Beauty can be anything about a person: kindness, generosity, humor, great energy, confidence, humbleness, sincerity, being who you are, being unique, being smart, being honest, embracing yourself and being comfortable with yourself — all of these things are beautiful!! It is essential for people to become more self-accepting.
As a part of my series about “Connecting With Yourself To Live With Better Relationships” I had the pleasure to interview Tomomi Tsuhio. Tomomi is part owner of 1Stop-Fitness, a NASM/AFAA certified personal trainer, and corrective exercise specialist in Arizona. She is also a public speaker and the author of Me and The Japanese Beauty Standards. She was born and raised in Japan, but she isn’t good at math and she doesn’t like sake, sushi, or raw fish.
Thank you so much for joining us Tomomi! I’d love to begin by asking you to give us the backstory as to what brought you to this specific career path.
Exercise was very helpful in getting me to the place I am in life today. It helped me learn how to love myself, and exercise science taught me that being healthy internally and externally is more important than trying to fit into the beauty standards that others create for us. My body didn’t quite fit into Japanese beauty standards, so, for many years, I was in a dark place where I hated myself, even though I was smiling. I tried many different diets, and I was hurting myself mentally and physically. But when I learned to focus on good health and fitness, all that began to change. That is why I became a certified personal trainer. I want to help people who are going through similar situations and help them to find a safe way to a healthy body weight that they can be comfortable and happy with. I want my clients to think about health and weight in a way that will bring about a life-long change and not a quick, short-lived fix. I have also become a public speaker so that I can share my painful and personal memories and let people know that they are not alone!
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?
Yes, it is small, but I am trying to touch one life at a time. I self-published my book in August. I hope that many people can relate to my message and get encouraged to change the way they feel about themselves and have more self-compassion. Also, I hope that they realize when we have love for ourselves, it can change a lot of things. Importantly, it can have a significant effect on personal relationships.
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?
In Japan, a certain body type is culturally favored for women — big boobs, a small face, and a thin figure. I didn’t feel like I really fit into that, and so I felt fat and ugly. Adding to that, I know that I have an outgoing personality and I try to be congenial, so I always got along with my guy friends. That made me feel like I was not attractive at all. When I was 18 or 19, I decided to explore outside my country because I thought there might be a better place for me to live. I saved my money and went to Sydney, Australia for three months. I had a great time adventuring by myself. I was so happy and comfortable to see that there are many different body types in Australia, and people were confident and embracing themselves. After I graduated from college, I went back to Australia again. This time I stayed about a year, volunteered at a handicapped facility, and traveled half of Australia all by myself. That trip made me realize that I am beautiful, and even though I gained about 20 lb, I started seeing my inner beauty.
But as soon as I went back to Japan, I lost that new-found confidence. I was determined to get the confidence back. I believed that if I became skinny, I would have it back. I was motivated to lose weight so that I could fit into the beauty standards of Japan. My goal weight was 103 lb. I strongly believed that being 103 lb would fix everything. Well, I lost about 30 lb, but it didn’t fix anything. I still didn’t have confidence and self-acceptance. I was still very insecure. I got into a relationship, and it didn’t work out. I think that was due, in part, to my insecurities. So, I just ended up feeling more terrible about myself. I really wanted to get away from my dark thoughts. I was exhausted from dealing with my mean thoughts about myself and my ex-husband’s unkind words. I was ready to change. Then, I started studying personal training, and I learned about the difference between body fat, muscle mass, and weight. I learned that there are different body types, each of which is beautiful in its own way. Each body type expresses good health with a different look (curvaceous, muscular, thin). All these experiences helped me to realize how important it is to focus on growing into the best version of myself, instead of trying to fit into the standards.
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?
