Superficial: The narrow focus on surface-level attributes, like appearance, status, wealth, and career over things that are more internal like morals, values, and ethics.
3 golden rules of Asian households
Superficiality in Asian culture and potential causes
Racism, colorism, and body-shaming in Asian and gay advertisements
Plastic surgery in Korea
Purikura machines in Japan
Augmented reality apps in China
Dangers of circuit parties (gay “raves”)
And a whole lot more
Understand it: ask yourself what are you ultimately looking for?
Reframe it: you are in control of how you perceive yourself
Change your environment: read books, watch videos, listen to podcasts to expand your thinking
Call it out: call out authority figures when permitted
Tara Brach – Radical Acceptance
Dalai Lama – The Art of Happiness
Robert Greene – Laws of Human Nature
Steven Wakabayashi: Hello. Hello, my name is Steven Wakabayashi, and you’re listening to Yellow Glitter Mindfulness Through the Eyes and Soul of a Gay Asian. Every episode I share with you what’s on my mind or things I’m struggling with and how I’m working through it to help you live a more mindful, fabulous life. This episode I wanted to share with you something extremely prevalent in both Asian and gay culture superficiality.
We cover superficiality in Asian culture, potential causes generational trauma, colorism body shaming, gay dating apps, performance. Enhancers and whole lot more. A little housekeeping before we start this episode. Thank you so much to everyone who listened to my last few episodes and subscribed. Really appreciate your time spent listening and all your kind messages.
And just to reiterate, I created this podcast because I didn’t see anything out there that centered around mindfulness of the queer and Asian space. And apologies with the delay. With this episode, I am very limited with the number of hands I have, and it’s a one man show. Right now I am trying to figure out the balance between my video content, my writing, my podcast, but with the reception I’ve had with this podcast, I think this is something that I want to focus on.
And so I am in the middle of shifting some more focus from my other content to this podcast. Housekeeping done, and so let’s get on with it. So, What is being superficial? It’s defined as a narrow focus on surface level attributes, like appearance, status, wealth, and career over things that are more internal, like morals, values, ethics.
I. And so I wanted to first talk about superficiality within the Asian culture as I was growing up, and still to this day, my family, relatives and random Asian elders around me will always go out of their way to comment on my appearance. Your too dark, you’re too light, you’re too fat, you’re too skinny.
And when I had gained a lot more muscle back in 2017. People were telling me that I was too muscular. It didn’t seem like I was ever just okay as I was. I struggled with deep cystic acne for more than a decade, and they would also pick on that, pick on my acne as a topic of conversation, what I was doing, what I wasn’t doing correct.
A myriad of unsolicited hygiene tips. And I’m sure they had the best intentions at heart, but I never felt good about hearing it. And although I got a sizable chunk of superficial advice about my face, my body, the females in my family had it much worse. My younger sister and my female cousin were always called fat growing up, whether or not they had gained a few pounds.
And I don’t think they felt good about it either. If they didn’t look like the woman on TV media, it just wasn’t okay. In conversations to this day, there is a deep scarring and wounding these fly by comments from our Asian family members and the Asian community at large have caused. So where are these comments coming from?
Why are superficial comments so prevalent in Asian culture? As an Asian child, you’re taught a few golden rules. Number one, never waste food or resources at the dinner table. You’re expected to eat every single bite of food to show respect to its providers, the growers, the cooks. Number two, never lose face.
Always staying calm in the face of adversity to show a good parenting of being a good child, and whenever there’s conflict to never dive into it. And number three, and this is a big one, never talk back to an authority figure, including people that are older and people with more life experiences to show respect.
And in the case of superficial comments, when it comes to authority figures providing it, it is seen as extremely disrespectful to ignore or even talk back to them. Even with body shaming, you can’t really talk back to your. Authority figures in Asian culture, it teaches us not to rebel or protest them even when they say hurtful things to us.
These authority figures are assumed to have the best interests of us in mind at all times, but in reality, they’re ordinary people just like you and I. We have our biases, our likes, our dislikes, our trauma, and. I am not perfect and neither is most of the world population. We’re all just trying our best.
But when authority figures are held to such high regard, without second thought, questionable comments and behaviors are passed through and normalized. And when authority figures are not called out, generational trauma ensues. And so what is generational trauma? It’s a theory that trauma can be passed down.
