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Self-Worth & Success On Your Terms

I’m Christine Y. Kim, and I have many labels.

I’m a sister, a daughter, a first-generation immigrant, a college graduate, an Asian-American, a former investment banker, a New Yorker turned San Franciscan, a real estate investor, a founder, a beauty queen, and many more labels to many different people. By the end of this post, I am not sure how you will label me, but my hope is that you will understand that labels are merely a communication tool to contextualize and familiarize who I am in a finite number of words. However, labels do not, and should not, have more power than that.

When I had the opportunity to write a post for Anise Health, I wanted to write about a topic relevant to mental health, but I did not know what to write about. My uncertainty of “not knowing” stems from the lack of opportunities to discuss mental health. There is an unspoken rule, especially in the Asian communities I was a part of, that expressing no emotion is the equivalent of showing strength. It was not until I lost 30 pounds because I was stressed to the point of not eating when I realized staying silent was not a sign of strength, but a sign of submission to unsound ideologies that were harmful to my very being.

What was I stressed about?

I was stressed about my first job, investment banking. The job that many wanted, many rejected from, and the job I suffered from. The reason for my suffering was my fear of failure. Failure to do the job, which required commitment to working until 2:00 AM most evenings. Failure to understand financial models when I graduated with a Political Science degree and had no business background. Failure to form meaningful relationships with colleagues. The list of fears were endless. As I struggled to grapple with my fear of failure, I had no space to share the state of my distress during one of the most difficult times of my life.

I reached my breaking point, which brought me to my breakthrough. What was going through my head may have been visible on my body, but certainly, none of my colleagues had any idea that the weight loss was due to stress. This experience led me to two realizations. First, mental health is critical to overall health. Second, what may look like success on the outside may be the exact opposite. While I was proud to wear the label “investment banker,” it was this very label that put a weight on my shoulders that I should have never carried.

We tend to wear labels with pride, and we should. Labels can heighten our sense of self-worth and success. But when certain labels become a burden to carry, maybe that is when we need to step back and realize that labels are merely a communication tool to contextualize and familiarize who we are in a finite number of words. How we define ourselves, our self-worth and success should not be at the cost of our mental health.


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