About a month ago, a girl online called me a “fat Asian”. Not to my face, not even through my own social media, but to her ex-boyfriend, through his social media.
I was sitting on the toilet, completely hung-over, literally, my head was through my legs and I checked my Instagram (If I like your photo, there is a 60% that I am on the toilet at the time) and I got an unexpected message request telling me in multiple messages that this boy who was in my bed had a girlfriend. “Fuck”, I exhaled, looked in the mirror and repeated, “fuck”. When I am hung-over, my vocabulary is as unpleasant as my stomach.
I walked into my bedroom; feeling quite discouraged and showed him the messages. He told me that he wasn’t seeing her anymore, but at this point I just wanted to leave and get on my flight to Miami with my best friends, so that’s what I did. I continued to receive nasty messages from the girl who I didn’t know; followed by apologies from the boy I pretty much didn’t know either. He sent me a screenshot of a particular message that she had sent him, “you fucked a fat Asian”. Ouch… I probably shouldn’t have just eaten that dirty bacon and egg sandwich, followed by French fries and chocolate milk. Whoops.
This got me thinking about perception and social media and until more recently, what it means to be a confident woman. To be honest, I wasn’t disheartened because I felt in any way shamed, I was disheartened because I couldn’t believe that someone, another girl, could say something like that about me straight off the bat. It was kind of fucked up and the even more fucked up part of it is that this happens to an unimaginable number of individuals – where some people accept that it is unfair to call someone they don't know “unkind”, so they feed off aspects of someone’s body image because that is what is proven “factual”, even to go as far as using their own ethnicity as an insult. Like... Real talk. It's 2017. Are you kidding me?
Considering I have only lived for nineteen full years, it’s bizarre to me that I have only really started accepting who I am in the past few years. I’ve always been a late bloomer; I was the kid who was the last of my friends to go through puberty… (I’m still questioning as to whether or not I actually went through it). I used to stare at my flat chest before looking to the sky and tell God that he was so rude for not giving me boobs. I was 10 when I first felt what it was like to feel humiliated in my own skin. The boys would point at me and call me “flat chested” and laugh at me for “not having boobs”. They weren’t lying, I was flat chested, but why is it that as a 10-year-old girl, I automatically learnt that by not having any boobs meant that I was allowed to be disrespected – that my body equated to insults. I thought that I would show them that I didn’t care by asking them why their “dick was on their head instead of in their pants”, but that probably wasn’t the most principled comeback.
This insecurity of mine sort of crept through high school, until the end when I met my first boyfriend, who wholeheartedly told me that he loved my body and the more that I grew bored of caring what other people thought, the more I realised how brilliant my chest was because it meant that I didn’t have to wear a bra in contrast to me dealing with the discomfort of wearing the wrong size bra in primary school. He filled my body with love and I can’t remember thinking about my body image negatively for a long time… Until he kissed another girl. This was a (not so) gentle reminder that my thighs did touch and my boobs were small, and I was (still am), in fact, Asian. I didn’t know what the girl looked like that he kissed, but I imagined her to be a thin, beautiful white girl. Now, don’t get me wrong, he was and still is a wonderful guy, but this situation completely threw me. I hadn’t felt insecure in my own skin in a long time and suddenly, I was and once again, it was based entirely off what other people might have thought of me. I perceived myself differently – I lacked a lot of confidence. I questioned my own image, more than the morals of those around me and somehow along the way, I assumed that the distance between my legs, eyes and hips were probably to blame.
But what did I even think of myself?
This is something that has led me to this question: Do we perceive ourselves as who we are, or who we think other people think we are? Think about it.
I’m a jump the gun sort of a girl. I’ll see someone I really fancy “like” a super hot Instagram famous model’s bikini photo, see that she’s following him and be 100% convinced that she is his secret wife and holds their third child, named Beatrice. I immediately judge myself and compare my body, face and ethnicity to theirs. It is pleasing to know myself enough to recognize that I am not an insecure person or ashamed of being who I am, but even still, it remains an unconscious habit to assume that I have less value than the person I don’t know on my phone screen. Even if it’s for a split second before I scroll down to the next image of sick sequined top that I think I’d look rad in and tag my friend in it and forget that I even doubted myself. Nonetheless, the unconscious routine remains.
How many times have you seen an image of what society believes is “desirable” and compared yourself to them for even a second? It’s as if we are walking through life letting external influences remind us of our up-to-date image, instead of using our own beliefs and pride fuel positive thoughts about our, well, forever image, because let’s face it, you are never not going to be in anyone else’s skin but yours, so you may as well love the shit out of it. You were born with a completely unique genetic make-up to the person standing next to you and I think that is pretty amazing.
So back to me being a “fat Asian”.
I thought to myself, “Is this who I am perceived as? Is this really what my Instagram conveys?” Pffffft, NO! Of course not! This was the opinion of one very angry girl who jumped the gun and probably feels pretty bad now. This is not what defines who I am. If she had called me a “bitch”, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it, if she had called me, “stupid”, I would have maybe made a meme out of it, so why did calling me a “fat Asian” prompt me to write this?
I think about my best friends who are women who inspire me. One of the first people that come to mind is Caroline. The reason that she inspires me is because she is completely confident in her own beautiful skin and therefore she is powerful – Powerful enough to influence tens of thousands of girls who follow her social media in the most positive way possible. Caroline is confident because she knows she is NOT a bitch, she knows that she is NOT stupid and you know what else? She knows that she is beautiful in her own genetic make-up. Plenty of women know the first two about themselves, yet feeling happy in their own body remains the most difficult to conquer. I think it’s important to realise that beauty is not just external, but that intelligence and humanity also radiates through and exudes a confident woman.
We have been bought up in a society where poking at the way somebody else looks is easier than taking a look at yourself. We are living in a time where it may be difficult to feel truly happy in our own skin so we search for validation from somebody else, whether it’s a companion or a fucking “like” on Instagram. Somewhere along the way, what other people thought of me became a distraction and I wondered if his or her opinion gave a damn to me. The answer is yes, they did give a damn but will they continue to give a damn? No. It's funny to me now that I used to be insecure about not having big boobs in primary school, because now, I wouldn't have it any other way, just like I'm sure in 20 years I will laugh at my insecurities now. But my point isn't that you will "look back and laugh", it's that why can't we just laugh now?
What matters in the end is how you look in the mirror and perceive yourself and I’m not talking about how you perceive yourself based on a collection of opinions that has lead you to believe that is who you are. Who do you know you are? A woman who knows herself enough to trust her own judgment of herself exudes confidence. So go tell that badass bitch (because you already know you are not a bitch) in the mirror, that she fucking rocks and then, I don't know, go dance to David Bowie!