Welcome to the first issue of Re(de)fining Magazine! This digital issue is a collection of articles revolving around the theme of Belonging.
What does belonging mean to you, and is it something you've found? As we go through continuous phases of growth, our identity and relationships with others can sometimes be in flux, malleably adapting to different situations. As our identities and circumstances continue to change and develop, how do we establish a sense of belonging? Can belonging be found in a physical location? Or is rootedness derived from our relationships with the community of people around us? Can the sense of belonging be something we find within ourselves?
This issue shares the perspectives of several people who have found belonging, or are in the process of finding and defining it. We hope you enjoy reading through the issue!
The 23 year-old has traveled to 23 countries! Learn how she found a sense of belonging despite her nomadic lifestyle.2. I AM 4 ME B4 I AM 4 U
An exploration of belonging and self-love by Ciele Beau3. Fashion Blogger Tiffany Wang
In this interview, Tiffany shares how living in different countries has influenced her style.4. Curating Anxiety
A self-analysis by Nin Nguyen on anxiety and identity
"Perhaps belonging might not be something you seek out but something you build where you are. It can be grown, it can be fostered, and like anything valuable it requires active effort and practice. It is a state of acceptance, of being comfortable with who you are, where you are and whom you are with."
Ping Loong Wong
"As a child of immigrant parents, belonging, to me, is an ideal space that lies between two cultures of the east and the west. In this space, my double cultural identities can coincide in harmony, and I can feel comfortable to be whomever I choose to be."
Pooja Patel, 21
Instagram: @thepoojaproject | Twitter: @thepoojaproject
Written by Nicole Friets
At the age of twenty-three, Jaclyn Yost has spent time in twenty-three countries over the past six years - more than what most of us will ever travel to in a lifetime! From London to Australia to Hawaii, she’s someone whose life is constantly in motion and is a self-confessed “travel addict”. For many, the sheer thought of leaving home and our community can cause panic, but Jaclyn believes travelling has helped her develop an inner sense of belonging and realise who her true friends are. In this interview, we talk to her about how she developed this feeling of belonging despite her nomadic lifestyle.
How did you get into travelling? When I was in high school, my mom got a job offer in London and asked if I would be okay with moving. I had never been out of the country before - the thought of leaving my friends and comfortable life in Washington DC was incredibly uncomfortable due to the amount of uncertainty that lay ahead. I think it was a combination of my mom’s excitement and my own curiosity to see what the world had to offer that made me say Yes.
Tell me more about that first move?
Getting to London at first was far from easy, especially during the first 2 months. I was going through a breakup, and had to endure seeing all my friends back home hang out together and make memories without me.
However, once I fully embraced London as my new “home”, I decided to make the most of my time there. Starting a new life was a freeing experience - I could be whoever I wanted to be and had the opportunity to start afresh. Once I saw how easy travelling was from London, and felt the overwhelming excitement that came daily from that - I was hooked!
When travelling, I feel free. I don’t have any crazy background story or big secrets that I feel the need to hide. It’s nice to know that the friends you make while travelling have no idea about your past or any existing label that you may have had before you’ve met them.
Before travelling, was there a community that you felt a sense of belonging to? How hard was it to leave that community?
I never really felt a strong sense of community. If anything, my community consisted of just a few friends and my family. Given that, what seemed impossible (leaving that community) at first… only took about two months to get over.
The guy I was dating at the time (the same one who promised me that he would “love me forever” despite the long distance) ended up being a cheating loser. It sucked at the time but being oceans away with the “out of sight, out of mind” concept helped me to get over him… and being surrounded by hot British boys helped that too :).
Honestly though, the move to London helped me find out who my real friends (and “community”) were. I realised that the people who make an effort to stay in touch are the ones who really matter at the end of the day. In fact, I can count my best friends on two hands. There’s no room for people in your life that don’t give you the full-hearted love that you deserve.
I feel like it's pretty easy for me to stay up-to-date with those I genuinely care about. Reuniting with them often holds the best memories and the distance makes me truly cherish the times I do get to see them as we never know when the next time will be.
What does belonging mean to you? How did you develop this sense of belonging?
To me, belonging means feeling 100% with yourself and where you are in life.
Developing a sense of belonging just took experience and age. Travelling has been a form of therapy to me - it has taught me so much about myself that I don’t think I would have ever figured out if I had not started.
It helped me cope and come to terms with my parents’ divorce, helped me learn that I don’t need boys for happiness, helped me learn to express myself without caring about what others think about me, helped me to learn that there will be “fake” people in your life who don’t give a crap about your best interests, helped me grow closer to my best friends back home, and helped me meet new friends from all around the world.