Generation after generation, the hurt and pain passed down to a younger generation manifests itself as their habitual behaviors and thinking patterns. After lifelong conditioning, the cycle repeats itself. As this now older generation, unconsciously or consciously traumatizes the new younger generation.
For example, the fat shaming my sister and cousin dealt with could have been perpetuated through the fat shaming my mom and her other siblings faced from her mother or other elders in her life growing up, and perhaps her mother and my grandmother most likely dealt with it from her mother and her authority figures as well.
And when. These traumas have not had a chance to heal. It continues to spread as mindless and hurtful comments and behaviors. If I was treated a certain way, then I can treat others the same way. And when we think about the comments that are passed down to us, why do people say things to us? They call us fat.
They call us ugly. They call us too dark, too light, whatever they call us because. It matters to them and why it matters to them could be because of a myriad of reasons, but typically it is because they haven’t, I. Dealt with that with themselves just yet and coming back to our authority figures. By acknowledging them and their imperfections, the pain and unhealed wounds that carry, we can start to unravel and understand this complex issue, this complex generational issue.
The first step of healing such trauma is through acceptance and understanding to stop perpetuating it. Is to embrace it and ultimately forgive. Though I will say forgiveness is not forgetting, it is letting go of how the trauma affects our lives moving forward. Nobody can do your healing except for yourself, but when we try to retaliate or battle and see it an eye for an eye or what has happened, the trauma becomes the focus.
What’s front and center, and it continues to thrive. And again, back to the comment about people. Telling us these comments, fat shaming, body shaming, colorist comments. They say it because it matters to them and it matters to them because they haven’t processed it yet. This is never easy and why. These beliefs perpetuate for centuries after centuries.
I had an opportunity to travel the world this past year, and I traveled all around Asia, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Bali, India, you name it. And as I was traveling, especially through the more metropolitan Asian cities, I really saw advertisements with dark skinned or. Any big Asian models in particular? Yes.
Still in 2019 you have a huge deficit of dark skin and big Asian models, and I was traveling through countries like Thailand, Cambodia, and other areas of Southeast Asia where darker skin is much more common. All throughout the streets, you still have. In the advertisements. These ghost pale female and male models plastered all over the buildings everywhere.
It was actually really odd to see it because as I was taking the subway, walking through the streets, I never ever saw. Anybody like the advertisements in the streets and most celebrities in Asia are extremely skinny, and the people who are bigger are relegated to supporting comedic roles and. Something that I have a huge disdain of are when the skinny Asian stars wear fat suits as a part of regular comedic sketches.
Yes, this is happening still in 2019 all over Asia. It’s not just in ads, but in everyday conversations from mother to daughter, guardian to child. And they’re teaching us that we are not perfect as we are, and honestly, that is not okay. Sure, some may say that it’s all in good fun, good nature, A harmless joke or comment, and although I love a good laugh, a good prank, a developing child does not have the sense to distinguish between what is right and wrong, what is their identity, and not what is a joke and reality.
Colorism, body shaming and any superficial ideal shouldn’t be forced onto any children or any adults for that matter. As much as it is a right to tell a joke, it should be as much of a right for the listener to eject themselves anytime they wish. And in the case of family members commenting on siblings, children, They have no escape.
They have no choice. They’re subjected to these comments whether they like it or not. A few years ago, a Chinese detergent company ran a commercial promoting their newest soap. A lady lures a black man into her washing machine and after trapping him for spin cycle out pops a pale Asian man. There’s so much wrong with this, including Washington Black man into a lighter skinned version, which is outright racist.
But the point I want to make here is that the superficial undertones of the commercial promote colorism all throughout Asia. The discrimination based on lighter and darker skin tones. And when you’re running stuff like this and you’re running a whole bunch of other commercials, promoting weight loss supplements and other products, telling people that they aren’t right, living in the skin that they’re living in, that is not right.
It’s very different from the west. Here we have this body positivity movement that is far ahead of Asian culture. Embrace your skin color, love your size. And I have started to see the trend of Asia picking it up as well. But it is extremely far behind this movement still. It wasn’t until recently with the rise in Asian technology brands, fashion brands that.
