger. Despite evidence all around us of Chinese people doing the same things as everyone else – in my own family, occupations ranged from nurse to architect, hairdresser to psychologist – Chinese were never cast in these roles.” She talks about food, as she writes “…when the look, taste, texture, fragrance and sound of a dish all came together it was art, and eating it brought a burst of joy.”

When the nineties arrived, there was an increase in immigration. Wong talks about how during this time, she really became ‘Asian’. She talks about the media stories in 1989 about immigrants, which used the phrase ‘Asian Invasion.’ She writes that “White New Zealanders were suddenly seeing more Chinese faces on the street…They did not say the same of the South Africans who were also arriving in the country under the same immigration policy. Chinese were too different – in looks, speech, behaviour.” She continues to write that “The Sinophobia also came from longstanding beliefs in the West that Chinese were inferior.” When people deny this, they roll everything under the carpet to keep it quiet. However, I really believe that we need to speak about it more.

The term ‘casual racism’ is used, and I think about how often it comes from ignorance and unintentional offense, and other times it’s overt and covered as a joke. It really starts with accepting and being respectful of everyone’s differences. Every individual person is so unique, full of layers and has a beautiful story to tell.  Auckland is one of the most culturally diverse cities, and being born and raised here, I call it my home. However, there is still a lot of room for improvement and change, and I believe that we can and we will see more diversity in the arts and media industry.

Photography by Sun Jun

The Way We Dress Affects How People Treat Us

Dressing well is a form of self care. I talked to a friend of mine, and we had a really interesting conversation about how we present ourselves, how people treat us when we dress well and she told me how she believes that dressing well is a form of self care. The words really stuck with me, because they ring so much truth. She was telling me about her experience, in which when she entered a clothing store, she was wearing jeans and a top. During that day, the retail assistant didn’t acknowledge her. The next day, she was wearing a stylish outfit that was very much in her style, and the retail assistant paid attention and approached her to ask if she needed help.

I know this can sound terribly shallow, because shouldn’t someone regardless of the way they look be treated the same? Absolutely, I think we should always treat others fairly. However, it’s also common that we will assume what someone might be like, based on what they wear. As this is most often the first impression. There is a psychology behind the way we dress from the colours we wear. As I watched the video here, it does have a point. I do believe that to an extent, the way we dress and present ourselves will affect how others treat us. Clothes are a form of self expression that speaks for itself.

As I previously mentioned, I do feel that we shouldn’t judge someone for the way they dress. However, I also do feel that the way you dress is also an expression for how you feel about yourself. This means, if a person wears jandals, sweats and a jersey all the time, they might not be taken quite as seriously as a person wearing a tailored dress and flats. When we are presented as clean and tidy, we are more likely to be treated with respect, because it shows self care to oneself. Although, when I watched The Pursuit of happyness a few years ago, there is a scene here that shows that ones true character, attitude and ability is through who they are, not their clothes.

It’s good to look at both sides to gain perspective, because on one hand what we wear is important in presenting ourselves. On the other hand, we should be judged by our character and abilities, and not the way we look. We have power in choosing how to present ourselves to the world, through this silent language of fashion. The Huffington Post article says “Your style and the clothes you choose reflect and affect your mood, health, and overall confidence.” I think fashion can be empowering, when we fully embrace our personal style. It creates a natural confidence in knowing who we are.

This is why I don’t tend to wear bright colours or patterned and printed clothing, as most of them don’t tend to reflect my personality or how I feel about myself. I feel most myself when I wear black, navy, grey, brown, dark colours or denim. Black clothing takes up 90% of my wardrobe, because I feel that I suit it the most. It makes me feel clean cut, stylish and effortless. The colour psychology in what we wear can really make a difference in how we feel about ourselves, and how others will feel. I find wearing dark colours makes me feel organised, chic and well groomed.

I remember talking to a coworker, and he said he literally judges books by its cover, and I said to be honest, so do I. I may be more attracted to covers that have an artwork that I like, the colours that they use or a photograph that really speaks to me. We were talking about book covers, but it made me think about how what we wear is similar to the way we look at book covers. We may judge in that split second, what the content may be, in terms of what someone might be like. First impressions are important when it comes to how we dress, and after that it’s really getting to know someone for who they are.

Think of when you went on your first date, your first interview and your first dance. You probably made effort in grooming yourself a certain way, to present yourself for the occasion. In the video above, it talks about how dressing well is not only a sign of respect for yourself, but also for those around you. I do agree, and I also truly believe that dressing well can affect our emotional well being. I remember when I was freelancing, I would still get dressed in the morning as if I was going to an office. It made my mindset more focused on working, rather than staying in my pajamas.

Art by Renée Gouin