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Saving Face in Taiwan

SAVING FACE

Saving face implies a situation where someone’s reputation is under question, or has already been lost, and is undergoing restoration. Saving face is an action whereby one is able to prove that they were not wrong, or show that the degree of their wrongdoing was only very small – not such a big deal.

For those who don’t know what “面子” or the concept of “face”- its  an asian custom based on combination  of social standing, reputation, influence, dignity, and honor.  I’ll use Mulan (Disney movie) as an example. When Mulan’s father gets called to join the War, he trudges on despite his bad limp and his old age to accept his fate and show face to his town. Mulan stubbornly interferes causing him to lose face among his peers and bring him shame (you’ve bought shame to this family…#burn). She struggles with her principles overnight..a slash across her shiny black hair later…she ends up fighting for her country and ultimate saving face for her family. Kickass right?!!? I think what’s especially badass is that she still defies all realms of stereotypical conventions in the process. Ironic. Very not chinese traditional huh?

I’m experiencing this whole “face” thing on my own right now and its given me much headache and heartache.

Why? Because I’m a customized Asian, with a dash of oriental zen, a twist of western creation fervor, and a sprinkling of personal philosophizing.

I think everyone is unique and I’d rather be different, self-expressive, and stand out than fit in. Yet I respect my cultural heritage, emphasis on filial piety, generally not making anyone feel uncomfortable.  Can you understand the clash?

Stressing too much about showing “face” already implies that you care too much about what other people think of you. You can’t please everyone and even if you try, you’ll just have an even harder time identifying with yourself.

So here it comes…my introverted Saturday night identity crisis rant of living a life for you versus living the life that’s expected of you.

Saving Face Correlates with Confidence/Sense of Self 

I apologize to my family and peers for being erratic, moody, hyper-sensitive, insecure, flakey, distant sometimes…i’ve had highs and lows the past few months in this island of Taiwan.

After much thought, I’ve realized that my environment (how I behave when I am most natural/authentic to myself) has a direct correlation with my confidence.

Confidence is the ability to affect the world around you, it’s a feeling of empowerment, it’s feeling good about yourself, and it’s the thing inside that allows you to show yourself to the world.

For the past 6 years, I’ve lived independently in NYC surrounding myself with unique/independent/creative/ambitious types….wandering around carefree on my own terms and conditions…I’ve reached all-highs living very hedonistically. If I wasn’t having fun, stopped learning, or hit a plateau, it would be a matter of me running/biking away to latch onto something/somewhere/someone else. Granted, this fleeting defense mechanism had given me a falsified high sense of confidence because hell i wasn’t really putting myself in any vulnerable position where I could have a low ever. Happy go lucky scatter-brained escapist. I was restless…

Right now, while I am in mother land, I am trying to tackle vulnerability and fear. And sticking to something no matter how uncertain. Hence, my decision to stay here for at least a year.

Being in Taiwan, living with family (3 generations in one household) for the first time, being a student again, of course has its perks. I’m living very comfortably right now. I have time to explore my passions and learn for the sake of learning. So then why the intermittent lows? 

I oftentimes feel babied like I’m constantly being scrutinized and evaluated for every decision I make…and sometimes for just being the way that I am.

And its hard.  I’m not used to being called out on on my flaws. The Chinese culture is not to compliment but to point out weaknesses to improve on. This could help me in the long term (maybe)… but could also leave me feeling a bit insecure with my sense of self for the time being.

For one, I just can’t get over the fact how superficial it is here. Having “face” as a 24 soon to be 25 yr old single girl in Taiwan means I have to care a lot about how I look. And for those who know me, I could give less of a flying fck.

Over the past few months, I’ve had to evaluate the following about myself

– For “Being too muscular” (girls shouldn’t lift weights/exercise all the time) to “you look fatter/you’ve gained weight” (once i had stopped working out as much..uh OH)
– For not dressing more like a girl or having any fashion sense (i don’t even know where to begin as i struggle with materialism and also working with what I have- post backpacker…)
– For being too hasty, clumsy, with my actions and having no tact with my words (i have to apologize for being too overly excited, be smart with my words at the risk of hurting someone’s feelings)
– For having too many scars/bruises/scratches on my legs (i should hide and remove my battle scars/stories for the sake of disgusting people…and should thus quit jumping on and of things/parkour).
– For being really unstable “hot and cold” at the whole relationship/intimacy front (meanwhile grandma tells me to “open my eyes” to find a tall Taiwanese boy from a wealthy family..uh oh)

Obviously, I take all of these “things i should work on” aka hits to my “being” with a grain of salt…but i can’t lie, it gets to me. I’m highly sensitive to criticism…

Who is that girl I see…staring straight back at me….

Image

I guess to some people on eye-level, I’m a disheveled misfit who wanders parks alone scouting for old people and little kids to talk to/practice Chinese with. Who can be seen sporting a bright green sharpied backpack filled with chinese books, a camera bag that carries my Nikon D500, and Google Glass. This backpack ultimately clashes with everything I wear..its also covered with doodles by 5-7 yr olds…but its full of stories and cherished memories..and is the only semblance of me saying “i’d rather clash than fit in” so 面子can be shoved aside..for now.

In all seriousness, appearances and jokes aside, my level of confidence has a direct impact on how much I get done, whether I follow through with my goals, my values, my beliefs, my “ideal self” and whether I take opportunities that present themselves to me…

I seek inspiration and understanding and can only measure it by something tangible. I’d like to empower communities to get out of the defeatist 沒辦法 mindset and to show that life is much “more” than just 表面上(on surface shit).

It’s time to have conversation about life/dreams/hobbies/interests/taking risks and less about hello kitty/yellow ducks/stinky tofu/bubble tea/overworked low salary dead end jobs. gosh. am i right?

HENCE, me sharing myself. my “unique” voice. my personality. my eyes. my tools. my Glass.

First step- master language
Second step- understand culture/people
Third step- empower communities

The medium is the message. SO CHECK OUT THIS VIDEO ROFL.

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