Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Self Esteem

Doing it my way

My brother is great at starting a project. If he wants to do something, he just  jumps in and does it. He may not finish it. He may put it in the reject pile at some point. But he will move on with ease to the next project and not think twice about it.

Me, I agonize about starting any kind of project. I will put more time into planning it than actually doing it. If I start a project, there is a high probability that I will see it to completion. I will bitch about it. There will blood, sweat, and tears–but I’ll get it done. And it will be done well because of my perfectionist tendencies.

I much prefer my brother’s way of being. He stresses way less than I do and gets way more done. It might not be as high a standard as what I do, but most of the time, that doesn’t matter. We’re not talking about bad versus great. We’re talking about great versus really fucking great. The latter just isn’t needed most of the time.

This is where my anxiety rears its ugly head. It’s where the voices in my head whisper, “You’re not good enough.” “You can’t do that,” and other nefarious thoughts. It’s my mother’s voice as she has told me how wrong I am since I was a small child. I shouldn’t laugh so loudly, climb trees, run around, sit with my legs open, eat that dessert, read so many books, or talk. Add my father to that: I should not be better than a boy in anything, think I know anything of use, or contradict what a man tells me. I should get straight As because I’m so smart, but never show a boy how smart I am. Go to college and grad school and have a stellar career. get married and have children, putting them purportedly first. Go to church and put God first. Date, but do NOT have sex before marriage. Bisexual? That’s against God, and what next? Sex with animals? Taiji? You’re allowing the devil to dance on your spine. Writing stories that have any kind of swearing is bad! Don’t eat so much.

Be less was the constant message I got and still get. I want too much. I ask for too much. I AM too much.

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Funhouse mirror of flaws

I’ve written about how my self-esteem has skyrocketed since my medical crisis. In general, I am happier with myself. My depression has disappeared almost completely and my anxiety is reduced by roughly 60%. Considering that I first wanted to die when I was seven, this is a massive improvement for me.

In addition, all my body issues disappeared. I can’t overemphasize what a big deal that is. My mother put on my first diet when I was seven. She made frequent comments about how fat I was and what a shame it was. But, because she was an Asian mother, she also insisted on feeding me too much food and making me finish the food on my plate. The conflicting messages did not help at all.

I dealt with two bouts of anorexia with a side helping of bulimia the first time. I’m not the usual person when it comes to eating disorders because…I don’t know how to explain it exactly. But when I decided to give it up, I  swung in the opposite direction and started overeating. It really is a matter of willpower for me and not the disordered thinking that other people get.

I’m not explaining this well. I had the disordered thinking as well, but it was more a byproduct of my willpower and not the central thing. I have read about anorexia and how difficult it is to treat. That it’s distorts a person’s thinking in a way that grooves new brain patterns.

I definitely had disordered thinking while I was dealing with anorexia (thinking I was a fat cow, even when my thighs didn’t touch), but once I stopped being anorectic, well, I stopped the thinking as well. Or rather, I swung in the opposite direction. Which is how I work in general. I swing to the extremes.

After I returned home from the hospital, my opinion of my body changed 100%. I went from being studiedly neutral about it (through many years of Taiji and I wasn’t really neutral) to being positively in love with my body. It might be the drugs talking. In fact, it probably is the reason that I felt kindly towards my body in the first place.

In those halcyonic days (daze?), I could not get enough of my body. It saw me through death–twice–without a scratch. Well, not quite, but close to it. I will sing it from the rooftop all day song. Walking non-COVID-related pneumonia, two cardiac arrests, and a stroke don’t mean shit to me! I can still walk, run, do Taiji, and drive. Presumably (and I’d like to find out soon), sex would be fine as well. I can sing and dance, and I sleep better than I ever have. Seven-and-a-half hours to eight hours a night, which is unheard of for me.

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Mary, Mary, most contrary

I am not a contrarian. Not deliberately so, anyway. I know that my mother believes I do it on purpose, but I really don’t. It’s not like I wake up and choose violence. I don’t think, “Hm, what is the most contrary position I can take?” and then voice that.

My mother once said to me in exasperation, “Something isn’t bad just because it’s tradition.” To which I replied, “That doesn’t make it automatically good, either.” She did not like that. At all.

It’s true, though. Just because something is tradition, it doesn’t mean we should keep doing it. I don’t see anything wrong with questioning something in order to time-test it. If it’s good, then continue to do it. If not, then let it go. I don’t think that’s controversial, but I know it is.

The biggest examples in my life are having children and getting married. Let’s add to that being in a long-term hetero relationship. Let’s lump all that together under the umbrella of family shit. I knew since I was young that I was going to get married to a man and have children. My mother made it very clear that it was my duty as a woman to have children and to take care of my husband. In the other order, actually.

