Soon Bock Moon Wallis: “The puzzle is incomplete with many missing pieces”

We as individuals in society have the power to reject any attempt to make us feel small or subordinate simply because we look different or don’t conform to an ideal image of a man or woman. Since human beings are social animals, it is crucial for society to accept each one of us. Otherwise, the […]

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We as individuals in society have the power to reject any attempt to make us feel small or subordinate simply because we look different or don’t conform to an ideal image of a man or woman. Since human beings are social animals, it is crucial for society to accept each one of us. Otherwise, the puzzle is incomplete with many missing pieces.

As a part of my series about “How To Learn To Finally Love Yourself”, I had the pleasure to interview Soon Bock Moon Wallis. Soon was born and raised in the post-Korean war era. She came to the United States as a student in 1974. Upon completion of the advanced degree, she has enjoyed successful professional careers over 40 plus years; a Testing Psychologist at a Nevada state government agency and Director of Testing at College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas, NV. Upon retirement at the age of 68, she published a memoir titled “Don’t Walk Fast” and a short fictional story titled “Little Person’s Big Journey’’ showcasing life struggles and triumphs of a little dwarf girl.

Thank you so much for joining us! I’d love to begin by asking you to give us the backstory as to what brought you to this specific career path.

As a female immigrant from Asia, the greatest challenge I faced was not the language barrier from English being my second language, but rather the drastic cultural differences. Asian culture emphasized the role of females on self-sacrifice and as second-class citizens. I was taught that self-love is selfish, and thus an undesirable trait for a woman. It took years for me to unlearn old Korean customs and finally to learn to love myself without feeling guilty.

Early this year when I published a short fictional story titled “Little Person’s Big Journey” featuring a little dwarf girl, I wanted readers to realize how poor self-image coupled with lack of self-love would negatively affect your decision-making in daily life. My own personal struggles with self-esteem and acceptance have motivated much of my work, both before retirement as a psychologist and in my writings

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you hope that they might help people along their path to self-understanding or a better sense of wellbeing in their relationships?

I am working on a novella highlighting how an individual’s lack of self-love would affect every life decision he/she makes.

Do you have a personal story that you can share with our readers about your struggles or successes along your journey of self-understanding and self-love? Was there ever a tipping point that triggered a change regarding your feelings of self acceptance?

While growing up, I was taught to be humble and modest. You were not supposed to brag about yourself. Consequently, I felt awkward accepting any compliments and did not feel comfortable “tooting my own horn” in any type of social situation — even during a job interview. I had to learn the hard way that unless I promote myself, nobody had the time to unearth hidden talents I possess and give me any deserved recognition.

According to a recent study cited in Cosmopolitan, in the US, only about 28 percent of men and 26 percent of women are “very satisfied with their appearance.” Could you talk about what some of the causes might be, as well as the consequences?

Of course, one of the causes might be the ideal images of men and women portrayed in visual media, filled with beautiful, tall, thin, young models. Everybody wants to look like them. The consequences are eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia nervosa, muscle dysmorphia, and bigorexia. People with these types of eating disorders are extremely critical of themselves and their bodies.

Another cause might be peer pressure. In South Korea, most young adults you see on the streets of the capital city of Seoul look-alike, mainly because more than 60% of young adults opt to go through multiple cosmetic surgeries. The popularity of cosmetic surgery is not confined to young people, however. Nowadays, the most sought-after birthday present for elderly parents is cosmetic surgeries paid for by their adult children. The last time I visited Seoul, even my own friends attempted to convince me to get some surgeries done before I returned to the States.

As cheesy as it might sound to truly understand and “love yourself”, can you share with our readers a few reasons why it’s so important?

Unless you love yourself, how can you expect others to love you? Life at times is difficult for everyone. Not just you. I realized early on that all you can control in life is yourself. I learned to focus on being the best version of myself in order to be at peace and enlightened with self-love.

Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?

Some people may think they are not worthy of good relationships whether consciously or subconsciously. They may cling to or endure a “not-so-great” relationship in fear that there’s no other human being interested in them. The vicious cycle starts when they are keeping themselves unavailable for the right partners by being with the wrong ones.

We live in a culture where love is often seen as a goal to attain, which creates tremendous pressure to stay in a relationship even when the relationship is not healthy but mediocre or worse, toxic.

In old Korean society, much like in old Western culture, you were taught that once you get married, you must stay in the marriage no matter what. Divorce was not an option those days. Even if you were miserable, you sacrificed your own happiness and well-being for the sake of the children.

My advice to readers is to set personal boundaries of what you want in relationships and not to lower your standards.

