The Invisible Tomboy

As a takeaway from one of the sessions in the AAMFT17 conference, I decided to start my own “niche” to open up and share some of my past experience that I’ve never really specifically mentioned to anyone before. This is both exciting and scary! But I’m happy to really use this opportunity to process my past in hope to build up others who may be experiencing something similar to what I had before. And plus, it is also a good way to reflect and bring in more insight into who I am today.

Having said that, I thought it would be interesting and valuable to touch upon my difficult struggles in my adolescent years regarding self-esteem/image, gender identity, and overweight issues.

Growing up as a teenager, I was an extreme tomboy and overweight. I didn’t really notice how the combination of these two qualities negatively affected me until junior high. I started noticing it was harder and harder to make friends and that people were kind of treating me as invisible. Seeing a sharp contrast from that to my childhood (which, in my opinion, I was quite popular) I started to question my self-worth and became depressed that I was alone and not popular. I indulged in a negative cycle in which I comforted myself with junk food and uncontrollably binged watch Korean dramas to fill up the “void” inside me that was so longing for companionship.

I think it was the same, if not worse, throughout high school. With the even more added academic pressure for enrolling in one of the top high schools in the Silicon Valley, I became more depressed that my weight skyrocketed like never before. I was so miserable-




It became usual for me to just go home after the last period and secluded myself in my room throughout the night. Grades became essentially important to me as I associated it tremendously to my self worth. I became addicted to calculating a 89.5 (round up to an A-) for each class and figuring out which colleges out of the top 30 US World News and Report Universities I would apply to and could easily get in. It was a dreadful and meaningless time in my life now that I reflect back (although I am grateful that I made some really good friends).

As I got into college, changes started to happen. First, I noticed myself changing my appearance to a more feminine style. I’m not sure what prompted the change; I think it may just be due to peer pressure and a desire to fit in. Second, I lost almost 20kg (~44 lbs) near the end of junior year from my first breakup that later turned into a mild addiction just for losing weight. I think it was a weird (and kind of late) development in my life that I was transitioning both in terms of gender appearance and body weight. Becoming a “girl” was almost a new concept to me in a sense. It was also a weird feeling to witness people noticing me as I slimmed down that wouldn’t have otherwise if I were obese.

weight loss

^When I lost weight from 68kg to 49.8kg


^Slimming down

Post-college life was even more different. I started noticing myself dressing up more and more feminine in hope to “make up” for the attention (especially from the opposite sex) I’ve never quite gotten when I was overweight and tomboy-ish. Basically, I was dressing up for others to like me. I was mesmerized by the fact that boys were into me and spent a whole lot of freaking time dating and jumping into relationships (some unhealthy). I was building up my self-worth based on how others were treating me. I did not know who I was nor did I know what I wanted. It was a time of confusion and lost of direction.



The transition from that state of mind to where I am now has been a process- I’m very fortunate that I was able to recognize how my past has affected who I am today and come to peace at accepting who I was before. I am learning to become more genuine and build up my solid sense of self that does not depend on anyone else. It’s freeing. It’s gratifying. It’s a journey that keeps on going~!

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