When I was 22, I was madly in love with my boyfriend at the time. We were talking about having children and I realized that I did not want them. At all. I cannot tell you how great that felt. My heart lifted and I was free! I didn’t have to have children. It’s still the best decision I’ve made in my life, by the way.

Along with the biggies, though, there are the more medium choices that I’ve made that are weird. Like my hobbies. Taiji isn’t weird in and of itself, though it’s less popular in the States than is yoga. I had to Google that because while it feels true, I didn’t know for sure. Roughly 2.5 million people practice Taiji in America versus 37 million people and yoga. So, yeah, I was right. Taiji is way less popular, which is of no surprise to me. Hm. Another resource says 3.7 million practice Taiji in America. At any rate, it’s roughly 1/10th the amount that practices yoga or less.

I can only guess that those who study Taiji weapons is even less. This makes it a very niche hobby, which isn’t surprising to me. I did not choose it because it’s the lesser-practiced meditative practice, but it’s not surprising that I’m drawn to it in part for that reason.

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The world is my oyster

It’s been a year since I had my medical crisis/trauma, and it’s for me to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life. I gave myself six months to adjust to life after the hospital, which has just drifted into a year.

It was difficult when my parents were here because they wanted to push me on my life choices. Within a month of me being home, my mother was pressuring me to figure out the rest of my life. She was weirdly persistent about it even after I made it painfully clear to her that I was waiting three to six months before making any decisions.

After they went back home, I realized it was because my father was obsessed with it, but didn’t bring it up to me. Instead, he talked about it with her and she pushed it on me. That’s my parents in a nutshell. My father gets a bee in his bonnet about something, then he’s so unpleasant about it, he makes my mom have to manage his mood/emotions/behavior.

Then, she nags me about it because she can’t stand him yelling at her about it. So she was pushing me so hard about it because he was pushing her. I should have realized it, but to be fair to me, I was still out of my gourd.

I told her that I was not going to talk about it for six months. Funnily (not), she heard  my earlier three to six months comment and stuck with the short end of the stick. She kept mentioning three months, even when I said SIX months. Honestly, I just ignored her. I refused to talk about it, reminding her about my statement. She didn’t like it, but there wasn’t much she could do about it.

Now, however, I need to think about it. It’s been a year. My joke with my friends (which is not a joke) is that they get a year to talk about the major thing happening in their life, and then they had to scale it back. They’ve never pushed it because my friends are balanced and do not natter on about one thing for too long.

I found myself to be the same way. Yes, I talked about it quite a bit. Yes, there was a lot I had to unpack when it came to that situation, and, yes, it’s an important part of my life that will never go away, but…what was I saying?

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Doing it to myself

I have waxed on and on about how great life has been since I woke up a year ago, and it is. However. In the RKG Discord last night, we were talking about romantic problems and one person said that barring a big life event, people didn’t change. I amended it to that people can change, but it is very incremental. I mentioned that after my life-threatening medical crisis (which I talked about in length further up the thread), some of my negative traits had vanished and some had been greatly mitigated. As I’ve mentioned, my body issues have completely disappeared. That’s probably the most amazing thing, and I’m grateful for it. Decades of hating my body–gone.

This is something I marvel at almost on the daily. I went from loathing my body to absolutely loving it. I am arrogant about it now. My body is, indeed, all that and a bag of chips. That’s what the kids say these days, right? That hasn’t been said in decades. Oh, well. I’ve never been hep or happening.

I love my curves, especially my booty. I am Asian, which means I was born with no ass. Not literally, obviously, but it was flat. I liked to joke that about my flat yellow ass, but it wasn’t really a joke. It was yellow and it was, indeed, flat. Taiji, specifically, Golden Roosters, lifted and boosted my ass. I actually had a bit of a curvature to it!

I was enamored with it, I’ll be frank. I kept looking at it with delight and I told Ian excitedly that I had an ass. He said diffidently that he had noticed, which made me chuckle. I kept staring at it in the mirror because I most definitely had an ass. I had to take ‘flat’ out of my vocab, which was fine by me.

I worked hard to get to studiedly neutral. Rather, I said I was neutral about my body, but I wasn’t. I didn’t hate it, technically, but I still wouldn’t look at it in the mirror. Which meant that I was more negative about it than positive.

Then, I ended up in the hospital. I had to have people wipe the shit from my ass, which is an embarrassing position to be in. But they treated me with such warmth, they made me feel safe, secure, and they allowed me to keep my dignity. It’s so vulnerable to not be able to wipe my own ass. Having to go through all of that wiped out my body dysmporphia completely. I love my body to distraction. It got me through death twice, and it is better than ever.

