I see bright and expansive possibilities for Asian-Australian Women. I see the next generation starting to find the courage from within to align their life and career paths with their desires, values and strengths. I see Asian-Australian Women in their 20s and 30s starting to fully embrace their feminine energy.
I see a group that is rising from behind the sidelines. It is perhaps a part of the movement that I am seeing globally. Those who have been hidden from view; hidden themselves; or shut down their voices through self-censorship and fear. Or those emerging from the shadows and finding their voice, willing to be seen and to be felt.
But in order to get there, we need to do a lot of internal work, to find the courage from within, from one another. To re-calibrate our voicebox so that it doesn’t filter and force our thoughts and expressions to be swallowed, but for it to be fully expressed.
And it takes the encouragement of one another – to bring our truth, our voices into the fold.
To know that we are worthy. Worthy of being seen. Worthy of being heard. Worthy of being felt. For our entire selves.
And this translates to many aspects of our lives. Whether it is being worthy of a job title, a salary, the spotlight on stage, being involved in special interests group, having precious time to nourish ourselves while someone looks after our children.
To know that we are worthy.
Does this future look inviting to you?
If it does, I invite you to read on – my views on how we can reach this:
1) Do the inner work
We need to first take a deep (and often uncomfortable) look within ourselves – what are our own intrinsic values? What nourishes us? What am I showing to the world? What am I hiding from the world? It takes time and patience for these answers to come out, and it may take different modalities and teachers to help us with this. Personally, meditation, dance, tantric practices, writing, travelling and being in nature have all been supportive in my personal deep work. At various stages of my life, I have worked with mentors, a life coach, friends and elders. Currently I am working with my meditation teacher, tantric teacher and Biodanza teachers to help me bring my true feminine voice into the world.
2) Find Courage. Be Bold.
Find the courage to sit with the discomfort, the unknown. To be bold in the world is often scary. But the difference between acting from a place of courage and taking risks for the sake of it, is that the former comes from a deep desire of the heart to take that step. When I am acting from a place of courage – my heart can be physically pounding, and my body could be shaking, but there is an unmistakeable feeling that I must move into that space, or I’ll regret missing the opportunity. When I’m taking risks for the sake of it – my head is loud and it’s my ego talking (which is also useful, and I need to discern if it’s appropriate to do so). When I started my path of stepping into the world this year, it was scary, but I knew I needed to do it. So what came naturally for me was to harness my love of dance to support me. I started ‘small’. I knew that I was comfortable dancing in social circles or solo acts in the loungeroom. One day, I felt being drawn to feel the earth beneath my bare feet, to breathe the fresh air and to bask in the sun while I dance. So I put on my headphones and headed for the park. I started in one spot. Then I took one step. And another. Then a skip. And a leap. Until I carved out a space for myself. It took a lot of courage. And I’m so glad I did it. That was one of my many earlier steps into the world.
3) Be + Find Champions and Mentors
To truly support and collectively lift one another, we need to be mentors, and more importantly, to be champions to the people around us. Our world has many mentors, and they are important. But what I am gradually learning is that champions (or sponsors) are the ones who truly lift us – to help open doors when they are shut. My champion also happens to be one of my mentors. He is often on the lookout for opportunities for me, and backs me with his own name or introduce me to someone who he genuinely feels would be an ally.
Champions are hard to find. And they are the ones who choose us. So when we are in the position to be a champion – step up!
4) Embrace our Asian-Australian-Woman-ess
Let’s embrace our qualities that are common to our Asian heritage, such as humility, striving, respect for hierarchy and to our feminine energy such as communication, expression and flow – to support us to skillfully articulate what we need to say in different contexts. When I talk with Asian elders, I choose more respectful language and express my views with a sense of curiosity, rather than being direct in my opinions. I phrase them in such a way that I invite their insight and encourage their reflection. In other situations, such as in certain professional circles, I bring a more direct form of communication. To stay true to my personal style and personality – I choose words economically and with impact. At times, I slow the conversation and lower my tone in order to be heard – a technique I have shared in Hear me roar… in meetings. Horses for courses, right?
5) Create opportunities
To put our hand up for opportunities, or when they don’t exist – create them.
Even if it scares us.
Especially if it scares us.
Because if we don’t, they’re not going to be spoonfed to us. That’s a certainty.
I created Sum of Jean to provide a space for others and also to bring my voice into the world. This space opened up many other opportunities that I would never have come across if I didn’t take this step. Being invited to MC the ANU Alumni Gala as a result of Sum of Jean was one of them; having the courage to approach other websites to guest blog or to speak at events are others.
6) Raise the collective awareness of the challenges that Asian-Australians face
An interesting response I receive when telling others about Sum of Jean is the lack of awareness of the challenges that I outline here – the bamboo ceiling, family pressures, internal pressures, societal pressures to be and act in certain ways. Writing about it here gives me the impetus to share in my daily conversations, and to raise the awareness at a grassroots level. What also needs to happen concurrently is to bring these issues at the higher levels of the professional, community, educational and governmental circles so that we can collectively solve these challenges in an impactful way. Something that the recently established Australian National University’s Centre of Asian-Australian Leadership is looking to address.
So from my humble spot in Melbourne, I see that the future for Asian-Australian Women is bright, but there needs to be a lot of done internally and externally. The work needs to be informed by our mind, heart and body intelligence; our sensitivities; and our ability to adapt while staying true to our own selves.
Does this resonate with you? I’d love to hear your thoughts – I invite you to reach out to me or leave your comments below.
Image by Shardey Olynyk Photography