You had Asians finally being front and center in these advertisements before, just a couple years ago. Most of the people in advertisements were white men and women all over Asia, and when we take a look at what they’re selling, it is still a telltale sign of the work that needs to be done. If it isn’t about food, phone, clothes, it’s typically beauty products, skin whitening creams, laser hair removal, weight loss products, and sometimes even plastic surgery itself.
And so let’s dive into the superficial culture all around Asia. Growing up, I’ve had Korean friends in high school go off to South Korea to do the typical double eyelid surgery to make their eyes bigger. It was so common with all of my different career friends, even in college after they graduated college, they were off to South Korea and would come back looking slightly different in many of my Korean friends.
Mentioned the plastic surgery as almost a coming of age procedure. It’s no wonder. That South Korea is also known as the plastic surgery capital in the world. So I did some research to see plastic surgery trends all around the world based on the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Survey from 2017.
We have the US. Sitting at the top of the charts as number one, most cosmetic and non-surgical procedures in the world. About 4.3 million people have done surgeries in 2017, which accounts for 18.4% of all procedures in the world. Number two, trailing right behind is Brazil, and surprisingly it isn’t South Korea, but Japan taking the number third spot.
And so if we take a look at the populations of these countries, you have us with 327.2 million, Brazil with 209.3 million, and Japan with 126.8 million people. South Korea is much, much less. They only have 51.5 million million, but they almost have the same number of plastic surgeons as Japan. Which is insane.
They have about, let’s see. Almost, I mean, they have less than a third of the population of Japan, but they have just as many plastic surgeons as Japan. That’s a lot. And if you take a look at some estimates all around the web, some people estimate that about one in three South Korean women between 19 and 29 have had some sort of plastic surgery and.
As I noticed as a trend in high school and in college, it is customary all around South Korea to receive plastic surgery as a graduation gift. I wanted to figure out a little bit why this was the case and something popped out that was kind of. Alarming in South Korea when you apply to jobs, they also require headshots.
I had no idea this was a requirement, and I think this was a huge, huge part of catapulting plastic surgery from this superficial realm into, oh, I have to do this now because it’s a part of my job. The US is slightly bit more progressive in the sense that we are now. Removing hedges, removing names, removing.
Different qualification off of applications to truly judge people based on merit and eligibility, because when you look at a headshot, it is so extremely biased. I just really don’t understand why a headshot is necessary to figure out whether or not somebody is fit for a job. And so let’s move on to Japan.
A part of my Japanese culture I absolutely love is ura, which is the Japanese sticker pictures. They’re the really cute sticker pictures about a couple millimeters. In size and they’re stuck on phones. They’re stuck on purses, walls, you name it, and they’re all over Japan. These put cutout machines are photo booth where one side of the booth you can snap photos with one to three of your friends, and on the other side of booth you can edit the photo on a digital tablet to add messages, pattern stickers, you name it.
Seconds after you edit it, it prints out a five by seven-ish size printout with about 20 to 40 tiny, tiny stickers that you could cut out and trade with friends. It is totally the OG Instagram and Snapchat of today and. Still extremely popular in Japan. In high school, my friends and I discovered a P shop about 30 minute drive away from our hometown in an Asian shopping mall, and we would drive out a few times a month to entertain ourselves.
This shop had around 10, a 15 different machines with. All sorts of themes, lighting, props, backgrounds, and different sounds. Some would print out iridescent stickers and some would have various stage lights that would swap in. And how, based on the background you’ve chosen, I stopped going to them after high school.
But I checked them out recently on my trip to Japan to see how they have evolved. It is kind of fricking crazy. You step into these booths that look totally inconspicuous in one booth, your face and body becomes automatically transformed. Big rosy cheeks, beaty, eyes, soft, supple skin, and in another, you were made disproportionately long, your legs.
Super, super long like giraffe flags, and they came out of your extremely small waist and chest. I took a couple of these photos of my friends and I was just so alarmed at how they shifted my image of myself. And when we take a look at what’s happening in China, there is this huge rise in technology, uh, especially in augmented reality applications.
We have apps like Instagram, Snapchat, where you can take pictures and video with this augmented layer, modifying our face, adding little trinkets, stickers, making it lighter, skinnier, but in China, There have so, so many applications that have been around for a countless number of years to my knowledge.