My sense of belonging stays the same wherever I take it - and I choose how to apply it on my travels. Since I am always on the move, I discovered that a sense of belonging is truly something found within as opposed to around.
When travelling, was there a time you did not feel this sense of belonging? What did you do about it?
Yes, definitely! When I lived in Melbourne, Australia for a few months, I felt no sense of belonging whatsoever. I was unhappy with my life (my body and lacking love life in particular). I ended up in a pit of isolation and depression despite Australia being an awesome country. That period of my life was really rough as I could not comprehend how I could be unhappy despite travelling and being in my dream location.
It wasn’t until a year later, after I got into a lifestyle of fitness, that I discovered how it was impossible to develop a sense of belonging unless I was truly happy with myself. For a long time, I was always looking to make someone else happy, to get people to like me, or I was worrying about what others thought. That made it impossible to embrace and portray the real “me”.
Once I started looking after myself and putting my interests at a higher level of priority, I started to learn (and develop) self-love. Till this day, I think self-love is the absolute most important attribute I have gained on my travels. When I began to worry less about what others thought and instead focused on how I could make myself happy, I started to naturally find myself in situations where I felt a sense of belonging.
As you’ve visited 23 countries the past six years, do you feel a sense of belonging to any one place in general? When I think of home, I now think of London. London will always be my “happy place” — the place that holds a special spot in my heart. It is probably the only place (right now) that I can see myself eventually settling down in (whenever that time may come). It is crazy to think that I feel more of a sense of belonging in London than I do towards the US. It’s also crazy how I can end up feeling closer to some of the people I met on travels compared to people I’ve known for over 10 years back in DC. I actually prefer the community I’ve come to find whilst travelling - almost everyone you cross paths with is welcoming and understanding (and not judgemental by any means). At this point, though, I know there’s so much left in the world to see. If I had unlimited funds, I would definitely be in a new country every couple of weeks. As I’m only 23, I know I have years of adventures in front of me and finding my sense of belonging in each of those countries will be easy as long as I keep having the same open mindset.
Why did you decide that it was time to settle down in Singapore?
Settling down in Singapore, was again, all by fate.
I had just graduated from University back in the US without any employment plans. In other words, itching for a new adventure. I managed to chance upon an opportunity for a place to stay here and immediately took it while it was still on the table… without any plans on how long a duration I might stay.
After a two month backpacking stint around Europe, I arrived in Singapore without a semblance of a plan. Since then, though, my life has pretty much fallen into place — I landed an amazing internship, have made a ton of friends, have started doing F45 (a type of work out) which I absolutely love, and have started applying to postgraduate schools (which will obviously keep me here for the next year or so).
I’ve only been in Singapore for about four months but I am already loving it so far - the culture, the endless activities, the food, and the melting pot of cultures continually amaze me. It's hard to compare my time here to anything or anywhere else (especially London) since it’s been a short stint. However, having made friends who have been more than welcoming and for reasons mentioned above… settling down in Singapore has been incredibly easy which is how I know that me being in this beautiful and unique country is meant to be.
An exploration of belonging and self-love by Ciele Beau
Throughout my life, I’ve often found myself feeling like an outsider. I felt like I wasn’t quite part of the group, or I was trying too hard (whether this was actually true or not). Mostly, it came down to the fact that I didn’t know how to first and foremost be within myself and to belong to myself. This hindered my sense of belonging with others.
Have you ever hung out with a group of people and still felt lonely? How is this possible? How can you literally be at a party (FOMO be gone!) and still feel left out? This conundrum irked me to the core for a long time, and I felt a little hopeless in this lose-lose situation. I began doing some much needed soul-searching and independent study. I started seeing a counsellor who helped me dig deeper into some of those insecurities. I began practising mindfulness, gratitude and meditation (an ongoing journey). I even joined some online workout groups to see if the theory “mental health is connected to physical health” was true — it was! And beyond that I read a lot! (The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein are a few of my faves.) Here’s what I learnt; true belonging goes a lot deeper than just the number of people you surround yourself with. As I’ve delved into the abundant world of self-help books (seriously, so many self-help books) and learning to love my own divine self, one of the things I’ve learned is the paradigm shift of living through the lens of love versus living through the lens of fear. What does this mean exactly?
When we arrive to situations from the perspective of fear, we assume that we aren’t good enough and project that onto the people around us. Before we even enter a space, we’ve got it in our minds that we’ll be judged, or that everyone else in the room is cooler by default and more interesting. I HEAR YOU, but trust me – that’s just your ego talking, and your ego is a jerk. And most importantly, your ego is wrong. Let’s switch gears and imagine a world where you come into situations from the perspective of love - love for all that you are and all that they are. You feel love for the glorious being you have come to be through your journey, and see love within the magnificent humans in your company. Do this, and I guarantee you are less likely to feel isolated and out of place. Because if you allow yourself to arrive with love (read: acceptance, joy, open heart) you will quickly see that you are enough. Self-worth is the fireball that destroys your self-doubt. And your self-worth will demolish all judgement – perceived or otherwise.
