June is finally here! I’m so excited to share our June Lady of the Month, Harper Yi. Harper manages to be extremely brilliant and ambitious, but also a genuinely amazing friend. She’s also a blast to hang out with and will always make you laugh no matter what. Harper has unfortunately experienced bullying in the past, but she has overcome these challenges and is now a positive leader and role model in her community. Harper has great advice to offer for those who are currently facing challenges, and that’s why we chose her to be our June 2014 Lady of the Month!
I’m a Korean-American from the DC suburbs. I currently study at The College of William and Mary and hope to move to New York to pursue a career in Marketing.
Education: Currently studying at the College of William and Mary
Occupation: Student, blogger at HarperHoney.com
Color: Yellow & Pink
Fragrance: Anything vanilla-y makes me super happy like Sabon NYC’s Daily Perfume in Noam
Book: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Movie: 4 way tie- Amelie, Dear Zachary, Pleasantville, and The Brass Teapot
How old were you when you first became a victim of bullying?
For me, I grew up in a family where teasing was common, and where harsh criticism was intended as an act of love. I remember being called fat as young as age 4.
How did you first respond to bullying?
Because the criticisms I received were intended as “tough love,” my family never saw themselves as bullies, and I think I don’t really see them that way either. I got upset, sad, angry– a lot of times I just felt hurt, whether because of what they said, or just knowing that the didn’t care about how I felt as long as I changed whatever they made fun of me for– whether it was losing weight or my hairy legs or dressing the way the wanted me to. Because it was my family, and because they are generally really supportive of me, it was very confusing, because I constantly cycled between righteous anger/indignation and feeling guilty. As a first generation American, my family risked everything to provide for me and worked twenty times harder just to even the playing field for me and my sister– it felt like I couldn’tbe upset because that had done so much for me and like I was a bad daughter for feeling angry when I was humiliated at family functions.
How did you overcome bullying?
I have had to unlearn a lot of things. When I was younger, I thought the teasing dynamic in my family was the set standard for interaction with other people, and sometimes I would hurt other kids’ feelings. I would always feel bad about it and apologize afterward, but it took a while to learn when it was a joke between friends and when I was crossing a line. I had to unlearn a lot of these ideas I had about interacting with people. I also had to take apart and reassemble our family dynamic, by figuring out what I had to do with them, and when I had to let things go. My parents both grew up very poor and with very little freedom, and by contrast, they give me so much more than their parents could have hoped to give them. I realized that their hardness comes from growing up much worse than I ever did, and fearing that complacence on my part would waste everything the worked for for me. I have to remember that it comes from a place of love, no matter how hurt I feel, and accept that they are just people trying to do the best they can, while at the same time, balancing that acceptance with a strong sense of “this is not the kind of behavior I want to engage in”
Do you have any advice for those who are currently victims of bullying?
Bullies are often people so broken they feel like they need to break others to feel in control, or “normal.” They’re often people who have experienced bullying themselves and see that as their only opportunity to feel powerful. Prove them wrong. Wherever possible, outgrow them. Show them what a life well-lived based on empowering and loving oneself looks like. First, find ways to take away their power to bully you. Get an adult to intervene. Learn to accept this one person doesn’t like you, and that doesn’t mean you can’t live an awesome life. Letting go of the words they say and the things they do is a hard process, but it’s extremely freeing. This is how you take back your life from them. Second, don’t run away, but soar. Don’t just leave the bad memories behind, leave them in your dust as you learn to love yourself enough to make your dreams come true. Living well truly is the best revenge.
For those who may feel bullied by their family, please know that you are not alone. If your family is abusive, seek help as soon as possible. If they’re your regular everyday I-love-my-family-but-damn-they-can-be-really-awful-sometimes, just do as they likely did before you and find ways to respect them while still knowing in the back of your mind that you will find ways to unlearn the less favorable things and do better for yourself and your own.
What can our readers do in the community to make a difference?
Learn to be better than what you were raised with. While my family dynamic seems really normal to me especially having come from two Asian-American immigrant parents, I know there are things that are imperfect and flawed, and I need to break certain cycles. Break cycles of shaming and putting others down– even when it seems like everyone at school or at home seems to being participating. Also, help other people love themselves. Sometimes I get this feeling like I shouldn’t compliment someone on how beautiful their eyes are or how awesome their hair looks– but I push myself to do it, and I have never once regretted it. There are so many people in this world that are beautiful and amazing in infinite ways, but only a select few will ever hear it. Try to make that number bigger!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?
In New York City, working in marketing, and growing my blog on the side. I hope to finish my first novel then, based on a play I wrote years ago.
Who is your role model and why?
Robert Herjavec. He’s pretty much a perfect person– son of an immigrant factory worker who worked his way up from the very bottom, and with a lot of smarts, heart, and guts, he went from waiting tables so he could survive while working for free for his friend’s computer security company despite no prior knowledge in the 80s to being a multimillionaire investor, security mogul, and Ferrari racer in his 50s. He has such immense integrity, work ethic, heart, and compassion within him that I truly find him to be one of the best business people on Earth.
Anything else you would like to share with Lady Code and its readers?
Thank you all for being involved in a community dedicated to empowering women and ending bullying. Individuals can change the game, but it’s much easier with the help of a community supporting you like the one made up of the readers and writers at Lady Code.
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