They actually had all of the augmented reality additions way before Snapchat. The most popular ones, if you’re interested, check ’em out, are May two, M E i t u beauty cam, camera 360, and. You can apply makeup to your face, smoothen your face, change your skin color, adjust the size of your eyes, face, jawline, and even body shape, and it is extremely smart and seamless.
While I was in advertising, I worked on a similar product for Sephora’s application, the virtual artist app where you can preview products on your face and check out a combination of different lipsticks, mascara. You name it. But as I was researching for this podcast, I discovered cosmetic surgery apps on the rise.
So these cosmetic surgery clinics are rolling out with their own version of augmented and virtual reality apps. And what scares me is not the fact that you can change the shape of your face and take a picture and share it with friends. But what if all of this was. Only a click away with your fingertips to book a consultation.
It seems so easy and it seems so mindless to do a permanent procedure on your face and, and something I thought of, which is really funny too, back in 2013, if you remember, there was this huge meme pointing out all the women of a Korean beauty pageant looking the same. The internet, uh, I think it was Reddit, but.
Somebody animated all the headshots of the pageant, contestants one after another, and created a gif that had all these images flipping through each other. And what you saw was that the eyes, nose, and mouth all stayed roughly in the same position and in the same shape, but. Their hair would move. And when you zoomed out and you took a look at all the different contestants, they all look the same, just like fashion.
What we deem beautiful are trends. They stay for a minute. They can be dated in an instant. And some trends, like extremely thin eyebrows, tan skin freckles, can be in one second and out the other. And. As we continue to chase these trends, these beauty trends, they’ll only make us exhausted in the long run.
Worse yet, if they’re permanent modifications, we’re stuck with them and we’re stuck in the past and in my life. On top of all of this stuff that I’m experiencing as a part of my Asian culture and cultures from various Asian countries, I feel that the gay community is. So, so, so superficial. I’m always looking at advertising to see the issues we have to work on at this day and age.
And as for the gay community, it is around racism and body shaming. Most advertisements for gay dating apps and gay parties have extremely buff white men plastered. Everywhere. It wasn’t until past few years that some of the dating apps have started putting the token Asian, black or big boy being in their demo screenshots.
Grindr, the most popular dating and hookup app launched in 2009. Which was three years before Tinder launched, it still took, um, nearly a decade to make more inclusive advertisements. I was scouring through archive.org for old Grindr homepages, and the photos are so, so cringe worthy. I’ll post a link in the show notes, but I wanna talk about this page that I saw.
It was the May, 2060 homepage for Grindr. If you take a look at it, you see. A screenshot of a phone and the grid of people closest to you. You have 15 people. Of 15 of ’em, they are all extremely buff. 14 of whom are white or white passing, and only one black man. That’s it. Grindr and many of these other apps were meant to bring queers of all ages, sizes, colors together, but their advertising especially perpetuate this racial and superficial ideals.
The damage is done and it’s time to acknowledge it and do better. And I also wanna talk a little bit about the dating applications themselves. They too plant superficial seeds all around us. Imagine any dating application in your mind. Okay, Cupid Grinder, Tinder. You launch the app and what do you see?
You see either a grid of all the people closest to you, or you see someone’s face. And you have to swipe left or right on it. All you’re provided is a photo and perhaps an online indicator how far they are from you. What more can you judge off of, out of the hundreds, if not thousands of options at your fingertips.
You’re not searching for the one to message. It’s not a matter of who is the kindest or the most passionate about life. It’s. Kind of about who has a nicest body, the nicest smile, the prettiest eyes, who has the most defined facial features you’re trying to judge and make the first impression off of a cropped square.
Image. And as you click into the thumbnail, you’re presented with very, very limited texts, most likely a few hundred characters at most. And there’s just even more photos and sometimes a linked Instagram account. All these apps are unfortunately designed to feed our superficial rating system, and that’s all we’re given and.
Filters. Wow, wow, wow. When it comes to filters on some of these apps, you can sort through people by their ethnicity, high age, weight, body type, honestly. That’s not real life. You can’t just set a filter, walk around the street and expect to only find that specific type of person in your eyesight. Back when I used the apps, I had filters on all the freaking time I wanted to talk to just.