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Shut. The. Fuck. Up.

I don’t have misophonia, thankfully. From what I’ve heard, it’s excruciating. Briefly, it’s having a ‘flight or fight (mostly fight’ reaction to noises, especially eating. I do have noise sensitivities, but that isn’t the same as misophonia. I don’t get angry at the noises that bother me, except for ASMR.

Oh. My. Fucking. God. Just thinking about ASMR makes me rage. When I’ve tried to listen to ASMR, I’ve wanted to punch my laptop. I could not shut it down quick enough, and I grit my teeth at the mere mention of ASMR. Joke ASMR does not affect me in the same way, which is interesting. What I mean by joke ASMR, I mean people just lowering their voice to a whisper and saying they’re doing ASMR or eating by a mike. Neither of these bother me. But the actual ASMR? I seriously want to punch someone. Which makes me more sympathetic to people with misophonia.

I said I don’t have it, but I do have sound sensitivities. I need to be in strict control of how loud anything is around me. It was difficult when my parents were here because my father is nearly deaf without his hearing aids, and he refuses to wear them on the regular. Therefore, when he was watching videos, the sound was excruciatingly loud–even though he wasn’t in the same room.

That’s the thing. It’s not so much that it makes me angry (though it odes); it’s that it’s pure agony to me. It physically hurts my ears and brain in a way that makes it impossible for me to think. One time, K, another friend, and I went to a restaurant in which the music was so loud, I had to leave. It was agony, which she didn’t get, but she obliged me. There was no way I could have sat through dinner in that place.

This is really hard to explain to people without seeming like I’m being precious. For most people, music being too loud is not physically uncomfortable. It just means they can’t hear other things around them. For me, it physically hurts to the point where I just want to curl up in a ball and stuff cotton in my ears. It reduces me to a whimpering mess, and it makes it impossible for me to think.

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Sick of myself

I’ve been big upping myself lately, which I’m fine with. There are a few things about myself, however, that really annoy the fuck out of me. Some are different since I got out of the hospital, but some are, annoyingly, the same since I was a kid.

The biggest one is my manic need to people-please. This started when I was a kid and had to tiptoe around my parents’ (yes, plural) moods. It wasn’t just my father and his violent mood swings, but also my mother and her constant depression. She should have seen a therapist when she was first married, but her belief was therapy for thee, but not for me (her). Instead, she dumped it all on me and expected me to caretake her. Not my brother because he was a boy and because he was not good with emotions. But I, on the other hand, had to be her emotional dumping grounds because I was female and because I was extremely sensitive to other people’s emotions. Sometimes I wonder if I would have been as sensitive to people’s emotions if my mother hadn’t forced me to be her confidante when I was eleven. I feel like my sensitivity is innate, but it’s hard to say when I had to do it for my mother 24/7. I can’t help but sense what other people are feeling, no matter how much I tried to shield myself from it. Even when it’s a chat and people are typing, I can sense what people are feeling.

And I’m always eager to step in and make sure that no one feels left out. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily, but I push it to the extreme. It’s not my job to make sure everyone feels included, but it certainly feels like it.

I’m trying to pull back a bit, but it’s not easy to change a lifetime habit. It doesn’t help that my mother still insists on dumping all her emotional drama on me. She tries to say it’s part of being a child (duty to parents’ emotional well-being or some such bullshit), which may be more true in Taiwan than it America, but not to the extent that she insists it is.

If I were to tell her the brutal truth, I would say that I didn’t have kids in part because of her. I hated the idea of fucking up another generation with the deep family dysfunction. I knew that if I had kids,  I would not have been strong enough to protect them from my parents. If I wanted children at all, that might be a hard decision, but because I never wanted them, it was easy-peasy. When my mother said she would come back to help with my kids if I had them (which, yeah, sure. Not if my father didn’t want to move back), I almost had a panic attack. Remember, I never wanted kids, but just the mere thought of my mother being around my mythical children made me want to move somewhere without giving her a forwarding address.

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Life goals

I have stated several times that I am better than I ever was. My medical crisis was the best thing to happen to me, and, yet, that doesn’t mean I’m magically without flaws. I still talk too much and get mean when I’m tired or short of energy. I’m lazy and a slob, and I tend to procrastinate when I don’t want to do something. It makes it a bigger deal than it needs to be. I know I’m doing this, but cannot stop myself from doing it.

It’s been eye-opening to see my brother working the dating apps. He does it while he’s here so I jump into it as well. I’m on Bumble and OkCupid, but I haven’t really done anything with either. I don’t like that you can only be a man or a woman on Bumble, though I do like that I don’t have to put up with dick pics before even getting a ‘hello’. So. Many. Dick. Pics on Craigslist.

