12 Tips on Individuality From Award-Winning Novelist Jean Kwok

7 years ago
This article was written by a member of the SheKnows Community. It has not been edited, vetted or reviewed by our editorial staff, and any opinions expressed herein are the writer’s own.

Own Your Beauty is a groundbreaking, year-long movement bringing women together to change the conversation about what beauty means. Our mission: to encourage and remind grown women that it is never too late to learn to love one's self and influence the lives of those around us - our mothers, friends, children, neighbors. We can shift our minds and hearts and change the path we follow in the pursuit of authentic beauty.

Treat yourself as kindly as you do your friends. When your best friend says to you, “I really messed up,” you don’t say, “Yes you did! Because you’re an idiot. And you’d better fix it right now!” Or when she says, “My jeans are too tight,” you never answer, “That’s because you ate your body weight in cookies yesterday.” We hear our own voices in our heads more than anyone else’s – make sure the one you hear is an encouraging, supportive one.
Find out what you really like. Go through your closet and toss or give away anything that you never wear because it doesn’t suit, doesn’t fit, is the wrong color, etc. Even if it was really expensive and you bought it on sale. You’ll be amazed by how much more clothing you seem to have afterward, because it’ll all be things you actually like and wear!
Turn on your favorite music and sing and dance along. Go wild. The shower is a good place for this, as is your living room.
Save for that secret item you’d really love to have but is too impractical, expensive, etc. Put a bit aside each week and know that one day, it’ll be yours. Our secret loves are often markers for where we need to go someday. You never know.
Take some time each day to feel what you REALLY feel. Turn off the phone and television, lie down in a safe, private place for you. Give yourself permission to feel whatever comes into you – grief, laughter, numbness, anger, elation, jealousy, fear. Nothing is off-limits and you don’t have to be a “good person.” Just let it out and let it go. It’s a good idea to set a timer before you begin so you know there’s the safety of a limit -- do whatever you can handle: five minutes, ten, an hour. You’ll be amazed at how free and light you feel afterward.
Finish this sentence: "If anything were possible, I would …" Keep writing different answers to it and see what you come up with.
Write a letter to the people who have held you back from becoming who you were really meant to be. Maybe an ex-husband, your parents, friends, or yourself. Put your anger and sorrow and grief into the letter. Then burn it and let it go. Move on and become that person.
Do a color analysis on yourself. So often we keep wearing the colors we were dressed in as children and we convince ourselves that those are the ones that suit us. Start afresh. Take off all your makeup and wrap your hair and body in white towels. Put fabric of different colors next to your face and see which ones light up your skin and your mood. You may be very surprised!
Take yourself seriously. What are your ambitions? To get a promotion? To write a novel? Figure out what your goals are and invest in them. You deserve it. If you’re not sure how to move forward, browse the self-help shelves at your local bookstore and see if you can find any guidance.
At least once a week, schedule at least a half hour for yourself, doing something you enjoy. It can be alone or with friends, but feed the pleasure center in yourself. Our happiness is often our greatest guide.
Try something new at least once a month. It can be as simple as buying a different brand at the supermarket, taking a course in Thai dance, or getting a friend to give you a massage.
Remember that this is your life. Live it. Don’t let your past, guilt, worry or fear stop you. The greatest good you can do for this world to is to be a happy and productive person. 

Jean Kwok promised herself a long time ago never to let fear stop her from doing what she really wanted. This has led to a life full of adventure (and some truly scary moments.) Like the protagonist in her debut novel Girl in Translation, Jean immigrated to Brooklyn when she was five and worked in a Chinatown clothing factory for much of her childhood. After entering public elementary school unable to speak a word of English, she later won early admission to Harvard, where she worked as many as four jobs at a time, and graduated with honors in English and American literature, before going on to earn an MFA in fiction at Columbia. She worked as a professional ballroom dancer for three years in between her degrees, fell in love with a Dutch man and moved to Holland.

Girl in Translation became a New York Times bestseller. It has been published in 15 countries and chosen as the winner of an American Library Association Alex Award, a John Gardner Fiction Book Award finalist, a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick, an Orange New Writers title, an Indie Next Pick, a Quality Paperback Book Club New Voices Award nominee and the winner of Best Cultural Book in Book Bloggers Appreciation Week 2010. It was featured in The New York Times, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, Vogue and O, The Oprah Magazine, among others. The novel was a Blue Ribbon Pick for numerous book clubs, including Book of the Month, Doubleday and Literary Guild.

Jean lives in the Netherlands with her husband and two boys, ages 4 and 7. You can reach her on Twitter, Facebook or at JeanKwok.com.

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