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Vol 6. A Confession of my Poor Mindset

Realized connection between eating disorder and poor mindset. Recognized the power of peacefulness and reconciled with my mother.

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Sunshine Yang

I am known for my thriftiness. In my life living alone in Tokyo, I rarely eat out; I will move to another supermarket to save 20 yen; I compare prices of any product in different stores; and I sell unused items in second-hand markets.

However, I have not realized that my pride in thriftiness has long been rooted in a "poor mindset" that become my fetter.

Manifestation of My Poor Mindset

I know I'm a penny-pincher, but when all my friends want to go to a fancy restaurant and split the bill, I get scared. I'm afraid of disappointing them, so I go along with it. But, deep down, I'm really upset and end up blaming myself. That's why I started to stay away from dinners and other social activities and just stay in my own world.

When I'm shopping, I don't usually have the courage to haggle. So, when I meet a smooth-talking salesperson, I just give in and go home feeling bad. I want everyone to be happy, but my thriftiness makes me feel ashamed.

Connection with Eating Disorder

Eating disorders are often associated with excessive dieting and body image issues, leading to behaviors such as anorexia, compensatory behaviors, and self-criticism. However, my experience with eating disorders was quite different.

I never thought I had an eating disorder, since I wasn't on social media or worried about my body. But I realized I had to find out what was causing my fear when my body had trouble digesting food and I was anxious when I ate.

After observing my eating patterns, I noticed that I was never full after cooking my own meals for three meals a day, and that hunger and the resulting hormonal imbalances were the cause of my mood swings. On the other hand, when I ate out, I would often overeat and end up clutching my stomach in pain.

Previously, I could not find the cause of these two behaviors, but now I realize that they both stem from my unhealthy "poor mindset".

As a student living alone in Tokyo, my most pressing life issue was to save money. Having grown up with frugal parents, I had to carefully budget my daily food expenses after subtracting my scholarship, rent, and utilities. To do this, I even studied nutrition, calculating the most balanced PFC ratio from the daily calorie intake, and choosing the most cost-effective ingredients from the market to plan my meals.

My eyes were foggy from all the numbers and science, so I no longer had a strong, emotional connection to food and me. I was never content after I ate, and my brain kept telling me to save money by not eating more. When I had to eat out, I'd always pick the cheapest buffet and stuff my body with food I wouldn't normally get, even if my body was telling me no.

It was only during my trip to Morocco that I truly realized my disconnection with food. With its abundance of resources, Morocco was full of fruits and vegetables that I would never buy in Tokyo. The most tempting of all were the pomegranate trees in the gardens, which I could just pick and eat. For a month, I would eat pomegranates with the thought of "how much would this cost in Tokyo?" in my head. Looking back, I don't think pomegranates were that tasty, but I forced myself to accept expensive food on a price scale.

Reconciliation with Mother

The undeniable fact is that my poor mindset was greatly influenced by my mother.

When I was in elementary school, I went to McDonald's for lunch and, because I wasn't very hungry, I ordered a hamburger instead of a set meal. When I got home, my mother scolded me for not being thrifty enough. She said that for just two more yuan, I could have gotten a drink, even if I didn't drink it, I could have taken it home for my parents. This insignificant incident left a deep scar in my heart.

I remember my teenage years and how my bad thinking influenced lots of moments. People might have seen me as being cheap, but I thought of it as being thrifty. This didn't matter much in high school, but when I moved to Tokyo and lived alone, the bad thinking mentioned before eventually caused my eating disorders.

Realizing that I was completely unable to control this obsessive thinking, I was caught in a cycle of pain and self-blame. Every time my mother kindly told me not to be too hard on myself on our phone calls, I angrily blamed my mother, saying it was all because of her education. My mother's apology could not cure my obsessive thinking, but I had nowhere else to vent my emotions.

After listening to the episode "Farewell to Knowledge Payment" on Flip Radio, I realized I had an unhealthy way of thinking, like standing on a moral high ground and shifting responsibility to someone else, and trying to escape the blame. But avoiding the problem never fixes the hurt.

I stepped away from my own views and thought about things from my mom's point of view. My mom's life was hard. She grew up in a poor village in China and had to deal with hunger and an unstable atmosphere. She was used to being thrifty in all parts of life. She realized how much her teaching had helped me and she said sorry. Why should I still be mad at her for not doing enough?

Moreover, as a yoga teacher, I deeply understand the philosophy of Ahimsa-peacefulness-in yoga. There is no peace without unconditional love, compassion and forgiveness. Forgiving others also means receiving ourselves.

On a warm afternoon in October 2022, I talked to my mother for three hours and deeply expressed my apology to her. For the first time, we calmly discussed our poor mindset. My mother accepted my apology with relief and said that she didn't realize the trauma left by poor mindset until she was 55 years old. Even if she realized it, she couldn't control it most of the time. But now, the mother and daughter who have forgiven each other will never be too late to help each other with the scars.

Escape the concept of money

Money is just a made-up idea, but capitalism has made us used to judging things by their price instead of their worth. Especially in cities, where people are the focus, time can be traded for wages, relationships can be turned into interest, as if everything is a number.

However, when leaving the city and experiencing the customs of community that helping each other without consideration of benefits, I can't help but reflect on myself, being blinded by capitalism, forgetting to feel the true world. In the power of love, people can give without expecting returns; however, the warmth and support it receives is far more important than the returns of material. Although, in many feudal and patriarchal society, those relationships are more often an obstacle to diversity and individual freedom. But, more and more communities are emerging in the world that find balance between public and private, supporting individual’s happiness and freedom. I also hope that I can put down the burden of 21 years of city life, connect, and meet more vivid individuals.

This is the analysis and self-reflection on my poor mindset. Realizing its inferiority does not mean that I have already solved it, sometimes I still fall into its trap. However, just like mindfulness practice, instead of trying to overcome it, when falling into the trap of our mind, quietly observe its existence without judgment, and the emotions will naturally resolve themselves.

Thank you for reading. Wish you be free and happy!



(Cover Photography by Sunshine

This letter was originally posted on my blog.

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