I like that OkCupid allows for a wide variety of genders as well as sexual orientations and relationship choices. You can be polyamorous in different ways,  or you could just be looking for sex. But it’s overwhelming in other ways, which makes me just not want to use it at all.

For example. You cannot save a profile for later. You have to swipe right or left immediately. I understand why they made this choice, but I don’t like it. I want to be able to think and ponder before making a decision. Yes, I know if you swipe right on Bumble, you have 24 hours before you have to message, but that’s still pressure.

My brother is quick to swipe left or right. He sends a brief message and if he gets a reply, suggests they chat on the app or meet up in person. When I used to use Craigslist, I would message with someone several times before feeling comfortable enough to meet them in person. That could be because of gender dynamics, which was certainly part of the issue. But, it’s also that I’m a ditherer, and I rarely make decisions in an appropriate timeframe.

I wish I could be more like my brother.  I’ve been thinking about dating for ages. My last relationship was a decade ago, and it was spectacularly bad. I was love-bombed from the start and fell for it completely. He was a sexist, narcissistic, touchy, alcoholic lout who should not in any way have been in a relationship. I’m no angel by any means, but I did not deserve to feel like I constantly had to tiptoe around his fragile male ego.

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Unique, but not weird

I read a bunch of advice columns, or rather, I did. I’m getting bored/unsatisfied with most of them, but the one that is still decent is Ask A Manager. It also has a good commentariat, who are, for the most art, able to see things from many points of view. They have their weird spots, too, though, and one of them is business attire.

There was a post about the 100-day dress challenge. The basic premise is that you wear this one specific dress for a hundred days in a row for reasons. Supposedly, it’s about sustainability, but that’s not really what’s happening. It’s basically a marketing ploy, but that’s not my focus. It’s on the amount of people who said don’t do it because you would stand out in a bad way. Oh, it’s unfortunate and they personally didn’t feel that way, mind, but you know, society.

One person went so far as to say don’t be weird. It’s ok to be eccentric, but not weird. I had such a visceral reaction to their comment for several reasons. One, what’s to differentiate weird and eccentric? Two, to me, eccentric is further outside the norm than is weird. Three, it’s such an arbitrary distinction, which is which or if something is weird or eccentric in the first place. four, as noted in response to the comment, it’s so juvenile. “Don’t be weird!” Why not? If it’s not actually harming someone (like wearing the same dress every day), who the fuck cares?

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Weight of the world

I’m fat. I’ve been fat most of my life. There were two times I struggled with anorexia with a side of bulimia the first time. I remember being proud that my thighs didn’t touch the second time around, which, I mean, even if I came by it naturally, it’s not something to be proud of, is it? It didn’t really say anything about me other than I was able to go hard at dieting. At my thinnest, I still thought I was fat and disgusting. K told me later that I looked as if I were in a concentration camp because of how worryingly thin I was.

Here’s the hard truth about anorexia–you’re never thin enough. Ever. No anorexic person looks at  themselves in the mirror and thinks, “Damn, I look good!” It’s never thin enough, and I know this from experience. The second time, I tried to lose weight the sensible way. I limited my calorie intake (too much) and my exercise (too little), and I set what I thought was a reasonable, achievable weight. Except.

The number of calories I set was based on someone my height and purported gender who never moved during the day. I worked out 2 1/2 hours a day, more on days I lifted. As I got near the weight I had set, I knocked off five more pounds because I felt I was still grotesque. I weighed myself and measured myself with a measuring tape once a week. I kept losing and still felt like it wasn’t enough. Everything came to a head one night when I was going to meet K, her husband, and their friends at First Ave for a concert. It was a group formed by members of Los Lobos, whom I really liked. I allotted myself two G&Ts, which meant I had to eat roughly 350 calories less than the 1200 I randomly decided was reasonable. Plus, I knew I would probably want to eat after getting home, so I ate maybe half my calories before going to the gig.

This is relevant because I went to the gig with maybe 500 calories under my belt. And I was going to drink, which I did once every third month or so at the most. Then, it was one drink and maybe a second drink hours later. This time, I slammed the two G&Ts within a half hour, and I fainted. One minute I was on my feet and swaying to the beat. The next minute, I was laying on the ground, dazed and confused. There were people surrounding me and shouting at me, and I did not know what to do. I was embarrassed, but also dizzy. The massive security guard scooped me up and carried me to the front door to get me some air, shouting questions the whole way. I had no capacity to answer, so K did for me. No, I was not doing drugs. No, I didn’t have anything medical. She told him that I had been dieting as he rushed me outside.

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