Buff white men, like all the advertisements had led me to believe I was lured by the photos of beautiful bodies. And it subconsciously led me to believe that I had to be just like them to also lure in my special someone. And this of course, intensified by being a part of the circuit party community. And if you don’t know what circuit parties are, circuit parties are dance parties held all around the world.
Attended by primarily gay men. They play electronics, house music, and they are a lot of fun, but they also carry their side effects. If you do a quick Google search of a circuit party, you’ll see. Different attendees at various parties, and what you’ll quickly notice are a few things, which is a bit different from a queer club.
One, it’s about 99% gay men with occasional girl, or two. Two, most everyone is in shorts or underwear, totally shirtless. And three, Everyone is unbelievably fit at these parties. You’re surrounded by a washboard, abs, huge pecs, arms as thick as their thighs, and surprisingly it’s not Photoshop. Going to these events was like being a kid in a Canty store, so many hot men as far as the eye could see, but this was really detrimental to my self-esteem and self-image.
Every party I attended, I saw someone bigger, fitter and leaner than me, and that. Inspired me and pushed me to get into the gym. In my head. I had to be fit to fit in with this crowd. And in the peak of my fitness, I had been going to CrossFit yoga almost every single day. I was extremely rock solid, but at the time, I remember being so unhappy, so unsatisfied.
It wasn’t enough because. As I kept going to these parties, I kept seeing someone who was bigger fit or leaner every single time I was spending so much money. At that time, I spent $350 on monthly CrossFit membership, $125 on ClassPass to take yoga classes. I took the occasional SoulCycle class, hundreds of dollars on protein pre-workout, bulking powder supplements, and I didn’t really share with most people how much money I was pouring into my body, but that didn’t matter.
I just wanted to be big and it all came crushing down when I got extremely sick. I had digestive issues later on that year, and I had to stop working out completely to focus on my healing. For the longest time, I touted that my fitness journey was solely to be healthy, but when my health was a priority, I was devastated seeing my body deflate.
I recovered after a year of hard work and when I had seen some of my friends for the first time. Many other comments were on how small it had gotten. It wasn’t that noticeable. Looking back, I can appreciate how fit I was then, but at the time the desire was unsatiable, I was still unhappy. I kept comparing myself to others in hopes of finding self-worth through validation, and I was looking for self-love in all the wrong places.
I’m just now getting back in the gym, but this time around, my goal is to find a balance of fitness, health, and compassion. I understand that the goal is to thrive for the long run, that self-love needs to be groomed every step of the way. Over the past few years, I noticed a trend in performance enhancers starting to become very, very common, especially with my gay friends.
Many of them have started dabbling with anabolic androgenic steroids and H G H, which stands for Human Growth Hormone to supplement their workouts. It went from being totally hush hush a decade ago to something commonly talked about and purchased and even shared. A handful of guys I’ve been on dates with.
I found needles next to bottles of performance, hand enhancers, right in their trash cans. Just one cycle around they would say, and a year later. They’re still on it with twice a dosage than before. I was actually first introduced to performance enhancers when I was in my early twenties as extra side income.
I was doing promo modeling for Miller course, putting on skimming outfits and paraded over the San Diego Gaber Hood to promote. The beers. It was my first foray into the gay nightlife scene, and I had become much more self-conscious about my image. I started going to the gym regularly and looking for ways to get more fit.
I talked to my peers about it and they shared with me their secret of getting big h g H bought from. Over the border in Mexico. H G H is an alternative to steroids with totally different side effects. And for some they say it’s better. For some they say it’s worse. But for myself, after going back and forth for some time, I actually decided against it due to the cost of upkeep.
And at the time, it cost a few hundred dollars a month buying it in Mexico, which I. I didn’t have, and I would have to inject it on a regular basis, which absolutely hated. I absolutely hated needles at the time. These hurdles were actually such a blessing in disguise, to be honest. Now, when a muscular man walks past me, I.
I can still feel pings of jealousy though this time I see jealousy for what it is instead of acting on it. I see it is my ego in full effect. My mindless ego. The ego attempts to superimpose the end result of others onto myself, and it wants to push me, make me greater, but really without much thought. To chase it would be a never ending struggle as I’ve learned.