I firmly believe it is caused by social media, TV, magazines, and advisements that we see every day. Only particular looks are shown. What kind of messages and ideas are coming out and getting created in our heads? This is how beauty standards are created!! Also, they only show air-brushed and perfected looks of people and their lives. As a consequence, many of us struggle with self-image, self-love, self-compassion, self-acceptance, self-worth, and relationships. In my work world, unfortunately, looks matter. How fit and lean we are as trainers is promoted on social media. Showing skin gets attention, but I feel it doesn’t show the real value we have as trainers. We should be demonstrating our knowledge and experiences.
Additionally, life events happen to people, and we don’t know where they are in their life. Here’s an example. I have been trying to get pregnant for a couple of years. All the doctors I saw said to me, “You need to gain body fat. You need to stop exercising so much. Don’t run a lot.” A long story short, I learned that I have a lower chance of getting pregnant. So, I started changing my eating habits and exercise routine. I struggled with it because I felt I was losing my value as a trainer. One day, a lady said to me, “Are you a trainer? You don’t look lean enough.” It hurt me, but I realized that my value was still with me because my knowledge is always the same. We have to remember, “Our appearance doesn’t define our worth or value!!”
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?
It is so important because it affects everything in our lives. The first way it affects us is our mood. When we don’t love ourselves, we are in a dark place. We are suffering, and although we might be hiding it well, we feel unhappy and try to find happiness outside of ourselves. The result of that is, of course, more dramas in our lives. Or we might be mean or rude to others for no reason, which will only make us hate ourselves even more. It is a bad cycle. The second effect is trouble in relationships. When you don’t value yourself, you have trouble creating boundaries. In a romance, we might get into a toxic relationship because of that. On the other hand, we might be the toxic partner by being jealous, controlling, grumpy, and just generally making a relationship difficult. Instead of communicating, we might develop some thoughts and shut down because we might be believing that our thoughts are real. Don’t wonder! Communicate!! A third profound effect is the way we live. If we don’t love ourselves, we might stop doing things we want to do. We put limitations on ourselves.
I tell myself this. There is a difference between being in love with myself and being at peace with myself. Being in love with myself is about focusing on how beautiful I am and how a great person I am. I don’t pay attention to my surroundings or have any respect for others. Due to that, I don’t notice that I am hurting people with my actions and words. Is that a healthy mind? Being at peace with myself is about acceptance, caring, calmness, and love.
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
Well, what works is different for everyone. I have to say that if a relationship makes you happy, then you shouldn’t worry if others think it is mediocre. If you aren’t happy with it, I recommend asking yourself the following questions. Do you know what you want out of a relationship? What do you find most important in life? Do you know your values and yourself? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, I recommend being single and having fun first! If you are in a relationship that is unsatisfying, and you think it is not for you, I recommend getting out of the relationship. It might not feel simple, but it is. If you want to change the type of relationships you are having, you might need to make some changes in yourself. You have a choice and the power to make a change! Be single for a while and learn about yourself. Explore the reasons for some of the choices you make. I went to counseling to find out why I was dating guys who are controlling!! It really helped me.
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 tough questions. Perhaps we will learn where we need to make changes in ourselves to be better, not only for ourselves, but also for 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?
The first thing that came into my mind was that I needed not to store my feelings or emotions, especially anger. I shouldn’t blame my Japanese culture, but we tend to endure things. When I was married, I used to hold in my feelings, emotions, and words, even though I felt uncomfortable and unhappy. I tried not to talk back to my ex-husband. But sometimes, I blew up. It was a surprise to him. Of course, he was not a psychic. So, I had to learn to communicate better so as not to let frustrations, hurt, and anger build up. Also, I believe that dating or having a relationship is simpler than we know. In the past, I was always guessing about what was in a guy’s mind or consulting with my girlfriends about my relationships. I spent a lot of time speculating about why a guy would do certain things or act in a certain way. Sometimes, all we have to do is ask. I finally realized that it can be as simple as that!!
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)?
It is so important and healthy to enjoy time to ourselves. If I can’t have a great time with myself, who’s going to have fun with me? Also, there is a security that comes with knowing that we can be happy with just being by ourselves. It sounds cold and unromantic, but nothing lasts forever. We all die, so at some point in our lives, we will be alone.
