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I never thought about what my personal values and principles were, at least, not explicitly.

On that topic, after a deeper dive, I realized mine have varied a fair bit in the past 3.5 years since I got to Hong Kong.

Most of you know I grew up in a dual East Asian and Western environment. The East Asian influence coming from my parents and the Western influence coming from traditional Canadian values which include freedom, integrity, acceptance and diversity. There are more, but those were the ones that spoke to me.

Freedom

The only principle I follow at the moment.

But what does freedom mean to you? It’s quite subjective, isn’t it?

For me, freedom has many fronts.

I took this concept of freedom for granted prior to moving to Hong Kong. The only worry I had was financial freedom and sustainability, but that is another topic in itself.

Chalk it up to the loneliness of being here alone.
Chalk it up to self-doubt.
Chalk it up to fear.
Chalk it up to wanting to be accepted.

I didn’t realize I put myself in an imaginary cage trying to conform to everyone’s expectations. For the past three years, my values became engrained on being the perfect Asian girl and girlfriend.

Be the good Asian girl.
Don’t talk back.
Don’t think, just do.
Be the good girlfriend.
Be as stick skinny as possible.
Shut up, sit still and look pretty.
Being a trophy wife was the ultimate goal.

That combined with an inferiority complex and perfectionism nearly destroyed me, mentally and physically.

You see, I’ve had to earn respect from others throughout my youth, proving that my background did not, would not, and should not hinder me. And often, respect is earned by being at the top. So I strived to be the best, or in my mind, to be perfect.

I was the girl who would never go to class yet ace the exams, making top grades look easy.
I was the girl who earned a coveted Investment Banking internship in first year without the help of family connections.
I was the girl who was in all the best parties and events.
I was the girl who would party nights on end, while looking fresh as a daisy come Monday.
I was the girl who took the maximum course load while balancing writing for a magazine, being in the business school fashion show, and teaching underprivileged students.
I was the girl who lived in the posh neighborhood in Downtown Toronto.
I was the girl who hosted house parties.
I was the girl who downed half a large Pepperoni pizza and still wore size 00.
I was the girl who made life look easy and effortless.

Life was good, I was supposed to be happy.

Behind the scenes, I always felt inferior.
I was never good enough.
And that manifested itself into a cycle of continually striving to do more, be more, make it look even more effortless.

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And then I came to Hong Kong.

I quickly realized the values people held here were vastly different than the ones in Canada.

Naively, I conformed to fit in.

I became obsessed with being the perfect everything. And I quickly realized it was unsustainable, and more importantly, unrealistic.

Prior to coming to Hong Kong, I never had a problem with my previous relationship in Canada, there was respect, mutual understanding and acceptance. It ended when our future goals no longer aligned with each other, mine being to move to Asia whereas he wanted to stay in Canada.

There were multiple red flags I purposely chose to ignore when I entered my previous relationship in Hong Kong.

There was respect in the beginning, which quickly dissipated and I was pushed to being the Perfect Asian Girlfriend.

Shut up, sit still and look pretty.
I say, you do.

The friendships I made in Hong Kong deteriorated.
I was no longer part of the tech startup scene that I was a fan of.

The worst part, I was fully in control of the situation.
I could have left at any moment.
But I didn’t.
I put myself in that cage.

And when I finally found the courage to leave, I opened the flood gates.
I went 150% into everything, from overbooking social events to attending every tech meet-up to mentoring multiple students to traveling solo.

It was too much, too soon.

And that’s when my body rebelled against me, hard.
My digestive system shut down completely.
I was out of commission for three months, on traditional Chinese medicine and attending weekly acupuncture sessions to stimulate the muscles to function again.

I learned a very valuable lesson.

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So what does freedom mean to me?

To be free from the trap of perfectionism.
To be free from harsh self-judgement.
To be free from self-doubt.
To be free from unnecessary guilt.
To be free from forced conformity.
To be free from feeling inferior.

To be at peace with myself.

-b.

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Back in the day, I opened a blog on Xanga to document my weight loss progress.

Little did I know, I slowly grew a following of a few hundred girls and a handful of boys. When one of my followers reached out to me about her own insecurities regarding her physical appearance, it hit me hard.

When I was a kid, I was dubbed the ugliest girl in school.
I was short.
I was overweight.
I wore thick nerd glasses.
I had pimples all over my face.
I had slits for eyes because my face was so fat.
I had greasy hair that looked unwashed for days.
I had to wear hand-me-downs that were so worn because I was poor.

I remember the pain.
I remember the tears.
I remember the darkness.
I remember the loneliness.

And I don’t want another person to feel that same way I did.

Instead of merely documenting my daily food intake and exercise regime, I decided to use the platform to share my own insecurities so that other girls could relate and feel that they weren’t fighting the battle alone.

Because everyone deserves to feel beautiful.
Because everyone has good and bad days.

Because no one deserves to go through this alone.

-b.

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On the notion of happiness, what does it mean to you?

As we close off 2017, I find myself taking steps back to reflect on the decisions I’ve made in the last year and how I can make 2018 better.

This year has definitely been one of the most rewarding yet challenging years of my life.

Career-wise, this has definitely been a year where I am proud to say I have finally accomplished all the milestones and goals I have set for myself. And it has given me a new direction of where I want to take my career next year. Being connected with students on a more personal level, understanding their insecurities about the job market has allowed me to share some of my own experiences from my youth to quell some of their fears.

It also took me back to when I first arrived to Hong Kong with nothing more than two suitcases and a backpack.

Conformity.

Two years.

This year, I took a major step back and took a close look at the sacrifices I’ve made and the person I became. I realized I did not like my reflection in the mirror. In the name of conformity, I lost my sense of self.

Silver linings.

Self-growth and reflection is difficult and painful to say the least.

But it also opens closed doors.

I left an unhealthy relationship but I learned self love.
I lost acquaintances but I gained close friends.

In the latter part of the year, I’ve learned to step away from being a perfectionist, alleviating that unnecessary stress to be 100% one-hundred-percent of the time.

And now we focus on well-being, mindfulness and inner peace.

That’s all for now.

-b.

Want


For the longest time, I’ve been thinking of what exactly I want this blog to be about.

Do I want it to be my open book?

On the other hand, I know exactly what I don’t want it to be. Back in the day, the world knew exactly how many calories I ate in a day, the breakdown of my foods and my exercise routine. For 2 years, people knew my daily weight, my progress photos and my measurements.


It motivated me to keep going, to come up with new recipe ideas, exercise routines and to look better.

Unfortunately, the ugly side reared its head.

I had 200 odd followers on my weight loss blog and a few girls decided that they were to become anorexic and bulimic because they wanted my progress photos but not the process I took. Instead, I found my photos all over Xanga, with the tag THINSPO.

It broke my heart to see girls writing about their daily struggles to lose weight through anorexia. And when I did have the courage to reach out, I was told it was their only way.

That’s when I closed my blog down.

Now, I’m at odds, what exactly do I want this to be?

-b.