And so now I observe it with compassion. I can see why I think this way and it is totally okay, different strokes for different people, and I am on a path of my own. As a gay man, there is this unquestionable desire to be a model citizen. It’s a desire to be fully accepted into mainstream society and to be as perfect.
As I could be. I need to have a great job. I need to travel. I need to be fit. I need to be stylish. I need to be beautiful. I need to be buff. I need to be big. But when the measuring stick is measuring only superficial values, there is a vast emptiness inside left to observe. Just like myself at my Fitness Peak in 2017, my friends and other men I’ve dated.
Even with the most beautiful bodies, still never feel like it’s enough. And of course, this is understandable. In a society where citizens are spending their valuable time to get rid of queer rights, we’ll never feel like we’re enough as queer people. And in a society where Asian culture is marginalized and the minority every single day, of course, We’ll never feel like we’re enough as Asian US citizens.
And that brings me to an interesting question to ask. When will we be enough? Putting all the glitz and glam plastic surgery, photo modifications, fitness regimes, steroids, all of it aside, when will we be enough to what quantifiable means? Perhaps it will never be enough because the measuring stick was not ours to begin with.
Another person’s. Another cultures, another periods, and some will say that being superficial is to find the best partner, to find the best mate, and to that I say best is totally subjective and it changes over time. And ultimately you attract the love you think you deserve. Whatever you put out there, you’ll receive in return.
If the foundation of being your best self is through ill superficiality, the love you attract will treat you accordingly. So how do we combat this superficial culture? The first step is to understand it. Understand where it comes from. When it comes to your superficial desires, ask yourself, what are you ultimately looking for?
Is it to find a partner? Is it to find more self-worth, self validation? Is it to feel connected with others? Our deep rooted needs can often be fulfilled in so many different ways. A superficial path is just one solution. Second, it is to reframe your thinking behind it. In the case of buying for external approval, which I am also guilting of from time to time, understand that this is a never ending struggle.
There will always be someone more fit than you. Skinnier than you, younger than you. Taller than you, lighter than you, and there will always be people who won’t like you just as you are. Though it’s not okay, it’s a fact of life. Their biases and life story has played a role in the way they perceive their first impressions of you.
To them, you may be too fat, too skinny, too muscular, too dark, too hairy, too light, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. And so are you about yourself. And whenever you feel jealous or envious, greet them with compassion. Understand that these feelings, as much as we don’t want them, are meant to keep us safe when we’ve been hurt in the past.
Feelings such as jealousy and envy. Are meant to protect us and reduce trauma in the future. And in the case of superficial want, ask yourself again. When will you be enough? A third way to combat superficial culture is to change your surrounding. If friends or the environment around you aren’t condoning the thinking that you want, immerse yourself in different environments.
And the content that takes you outside of your own bubble. Go to meetups, read books, watch videos, have experiences. Post and read Reddit forums. Listen to podcasts like this one, and. As far as books, I absolutely love reading them, and I highly recommend three of them for you. I recommend Tara Brock’s Radical Acceptance, Dalai Lama’s, the Heart of Happiness, and Robert Green’s Laws of Human Nature.
I. They’re a beautiful mix of understanding superficial thoughts and desires through psychology, mindfulness. I think you’ll like it. And lastly, to combat superficial culture, it’s to call it out, though it is way out of the norm for Asian culture. Challenge authority figures when possible and be the advocate of the change.
You want to see the stop of generational trauma. Lastly, if you’re still inclined to move forward with modifying yourself, your face, your body, whether it’s permanently, temporarily, do your homework. Consult multiple healthcare professionals to get different perspectives and ask the right questions to understand the short and long-term impacts.
Remember that your body size, shape, color, sexual and gender affinity does not determine your value as a person. Hmm. I hope this has helped you in some way and. If you wanna get in touch with me, you can email me at [email protected]. I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can also follow my Instagram at Steven Waka Bahi, and I also publish a weekly [email protected].
So get your share of weekly content from me and links to things that I’m loving in your inbox every single week. And of course, don’t forget to leave a rating or review if you’ve enjoyed it so that others will see this podcast. I truly appreciate it with that. So much love for you and hope your day can be a little bit more mindful.