Today I’m doing something a little different. As we grow our anti-bully campaign, I wanted you to not only hear from me, but hear from other strong woman who have overcome adversity in their life. I want to use this space to highlight them and hope you find inspiration in overcoming your adversity.
Interviewee: Anna Zheng
Can you tell me what you do for a living?
I’m a User Experience and Visual Designer. I’m also a spoken word artist, writer, and I sometimes dabble in photography. But really, I’m a student. I’m constantly learning so much about the world, the tech industry, and how I can see myself fit into the world and the tech industry.
In your job or your personal life, have you ever had something hard you had to overcome?
Constantly! I’ve always struggled to advocate for myself and to know my worth. It’s definitely been an exploration for me personally. Because I don’t want to seem too activated or too serious, but I also want to recognize that I have amazing qualities and I can contribute a lot to a team. For example, right now, I’m enrolled in a User Experience Immersive bootcamp at General Assembly. I found myself feeling out of place in the tech industry because the industry never felt accessible to me as a queer, non-binary person who doesn’t really identify as any gender. I wasn’t sure how exactly I fit into an industry that felt heteronormative to me. Also, I was never sure how to exactly put myself out there as a designer and as an artist. But then one day, I found myself signing up for an Adobe design competition for “creative professionals” in the Seattle area. I wasn’t even sure if I could identify as a “creative professional” because of all the self-imposed expectations. If anyone had talked to me a few months ago, I would have looked at that sign-up sheet and ran the other direction. But I remember that day, I was feeling confident and worthy, and just thought “why the hell not?” So I signed up. Got accepted to compete, and placed first with my team’s design concepts! Definitely was the most affirming experience that really helped me realize that, yes, I can do this. And no matter how I look compared to the people around me, I belong here. Just as much as they do.
If there is something else in a similar situation, what are some words of advice?
Explore who you are, what you stand for, and compromise only when you see fit. For the longest time, I’d bend over backwards to help people around me and let them do what they wanted because I didn’t see my vision as credible or good enough. Eventually, after a lot of therapy in college, I just realized that no one would ever advocate for me because no one can really read my mind. Cut the negative people out of your life, do what makes your heart full, and then keep doing it.
We live in a very digital world so you probably have seen some degree of online bullying. What is one advice you would give to young people to help stop cyber bullying?
That’s such an interesting question since what I do has a lot to do with the digital world. And I know the detriments of the digital world, but I also see it as a tool for change too. When I was in middle school, my friends and I participated in a talent show. We decided to change up a song, sing along to it, and choreographed the whole three minutes of it. I remember checking my MySpace account a few days later, and this one specific person went on my profile and wrote a nasty comment about it. I remember feeling so shitty about it and crying about how a boy could say such cruel things. I don’t remember what I did about it, but I pushed through it for sure. Advice? Social media can be dumb sometimes. Especially when people treat it as a way to express negative things through a screen and don’t understand that words are powerful entities. Know that you are valued more than what people are saying online. Some people hide behind their accounts just to say nasty things about other people. Screw them. They’re seriously not worth your time.
In your everyday life, how do you exercise positivity?
Honestly, it’s a struggle; the world is basically on fire. But I try to focus on the small things, such as stretching my body, taking baths with eucalyptus bath salts, and journaling. I do a lot of journaling. I know that I can’t personally change the world, but I can definitely change my perspective and worldview for myself and the others around me.
#GlowTogether is such an amazing movement that empowers personal stories and vulnerability. Thank you.