Recently, I have been struggling with my perception of myself. Even though I have a wildly supportive network of friends who reassure me that I am indeed attractive and that chances are I will not die alone under a sea of cats. Unfortunately, I have lived a long time building comparisons and feeding and internalizing commonly held beliefs that have all at once rushed to the surface of my consciousness. This is me facing those mistaken beliefs and fucking smothering them into nothingness.
As a Latina Asian, I have always been torn between these two identities. One is outspoken, loud, vivacious, and kisses strangers on the cheeks to say hello. The other, respects anyone who is older, is quiet, reserved, and apparently good at math (not really, not yet). These are of course, manifestations of cultural/personality stereotypes. Then there are the physical stereotypes.
A Latina woman is supposed to be round and curvy and a full-bodied goddess. “Supposedly.” An Asian woman, as expressed in pop culture, is supposed to be slim and dainty. Actually, the more “White” looking the more attractive you will be perceived: tall, slim, pale. I have always been a healthy eater. I EAT WHATEVER I WANT. In fact, I spent the last two days eating pizza. Anyways, I am curvier than the typical Asian or so I was led to believe by unnecessary remarks from peers growing up. It has been a sore point for me to have weight-loss be suggested and, heck, I am thankful to have boobs so screw it all.
So I was standing by the mirror wondering where all my insecurity was coming from. Why, despite, finding myself attractive, I could not find myself worthy of attraction from potential lovers. Then it hit me that I stereotype myself. I stereotype myself HARD. And in the most confusing ways.
The stereotype that all Asians look alike had left me imprinted with the idea that I’m not memorable, that people will miss me in the streets, that they will mistake me for someone else and it took me until late into my high school career to realize that I am noticed. I felt invisible for a long time. I pick and choose traits from my two halves. I’m outspoken on one end, but I should dress and apply makeup like an ABG (Asian Baby Girl, whatever the hell that is). I don’t do the ABG thing, makeup is hella expensive. I should be a sensual, curvy Latina woman, but also be slim and tiny like an Asian woman. I was being torn apart by the qualities that I felt I ought to have. In reality I was using stereotypes as a template in building my perception and it’s all wrong.
I’m beautiful. Not because I embody stereotypes of Latina traits or Asian traits or because I’m the most awkwardly honest person you will ever meet. I am beautiful because I believe I am. It doesn’t matter who agrees or disagrees with me. It matters that I believe it and that I walk out into the world and make others believe it about themselves. I am beautiful because I like to help people, because I like to nap with my cat, and I own a collection of animal hats and jackets. I am beautiful because my moral compass has not been tarnished, yet and hopefully never. I am beautiful because stereotypes are a terrible thing and they don’t apply to me or anybody. I am what I choose to be, not what I think I’m supposed to be. I’m not supposed to be anything, but myself. And I get to choose who and what that is.
I thought that because I was culturally mixed, that I was different enough to escape the confines of any box. That I couldn’t be caged by walls of assumptions. Turns out that I had been doing it to myself and that every time I ran into one of these invisible barriers, it hurt, and I didn’t know why or what was happening. Now I know and the door is visible for me to step through and be set free to just be.
PS: To hear me read this post go to Soundcloud
Stereotypes make most (all?) of us question ourselves at times. Am I smart enough? Pretty enough? Worthy enough? Personally, stereotype threat is a very real phenomenon, and I sometimes feel anxious about my mental (and physical) abilities. It’s also difficult when society has instilled in you some notion of what your femininity is or is supposed to be… And then that can conflict with all of the other qualities you’re supposed to balance as a woman today: smart, but not *too* smart. Available, but not *too* available. Fun, but not *too* fun.
Anyway, what I know: you are a lovely and lovable person, and you have a keen mind and kind and open heart. That much is evident to anyone who knows you. Truth. ❤