Reclaiming #WalangHiya: Embracing Who I Am

My birth mom sent me to Canada for a better life and education. Because I was only four, there was no way of understanding that. All I understood was that I wasn’t going to see her. At an age that required nurturing and love, what I received instead was confusion. Instead of family, there were strangers. Instead of love, there was anger and hate. Rather than gaining self-confidence, I learned that I was unworthy and became deeply insecure and fearful. This, coupled my growing understanding that I looked different too. This sense of not fitting in, of not belonging, stayed with me everywhere I went —  even more so after visiting the Philippines 10 years later. Who I thought I was didn’t seem to fit the description anywhere. I began feeling that I was simply an outsider in every community I discovered and it didn’t help that I was constantly reminded of my differences.

I’ve been told I’m not a “real” Filipinx because I only speak Bisaya and not Tagalog or I’m too brown and Asian to be in this store. I’ve been told I look too young to be a boss, too young-looking to be a Mom, too pretty to be taken seriously, too nice for selfish reasons, too big to be on camera, too flat-faced and big lipped. I’ve been told to stop being so much of a girl, that I’m too sensitive, too creative, too quiet, too wild, too stupid– and the list goes on. Rather than shrugging these comments off, I took them personally, further damaging my self-esteem. I believed that I couldn’t have too many talents, too many interests – that I absolutely must pick one thing or I won’t be good at anything. I believed I had to fit into a box and if I didn’t I would be deemed weird or unsuccessful. I believed something was wrong with me.

Because of this, I tried for years, exhausting myself trying to be just the right “something” for so many people, so many situations and so many relationships, including my marriage. I spent so much of my energy trying to be x, y, z for someone other than myself and when my whole world came crashing down and I found myself a divorced, single Mom, I knew I had been doing it all wrong. I knew things had to change and as I cradled my one year old,  I promised myself I would love me first, from now on. I would love all the darkest parts of myself. I would love me unconditionally. I would love my wounded inner child. I would take care of myself and my needs first. I would explore myself creatively and not care about what anyone else thought. And for the first time in a long time, I felt free.

Despite having a new label, (single Mom) attached to my name, this new found sense of self and the best motivation, (my son)  gave me more courage than ever before. I registered my business so that I could stay home with my son and pursued my dream of also having a non-profit. I worked long, endless hours to provide for my son, commit to my dreams and challenge myself to be the best person I could be. As an artist, I’m constantly challenging myself, pushing myself to do better in my work and naturally it spills out over into my personal life, where I’d aim to be a better mother or a better, kinder human. Trying to be tune with my deeper self, meant I was doing more reflecting and becoming more open to change. In an effort to work on my mental health, I had become increasingly aware of the need to take care of my physical health as well. I changed the way that I ate, trying to avoid processed foods and being selective about which products to use on my body.

Through this, I began studying environmental issues and eventually banned myself from buying plastic bottles. When I became a mother my frustration with the amount of waste I was producing increased to the point that I could barely focus on anything else. In 2015, I finally decided to make a commitment to reduce my waste completely. I eliminated my garbage can and discovered others that were living “zero waste” as well, which motivated me further. I challenged myself to living one year, documenting how much waste I was producing and blogging about it, and by the time the year was over, my garbage could fit into one small jar. Two years later, I now educate others on waste reduction and food waste prevention while trying to implement my values into my personal, business and artistic life. For me, it is about trying to find a balance between doing what makes me happy, while still being focused on sustainable and minimalistic living.

Challenging myself mentally, as well as defying the stereotypes that I’m supposed to fit in has definitely made me grow as an individual, womxn and mother. I am in the best place I have ever been mentally, continuously growing inward and connecting with my soul, with a family I love. While each day requires work and personal reminders, I know I am stronger. I know that what was considered “too much” in me in the past, is more than enough in the present. I have happily accepted everything I am not, I look forward to everything I ever will be and lovingly embrace all that I am now and I do it all, without shame.

Mailyne aka Mai (she/her/hers) is an artist and entrepreneur born in the Philippines and raised in Ottawa, Canada. A mother of one, she owns a social enterprise, Dream Love Grow, using her creative expertise to provide multimedia and small business consulting services. She uses a portion of the proceeds to fund Love Projects and A.R.T. In Action, a registered non-profit she co-founded that provides free art workshops to at-risk youth. In 2015, she began a lifelong journey to live zero waste and documented her transition through her blog A Dream Lived Greener. Always growing, Mailyne continually finds ways to challenge herself as an artist, navigating inward while striving to make the world a better place. She finds inspiration for her various art forms through people, places, dreams and everyday moments.  Twitter | Facebook | Website | Instagram

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