I was raised by Chinese immigrants and grew up in Australia. In my parents culture, the concept of body positivity didn’t exist which was challenging to navigate as a young woman.
They had told me what to eat, when to eat, and how to eat. On one day my family would tell me that I was “too skinny”, and on the next I was “gaining too much weight”. Although it was extremely frustrating to hear then, I’ve come to understand that this was the result of THEIR upbringing and how their parents had pushed their unrealistic expectations onto their kids repeating a generational cycle of toxicity.
Asian women are often subjected to comments such as:
“You’re lifting weights? Don’t get too bulky! Don’t grow too much!”
“That’s not feminine”
“The gym is a mans hobby”
As a result of more and more women challenging these cultural and gendered norms, there has been a slow shift enabling more women into the fitness space. It’s now more accepted for women to lift weights, get strong, gain muscle, and most importantly feel empowered. Lifting weights is more than getting stronger physically, but also mentally.
At times it can be difficult to have these conversations with others that don’t have the same lived experiences. It’s even harder talking to your family about it. It’s an isolating feeling especially when you’ve been taught all of your life to not “take up too much space” and not to voice your opinion.
As an Asian woman I previously felt a sense of guilt in following my own path as my parents had sacrificed so much to provide for me. It took me years to realise that living by their set of rules fuelled my poor body image and deteriorated my relationship with food. It had negatively taken a toll on my mental health and left me feeling like I had nowhere to truly belong. The narrative of Asian women feeling guilty to break the cycle of toxicity still exists and this phenomena happens to women across many cultural backgrounds.
If you ever feel lost about your identity and feel like you don’t belong. I can relate. I feel you. I understand you.
I want women globally to challenge their cultural norms around women in fitness. We are allowed to be in the fitness space, and we are allowed to grow strong! I strongly believe that building a supportive community that understands cultural barriers is important to moving forward.
If you’re a POC woman who is struggling. Just remember that you matter, your mental health matters, and that you are not alone. Reach out if you need support. The first step is always the hardest but it gets easier, I promise.
I strongly believe that building a supportive community that understands cultural barriers is important to moving forward.