Culture Stories

Be-You-tiful: Growing Thicker Dumpling Skin

What does it really mean to Be-You-tiful? For as long as I can remember, being a beautiful (East) Asian girl meant being fair skinned, skinny, soft-spoken, cute, and to have big eyes. If you were lacking in one or more of the criterion, you better expect those “weaknesses” to be pointed out every chance relatives or the media gets. This topic has been brought up countless times, showing the frustration many of us have towards the boundaries of the Asian definition of beauty, and have others invalidate our struggles retorting that “genetics is on your side”. Just because some may not look like they should have body image issues, given how they appear on the outside, please don’t ever assume. Body image is such a personal mental battle, that no matter what people tell you, what you believe trumps over it all. You have to believe it yourself in order to overcome and develop a healthy mindset.

To be honest, the nature of this topic is all very confusing. On one hand, East Asian cultures are heavily centred around food, with family dinners being core in building community with one another. There is often an expectation to fully participate in the activity of eating, whether or not you want to. Accepting whatever food relatives offer you is seen as a sign of respect. However, they still expect you to maintain a slim waist and face. How does that make sense?? You are either too skinny or too fat and will never be just right.

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Thankfully, not everything on social media is detrimental to our self image. I stumbled upon a online community for Asian Americans to “share and discuss ones unhealthy quest for the “perfect” body”. Fittingly titled “Thick Dumpling Skin”, I found so much comfort knowing that there are so many girls (and guys) out there who are going through the same social, cultural and familial struggles with food and body image. Founders Lynn Chen and Lisa Lee recognized this need for communal support between “cultural victims” (I made that term up). They wanted to provide a platform for us to “find comfort in each other’s stories, and together, grow some thicker skins, and learn to love them as well”. Lisa and Lynn have spoken at a number of colleges, workshops and conferences, sharing personal stories of their quest to finding peace and love in themselves.

Disclaimer: Things are about to get personal. I love to eat and go food explore. But knowing my body type, I need to balance that love with exercise and self-control. When I was young, relatives said that I was too skinny, then they told me I was gaining weight and needed to exercise. I can’t remember the number of times I’ve stood in front of a mirror just wishing that I could “cut off” fat and grow taller. Stressing over how much rice I had, or whether I deserved that banana bread, it consumed my thoughts day and night. However, through years of body image struggles, I think I’ve finally caught a glimpse of what it takes to have a healthy mindset ~ Let yourself enjoy that donut, cookie or fried chicken! (lowkey what I’m craving atm…) Savor the moment and don’t hate yourself for it afterwards. Just don’t go overboard. It’s a continuous journey to be fully confident and content in how I look. But, if I know I’m putting in the effort of being active, eating healthy and indulging once in a while, it’s all good. Eating should not be feared but an enjoyable experience.

Just remember that no matter how thick or thin our dumpling skin is, it’s the delicious stuffing on the inside that really makes the difference ❤ #LOVEYOURSELF

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