We spend so much time trying to get others to love us, we forget to take the time to love ourselves. Perhaps the message “You have to love yourself before you can love someone else” is over-emphasized in the current dialogue. But maybe there is a reason it gets repeated so often. How can we expect to convince someone that we’re worth loving if we don’t love the intricacies and nuances of our own selves?
I want to be wary of reiterating the “all about me” mantra that is so present in today’s culture (because Breaking News - not everything is about ‘ME’ – Whaaaa?). To clarify, loving yourself doesn’t necessarily mean putting yourself above others, or that you are the only one who matters – but sometimes it is okay to love yourself first so you have space to love others.
We often go straight to loving others and forget to build our own self-love along the way, leaving us lop-sided and disgruntled. In a way, loving yourself is actually so you can be centred and clear, and most importantly, open; to allow others to come into your life, whether that’s romantically, professionally, or as your new bestie. We have to love ourselves, and care for ourselves first, so we can show up for others. And with all that said, I leave you with this mantra: If I can feel belonging within myself, I will feel belonging with you. And therefore,
I am 4 me, B4 I am 4 u.
Born and raised in the area surrounding San Francisco, fashion and lifestyle blogger Tiffany Wang moved to Beijing in 2009 before moving back to San Francisco four years later. She describes her style as “minimalist and monochrome, with a touch of California insouciance.” However, her style wasn’t always like that! Throughout the years, her style changed and was influenced by the places she lived in. Learn more about Tiffany's style journey, as well as her struggles with finding a sense of belonging in both Beijing and San Francisco.
When did you start fashion blogging?
I first launched www.tiffanywang.net in 2012 when I was still living and working abroad in Beijing, China. At the time, I just wanted a platform for writing about the topics I’d previously covered as the style editor of the Beijing’s leading expat magazine (i.e. local up-and-coming designers, new store openings, fashion events, etc).
It wasn’t until I’d moved back to the US that I began entertaining the idea of sharing my personal style. One day, I started posting outfit photos on my Instagram, and the blog just took off from there.
Did your style change when you moved from Beijing back to America?
Yes. I think part of that has to do with age (I have far less tolerance for uncomfortable shoes and tight clothing now than I did in my early ‘20s), but also because San Francisco’s attitude towards fashion is just so laidback.
From what I’ve observed, San Franciscans are far more likely to snub someone for trying too hard, rather than underdressing. You can easily get away with wearing jeans and a tee at the fanciest restaurant in San Francisco; in fact, just opting for fancy-ish footwear (aka not Birkenstock sandals or sneakers) seems to qualify as dressing up.
In Beijing, however, people put in a lot of effort when the occasion called for it. On a typical night out, for example, I’d don smoky eye makeup, stiletto heels and a dress. I can’t even remember the last time I dolled myself up so much in San Francisco (with the exception of friends’ birthdays or weddings).
Was there ever a time in Beijing or when transitioning back to America when you felt like you didn’t belong?
I was prepared for the culture shock when I uprooted to Beijing, and indeed, I often felt like an outsider. Thankfully there was such a tightknit community of foreigners living in Beijing’s capital city to commiserate with and swap stories with that I rarely felt lonely or isolated.
That just wasn’t the case when I moved back to San Francisco. I felt like no one – not my close family or friends – could understand my mixed emotions upon coming home (I wrote an entire article about this for the Bold Italic last year, actually – you can read it here). It took some time, but San Francisco finally feels like home again. I can’t imagine living anywhere else at the moment.
Was there ever a time you felt like an imposter or had a sense of not belonging within the fashion blogging community? How did you overcome that? No, not really. There was definitely a time that I personally stereotyped fashion bloggers as vapid and superficial (probably to disassociate myself from them in my mind), but as I’ve gotten acquainted with more and more local influencers, I’ve come to realize that that couldn’t be further from the truth. We are all very supportive of one another and I’ve met some amazing people in the Instagram community.
What Spring or Summer trends are you loving? I’m loving the return of the color red, statement stripes, wide-leg pants and circle bags.
What are 3 of your favorite go-to pieces? Cut-off jeans, Gucci loafers and Ray-Ban round sunglasses.
What are some tips or advice for other young women looking to grow their Instagram following?
Be super engaged. I honed my feed’s aesthetic by gathering inspiration from other bloggers, and figuring out what I liked and did not like. Also, I’m constantly perusing hashtags and Instagram’s explore feature so that I can find new beautiful accounts, and connect with more likeminded bloggers.