When I talk about self-love and understanding I don’t necessarily mean blindly loving and accepting ourselves the way we are. Many times self-understanding requires us to reflect and ask ourselves the tough questions, to realize perhaps where we need to make changes in ourselves to be better not only for ourselves but our relationships. What are some of those tough questions that will cut through the safe space of comfort we like to maintain, that our readers might want to ask themselves? Can you share an example of a time that you had to reflect and realize how you needed to make changes?

We humans, just like any other living creatures, continuously change in response to our environment. So do our relationships, by evolving. Whenever I encounter challenges in a relationship, I remind myself that we all live in separate realities and don’t look at life the same way. We don’t have to put life into critical thoughts that will harm any connection to others. Maintaining relationships is like dancing to an ever-changing rhythm of music.

So many don’t really know how to be alone, or are afraid of it. How important is it for us to have, and practice, that capacity to truly be with ourselves and be alone (literally or metaphorically)?

According to Margaret Mead, American Cultural Anthropologist, one of the oldest human needs is having someone to wonder where you are when you don’t come home at night. Therefore, our innate desire to not be alone can cause us to feel lonely.

However, ironically, you can be lonely among crowds. You can be lonely in marriage. You can be lonely in today’s social media-saturated climate. I’m a tyro when it comes to social media. The blissful ignorance of not being on social media all the time shields me from constantly tapping into other people’s lives.

On the other hand, you should not be afraid of being alone, mainly because “me time” can enrich our reflection, silence, and peace.

You could walk not just for exercise but walk for wonder. You could appreciate deafening silence, enjoy greenery indoors as well as outdoors, immerse yourself in reading books, writing a journal, meditating, and quiet reflection. In addition, engaging in the solitary study can be quite productive. Some people assert that solitude cures loneliness.

How does achieving a certain level of self-understanding and self-love then affect your ability to connect with and deepen your relationships with others?

Once you achieve a high level of self-understanding and self-love, you’ll be able to extend that enlightenment to others by accepting the way they are without judgment, expectation, and control.

In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?

We as individuals in society have the power to reject any attempt to make us feel small or subordinate simply because we look different or don’t conform to an ideal image of a man or woman. Since human beings are social animals, it is crucial for society to accept each one of us. Otherwise, the puzzle is incomplete with many missing pieces.

What are 5 strategies that you implement to maintain your connection with and love for yourself, that our readers might learn from? Could you please give a story or example for each?

1. One of my favorite quotes is from Margaret Mead, a cultural anthropologist from the 1970s. She said, “Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.” This nugget of wisdom has stuck with me ever since I first heard it. It always reminds me that I deserve love and respect “just like everyone else,” even if I am different from others. And while it helps me be more loving and forgiving of myself, it also makes me more sympathetic and understanding of others.

2. This leads me to the next strategy: Don’t be too self-critical. I afford myself the same understanding that I would give to others. So, if I make a mistake, it’s not the end of the world. I am human. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes.

I can only do my best and while I may never be “the best” at anything compared to others, my “personal best” achievements can also be lauded. Be the biggest fan for yourself. No one else will do it if you don’t do it first.

3. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Taking constructive criticism is fine and healthy, but don’t let others dictate your self-image and self-worth. After childhood Polio left me with a shorter right leg, I was teased and ridiculed for my noticeable limp. Consequently, I was extremely self-conscious and struggled with wavering self-esteem. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t fast, but I eventually learned to accept myself as I was — limp and all. I realized while I can’t necessarily change the negativity of others, I can stop it from controlling my self-image.

4. Accommodating can be a form of control. Don’t give ways to others blindly. I was taught to give priority to the needs of others. You at times need to learn to say “No”.

5. As Marcel Proust said, “Let’s be grateful to people who make us happy. They are the charming gardeners who make our souls bloom.”Be grateful for what you have, instead of dwelling on what you don’t.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources for self-psychology, intimacy, or relationships? What do you love about each one and how does it resonate with you?

I love the Podcast by Susie and Otto Collins, “Awakening Love and Possibilities since 1999”.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? Maybe we’ll inspire our readers to start it…

Everyone should keep a brag list of “Why My Life Matters”. It’s easy to forget what wonderful things you bring to the lives of others around you and the accomplishments you have made.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you use to guide yourself by? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life and how our readers might learn to live by it in theirs?

Maya Angelou once said, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive, and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style”.

When you stop merely existing and you start truly living, each moment of the day comes alive with wonder and synchronicity. I am almost 72 years old, living with borrowed time. As I get older, this life lesson quote has become more relevant in my life.

Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!

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