It’s trite but hear us out: what really is self-love?
We preface this issue by addressing the recent attacks against Asian Americans. Such crimes committed against our community, especially during celebrations of Chinese New Year, show how race cannot simply be dismissed. We need to confront that race impacts us deeply and is no excuse for us to be complacent in politics, activism, or anywhere where inequality exists. Wandering around Providence this week, I saw a sign graffitied with the words, “China Eat Dog.” It reminded me that although I have privileges as an Asian American, I am still seen first and foremost by my race and am stereotyped for it. Although self-love is integral to accepting your race, it is not the solution to these attacks. That being said…
A lot of our readers have expressed how they grapple with their Asianness and learn to love themselves. I always found quotes such as “When life gives you a dumpster fire, roast marshmallows” tacky because self-love felt more intricate than that. I needed to confront why I criticized my appearance, my culture, and my relationships. These insecurities had intertwined with my conscience. Slowly, I learned that self-care didn’t have to mean “taking time to make my soul happy” or “falling in love with myself.” It could simply mean allowing myself to take time, pause, and reflect. I hope reading this issue allows you to do the same. “Love is the absence of judgment.”
“I saw two people made of gold dancing the earth's dances. They turned so perfectly that together they were the axis of the earth's turning. They were light; they were molten, changing gold – Chinese lion dancers, African lion dancers in midstep. I heard high Javanese bells deepen in midring to Indian bells, Hindu Indian, American Indian.”
––– Maxine Hong Kingston
"My boyfriend told me that he loved my eyes, and the first thing that I thought was how that could be true, since they were small."
My boyfriend told me that he loved my eyes, and the first thing that I thought was how that could be true since they were small. Up until that point, I had never heard anyone say that Asian eyes were beautiful. Makeup was always about making our eyes look bigger but never smaller. Kids would pull at the corners of their eyes to mock us, and adults would call us chinks in public. How was it that he loved my eyes when everyone else seemed to hate them?
I started wearing makeup when I was 16, and I hated that I didn’t have a defined eye socket like the Youtubers that I watched. How was I supposed to wear eyeshadow? Turns out, I just wasn’t watching the right people. Asian representation in media was, and still is, scarce, and that played a big part in preventing me from seeing my own beauty.
––– Liana Chau, Chinese-American, 22
YouTuber living in San Francisco, CA
"We had broken up hundreds of times. He grew more distant, but I fell deeper in love."
For me, love has been a toxic roller coaster. This time it was my fault. I loved him so deeply, but never knew how to properly express it. I became hurtful and mean when I should have just been there for him. I became emotionally abusive when I could not deal with my own feelings. We had broken up hundreds of times. He grew more distant, but I fell deeper in love. We ended it for the last time. We tried to be friends, but that fell through. I could not understand how he was moving on and I was not.
But it was never his fault. I had been so unstable that I turned him away. For the first time, I realize that I must grow on my own. I must take accountability for my toxic behavior. My mental health journey is mine and only mine to go on.
Someday, I want to love myself without being selfish. Someday, I want to love someone else the right way. I no longer want to hurt others just because I am hurt. To the person reading this, please love yourself. A life without self-love is unfulfilling and lonely.
––– Lina, Chinese, 23
"Far too often, “the immigrant way” is used to justify emotional abuse and sweep issues of mental health in the Asian community under the rug."
Generational trauma. When my therapist puts a name to what I have been experiencing for years, I feel heard for the first time ever.
No, it’s not just simply “the immigrant way” or something I needed to go through in order to understand where my parents are coming from. It’s the fact that my mother’s grandfather beat her and told her she wasn’t good enough for her family and now she, in turn, verbally does the same to me. It’s the fact that my grandmother’s crippling fear of poverty —started by the Communist Party’s confiscation of all her property— has passed onto my father and now onto me.
Far too often, “the immigrant way” is used to justify emotional abuse and sweep issues of mental health in the Asian community under the rug —a pattern that can permeate for generations. In my family, that stops with me.
––– Elaine, Chinese, 20