Over the past month or so I thought about whether I should change my red hair back to black, or even to a tamer brown. In the next couple of years, I will apply for my psychology predoctoral internship as well as for a faculty position or postdoc. Because of white supremacist professionalism, I figured I may want to play it safe and revert to a more common hair color. Then, BlackPink’s “Lovesick Girls” came out and Rosé wrecked me as well as everyone else on this planet with her fabulous pink hair. Upon witnessing her gorgeous emotive performance in the “Lovesick Girls” music video, I thought to myself, oh, I have to go pink now. I chose to color my hair pink because pink represents my commitment to accepting and loving myself as a femme queer Vietnamese American who survived an eating disorder and PTSD, who does not care about fitting into white supremacist and patriarchal societal standards.
My journey of self-love and self-acceptance started with my grandmother. I loved my grandmother because of her tireless kindness, gentleness, and nurturance. She never once raised her voice or treated anyone with even the slightest tint of meanness. While her gentle and caring demeanor probably stemmed in part from traditional gender role socialization (e.g., women being expected to be warm whereas men get away with aggressiveness and/or cruelty), her complete acceptance and love for me formed the foundation for how I want to treat people as a friend, therapist, mentor, and more. For example, I remember how she let me play with her pink floral scarf as a child and how, unlike my mother, she never judged me for my more feminine qualities.
Internalizing my grandmother’s deep and all-encompassing love as a child helped me find more people throughout my life who promote self-love. These folx include the therapists I have seen who have had their acts together, academic mentors who cared more about connecting with students with warmth and empathy over valuing egocentric success in the academy, and close friends who love themselves without romantic connections or external validation. We live in a society that encourages us to place our self-worth on our accomplishments (e.g., having a certain rank at work, winning awards or fellowships, etc.) as well as following a heteronormative life trajectory (e.g., getting married to a romantic partner, having kids). At a young age, I recognized that many people who have those accomplishments or a romantic partner and/or kids still do not love themselves. My grandmother taught me, through our relationship, what lasting self-love looks and feels like, how it often manifests inward and then exudes outward, as opposed to the other way around.
I like the color pink in part because my life feels pretty bright right now. Yes, the day to day often feels dreary because of Coronavirus, white supremacy, people who support representational politics over liberatory politics, etc. yet I feel capable of carving out moments that give me joy, like Facetiming and Skyping with close friends, jogging to great pop music, and engaging in artistic expression, like writing on this blog. I accept what I cannot change (e.g., the prevalence of white supremacy throughout history) while working to change what I cannot accept (e.g., Eurocentric and white supremacist beauty standards in the queer male community and how white supremacy manifests in the present day broadly). I love knowing that I will continue to grow and evolve. Loving myself does not mean thinking that I am the best at everything or even that I really excel at anything, rather, it means taking feedback from people with less power than me without defensiveness and engaging in proactive measures to reduce harm.
Of course my positive mood sometimes wavers. A couple of weeks ago a few stressful life events piled up and for a few hours I considered restricting my eating, until I had a powerful dream that involved my grandmother which motivated me to practice self and community-care instead. And I still struggle to accept my desire for a romantic connection with a man, though I think I am learning to be okay with not having control over whether or when a man may show up in life. Maybe the man who is meant for me is out there working on himself
which obviously means familiarizing himself with BlackPink’s discography and accepting his attraction to pink-haired Asian men and even if that man does not exist, I am still here, loving myself and my friends and how I contribute to the world.
Throughout my childhood my mother forbade me from coloring my hair and from presenting as my most authentic self. Now, pink-haired Thomas (i.e., Pinkmas) is ready to thrive and haters can perish. I’m here, I’m queer, and nothing anyone says or does can stop me from loving myself and my friends and my values.
What do you do to promote love and acceptance of yourself? What people or experiences in your life have either enhanced your self-love or detracted from it? How do you feel about white supremacist professionalism and trying to defy it or not? Hope everyone is doing as well as possible and until next post!