But perhaps more importantly, stay true to yourself and persevere. It is easy to get disappointed by your pace of growth, but if you believe in your vision, I think the public will eventually take notice!
You can follow Tiffany on Instagram @tiffwang_ and check her blog out at tiffanywang.net.
Written by Nin Nguyen | Photo by Soyoung Lim
We often visit museums to culture ourselves or to celebrate art and
history. Rarely, do we think of the work it takes to curate the art pieces
into a cohesive collection.
In actuality, there must be a great amount of work and thought put in when deciding just what should be revealed about the artist, and even the museum as a whole. This intricate and complex process that eventuates into something so well put together is how I often think of my mind.
To say that my mind is a museum is fitting since it is a curation of everything that is me, and what thoughts I have and hold, are always carefully strung together to the visitors before me. It is a perfect representation of my left and right brain mentality. It is a celebration of the arts and imagination, all bound together by an order or a system of sorts secret only to me.
Sometimes, though, there are lingering thoughts and I ask the question, “Where does one showcase anxiety?”
I am always present - just as a museum building is likely to stand tall in its own location. However, exhibits change, and so do my thought processes. Just like certain exhibits are limited to certain guests, I only present pieces of myself to people that I find of interest and of importance in particular seasons.
Also, popular attractions often get extended or remain a permanent display. Mental health tends to have a stigma that causes others to tread lightly around. If it were personified into an actual collection, its debut would most likely be short-lived. This is highly ironic given the fact that artists use creative means to help combat this universal yet unique feeling people experience at some point in their life. I believe it’s important to have anxiety be an exhibit in my life. It is not only an education piece but a precursor to those who wish to explore further. This is similar to how most museums seem to have a flow of time about them; old relics that slowly work their way up to the postmodern pieces.
Imagine, for a second, if that wasn’t the case. Imagine, if you will, spending time looking at Baroque and heading over to the next div of the timeline, only to be bombarded with a showcase of today’s popular memes. It’s odd and jarring how out of place and unstructured the place would end up feeling. That is how I envision someone would feel when they meet me for the first time and find me relatively being normal . . . and then an anxiety attack occurs.
If you jeer at the anxious piece I place before you, I’m inclined to deny it as wholly mine like some child who’s been chastised for painting the rainbow out of order. If you celebrate it, suddenly there’s a rush to make copies because demand is too high for an original work. If I don’t know where it goes, then as the person who houses the anxiety, where do I belong? Where’s my exhibit hall in life?
I don’t have an answer to this. Only temporary fixes such as medication. There are days where only VIP guests get access to see the worst of me, and there are days where every aspect of me is under heavy, laser security systems. Sometimes, the chatter of close friends distract me from the glaringly obvious askew frame of work. Sometimes, I try to run it out or color over it. I struggle trying to figure out if I am the head curator, or an uncultured patron of my own life.
Some people spend their life trying to figure out why Mona Lisa smiles the way she does. Unfortunately, or fortunately, there may never be an answer. Often, that’s the same conclusion I reach regarding my question on how to showcase anxiety.
Anxiety defines me, but it does not define me. A contradiction, I know. Yet, isn’t that what art does? It raises questions and provokes thought, but also elicits emotions that help bring about clarity. Sometimes, it is an obtrusive exhibit in the myriad of collections that is me. Other times, it is a reminder of unveiled pieces that are priceless.
In my entirety, I am an opus to the world, and if there can only be one of me, then surely the anxiety that helps piece me together has a place in this world as well. It belongs just as much as I belong.
Growing up a francophone in Vancouver, I felt like I didn't belong because I couldn't completely culturally identify with my peers. I was the weird kid who spoke a different language at home, watched different movies, listened to different music...and it was hard to decipher my own francophone identity, since my family is French, but I was exposed to Quebecois culture. Today I recognize how important it is for minority language speakers to stand together, instead of creating even more of a divide. I feel a sense of belonging with anyone who's fought to keep their culture alive!
Maryse Bernard, 25
Instagram: @marysevbernard | Twitter: @marysevbernard
“I would say belonging means having people that see you, know you, and accept you for who you are. It's a place that you can really be yourself, feel free to grow and make mistakes, and be loved no matter what. When you belong in a place, you are surrounded by people who allow you to be the best version of yourself.
Re(de)fining Magazine is an online magazine dedicated to young women as they redefine and refine who they are. We highlight topics relevant to young women today, ranging from social issues to fashion. We celebrate creativity by sharing the artistic endeavors and entrepreneurial ventures women have made. We value honest stories and reflections that instill a sense of hope and challenge us to grow. At the end of the day, we believe it's about the process, not perfection!
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