Thoughtful & thought-provoking testemonial
Identity. Noun. “The condition of being oneself or itself, and not another.”
This is something that I’ve struggled with in my life as long as I can remember. I was born to two immigrant parents. One German and One Malaysian-Chinese.
Since I was young, you could say I lived the “stereotypical” first-generation Asian American childhood. Piano, viola, chinese brush-painting classes, get togethers with “family friends”. Deep down inside I always knew I belonged to my Asian heritage even though I was only half. Yet people were constantly finding ways to take that feeling away from me.
When I was younger, I had a “petite” figure, which my mother could dress me up in nice dresses (that I hated). This all changed when I hit middle school. I grew far taller than my mother, aunts and female cousins. I was the one being called “big boned.” Since my body didn’t have a similar metabolism to other asian girls my age, whenever I would gain weight I would instantly be accosted. This never really bothered me; I was a little insecure but still comfortable with my weight. That is, until I hit high school.
My freshman year, I went to a school with an accelerated program, renowned both locally and nationally. Naturally, the school attracted a diverse student body. I went in knowing very few people and found myself attached to the familiar. The Asian Girls. A group of six or so girls who had known each other through Chinese school and other various gatherings. I was the tallest, the widest and the most non-stereotypical “Tiny Little Asian Girl.”
This came to their attention very quickly and was pointed out at every opportunity. To me, it seemed like every time one of them felt they were lacking an aspect of being small, fragile, graceful and adorable, they could point out that I was far less. Five plus years later, I still wonder why I put myself through that shattering of self-esteem. The worst of it came when one of the girls flat out told me to my face, “You are not like us, you are not Asian”. It seemed from that moment onwards, I have fought even harder to become one of them. Tiny, skinny, porcelain-faced, jet-black straight hair. This wound festered to the point of attempting to starve myself. Making myself miserable to please those who used me to boost their own self-esteem.
Even to this day, I’ve struggled with my identity. Yes, I am not a “Tiny Little Asian Girl.” I’m proud to be an Asian-American Woman, regardless if I fit a stereotype or not. My best advice to girls who are struggling with their own identities is to cultivate your own image of yourself. Don’t let others or the media put a label on what you “should be.” Be yourself. Love yourself. Peace, Love, APIA.