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Hi, I’m Ming-Wai and my negative reel makes me look good

ming-wai in the '90s looking good

I’ve never told anyone this, but when I was in high school, I stopped by the drugstore on my way home and purchased diet pills. I tried to find the most “natural” brand and I kept it a secret from everyone. It stayed in my possession for weeks unopened, I read the instruction pamphlet, and accepted that it would essentially give me diarrhea so that I would achieve my goal weight and feel better about myself. Okay, that sounded reasonable.

If you knew me in high school, you wouldn’t call me fat or unattractive. I was good in school, a cheerleader, and made friends with everyone. I always had a smile on my face and a hug to share. I achieved my goals and made people around me proud with my accomplishments. I had nothing to complain about. I was living an ideal high school existence… on the outside.

No one would have guessed that I was putting myself down every time I accomplished one of my goals. No one could hear me critiquing myself on how someone else was doing better and then spiraling into how I was a failure, a disgrace, and how I should try harder next time.

When my negative reel said “if you were only skinnier like her, then you could be happier,” I was motivated to workout, go on a diet, and buy trendy clothes. And then I would get compliments on how good I looked!

When my negative reel said “you’re probably the stupidest person in this class,” I was motivated to start studying more and focus better. And then I would get better grades and praise!

homecoming rally 1997

The annoying thing about my negative reel is that she made me look good to the people I wanted to impress the most. Her shit talking motivated me to work hard to achieve my goals. I was proud of that and what I was able to accomplish. I also thought that putting myself down made me work harder and gave me a competitive edge.

My negative reel wasn’t a problem for a long time because it kept me in a spiral of productivity surrounded by praise and compliments. I didn’t even “hear” her anymore because I was so invested in this identity that I had successfully cultivated and I was on auto-pilot.

It only became a problem when I was having a hard time holding it together as a 30-something career-driven mom of a baby and a very strong-willed toddler when my façade started to crack. Health issues, insomnia, and stress overload were all brushed off as “normal” but I knew deep down that I couldn’t solve my problems by doing more. I had to start doing less, letting go of pieces of my identity, and I was terrified and angry that this was the solution.

After decades of my negative reel successfully coaching me to look good in front of all the people I loved and cared about, I realized that I had trained myself to be motivated by fear, threats, and external validation.

I didn’t know how to talk to myself with kindness and support. It didn’t get me the results I was seeking fast enough. I was stretched thin and exhausted so fear and insults were the most effective way to get shit done in this dog-eat-dog world.

But letting go was the solution. It took years for me to recognize and stand up to my negative reel. It took years of working with my tools of yoga, meditation, and energetic healing to allow myself to look honestly inward and discover who the hell I really was without the noise of external validation. And I’m still working on moving forward with confidence in my new-found identity of exactly who I was meant to be in this world.

I know I’m on a long journey of self-discovery and I have my tools to support me along the way. I know that feeling uncomfortable is usually an invitation to change. And now I know that letting go of my go-go-go lifestyle is the most efficient way to getting back on track to living more authentically.

"I always had a smile on my face and a hug to share."

These are the truths that I come back to when my negative reel sneaks up on me (and she does so more often than I’d like to admit). The shift is that I’m not as terrified of change as I once was and I have found that living authentically feels so much better than the exhausting habit of seeking external validation.

So what ever happened with those diet pills that I bought in high school? Well, after having them for a month, I gave in to my negative reel and opened up the first pill package when I spotted the expiration date printed on it. It had expired a few months before. I took it as a sign, threw the box in the trash, and made myself promise never to buy diet pills again. It felt really good. Take that, negative reel!

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