I grew up knowing what it’s like to break stereotypes. I couldn’t even count the number of people who have been surprised that my “accent” is so muted and how great my English is, how my parents are actually super white, and how I don’t actually have rice everyday (unless I’ve been eating Chipotle everyday).
But what I’ve realized is that I’ve spent my life acknowledging how I’ve broken others’ stereotypes of me – how I become this opposition to basic expectations – and how I don’t spend enough time focusing on how I set traps for myself with similar expectations. One such, I’ve broken free.
Most obviously, I never thought a tall Korean American woman would be strong. I always thought I could be graceful if my natural predisposition wasn’t so clumsy and awkward. I also expected myself to stay skinny and thin like most Korean models in the likes of Vogue. Given that those expectations aren’t the healthiest, I never EVER thought I could be “strong”. Lean was imaginable, but muscular was never even an option.
But here’s what I see now:
I needed to redefine my own definition of strength.
I needed to see that strength wasn’t only Sampson from the Bible stories or the man I once saw pull a semi-truck across a parking lot. Strength isn’t just about lifting all of the weights on a barbell at the gym and it isn’t manifested into the biggest, thickest muscles that the eyes might see.
Strength isn’t just raw power, it’s much more.
Throughout these last two years of really working on myself on the inside and out, I’ve come to find that strength is beautiful. Strength is some muscle, but all mindset. Strength is consistency and dedication to goals, especially when it’s hardest. Strength is putting others’ needs before one’s own selfish desires. Strength is the ability to find flaws and improve upon them. Strength is constantly challenging yourself to grow, over and over again. Strength is looking out for other people beyond any self interest. Strength is losing hard battles gracefully and getting back up to go again. Strength is being able to make hard choices when they’re the healthiest ones and choose happy while doing it. Strength is finding joy when the world seems to be crumbling down all around.