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?
I am stronger now. I am not afraid to be me, and rejection doesn’t affect me as much. As I began to develop self-acceptance, I learned that sometimes relationships are just not meant to be. I now know what works for me, what I want, and what my boundaries are, so it is easier to have healthy relationships with others. As I achieved a certain level of self-realization, I am not great at communicating but became better at it. Communication always makes things better.
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
I recommend individuals start trying new things and learn what they like or don’t like. Explore and challenge yourself. Also stop trying to live someone else’s life. Live your life for yourself. Forget about someone else’s expectations and what is considered “normal” life. Know that it is ok to be different and unique. When you get out of your comfort zone, you see more things that you can love about yourself.
As far as societal changes are concerned, we need to stop promoting the idea that your physical appearance is the only type of beauty that matters. Beauty can be anything about a person: kindness, generosity, humor, great energy, confidence, humbleness, sincerity, being who you are, being unique, being smart, being honest, embracing yourself and being comfortable with yourself — all of these things are beautiful!! It is essential for people to become more self-accepting. So, let’s start showing all different kinds of beauty on TV, in magazines, and in advertisements everywhere and celebrate all the ways that people are beautiful!!
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. Don’t seek recognition or affirmation from others.
I always tell myself that I am beautiful and have value. I used to let people or society decide my value and worth. So, my confidence would go up and down. I didn’t like that. I wanted to stabilize my confidence, and this was my way of making that change.
2. Saying, “No” on demands for my time.
It is hard to say no, but I have my special time which can be doings workouts, relaxing, watching Japanese TV shows, or just doing something that I like by myself. When I do this, I feel that I am recharged, and I am setting up healthy boundaries with everyone.
3. Stop thinking negative thoughts about myself.
I believe that it’s always important to reflect on things and try to improve myself. But if I am criticizing myself, I will make a conscious effort to stop those negative thoughts. It took me a long time to learn to do this. I had to create a habit to stop as soon as I notice negativity creeping in.
4. Be true to my feelings.
If I feel tired and down, I won’t push myself to be or feel better. I find it’s often a good time to take that “special time off” for myself. If I push too hard when I feel like that, I start feeling terrible about myself. What I have learned is that when I am on the edge, I tend to have more negative thoughts about everything, especially myself.
5. Keep learning and staying humble.
I love learning things, especially for my work. Learning new things give me confidence and reminds me that I don’t know everything. This helps me to stay humble. Also, it reminds me that people are at different chapters in their lives, so always be kind.
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 books by Rhonda Byrne. The law of attraction is so true. When we feel good, great things come to us. When we truly believe, it happens. It applies to my life every day. I wasn’t meeting a guy that I wanted to be with. So I used the law of attraction and wrote down all the qualities that I wanted my partner to have (funny, loves to work out, a great dancer, kind to my family and friends…..etc), and I read it every day — with thanks — like I already had him. Well, I met the guy who had those qualities, and we have been together almost 8 years.
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…
That would be…… “Start valuing inner beauty more than external beauty!!” We have this idea that if we lose weight and change our appearance, we will feel good about ourselves. Is it true? Of course, we feel great about accomplishments, and I am not against that. But the concept of placing so much importance on physical appearance is out of balance. We should place more value on being who we are, no matter what.
Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life and how our readers might learn to live by it in theirs?
“Trigger ≠ Truth”
I don’t have to think about this quote as much as I used to, but this was powerful and necessary for me at one time. I had been in some toxic relationships, and I was really having a hard time to accepting myself. I was trying to figure out why I was attracted to certain men. I had been in a relationship where I was told many negative things, and I was believing them. I went to a counselor to solve this. My counselor was a great help, and she wrote these words on a piece of paper. I looked at it before I went to bed every night so I could plant these words deeply into my mind and my thinking. I still have the paper, and I am so grateful that she helped me to be where I am. If you have trigger words, please remember this quote.
Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!