Today we have the huge privilege of having Mana Ogawa, Founder of Girls Bee.
A context: Last month we received quite some messages from our readers related to relationship woes. After reading them, the Krozz team recognised that an actual lack of self-esteem is a huge reason why some might repeatedly have unfulfilling relationships, or not be able to have relationships.
This is why we have decided to spend the next three months to do a “self-esteem” series. There are three sub-themes to this series: Self, Delusion and Authenticity. This interview series will involve 30 interesting/ influential people who have something interesting and unique to say, and our curation is based on originality of ideas and interpretation of definitions.
Girls Bee is a community and platform which aims to to empower and encourage women to live the way they want. They provide opportunities for women to learn, think and take action to become what they can be. You can follow Mana Ogawa on her website or on her instagram @mana_singapore
Enjoy the interview with Mana!
Wan Wei: Hello Mana! Thank you for coming on board our Self Esteem Series today! To start off the interview, how would you personally briefly define self-esteem?
Mana Ogawa: Hello Wan Wei! Thank you for having me today.
I would define “Self- esteem” as a type of belief a person has of himself / herself, that enables him/her to feel that he/she is right and happy just as he/she is.
Wan Wei: Thank you for this definition! Now, what are three possible reasons why a person may have a low self-esteem?
Mana Ogawa: I would say that there are largely three reasons:
- Childhood experience;
- Strong feelings about past failures; and
- A lack of experience of deciding things by themselves and taking action for those.
Allow me to further elaborate on these three points:
1. Childhood experience
Parents, especially Asian parents I think, sometimes discipline their children with strict or harsh words. This is not because they want to be mean to their children, but because they love them and want their children to become “good adults” and have “good lives”. They tend to point out not what their children achieved so far but what they haven’t achieved yet.
For example, from my personal experience, my mother was very strict when I was a kid. When I was a high school student, I found a university that I really wanted get in. That was the university I graduated, ICU (International Christian University) in Tokyo/ Japan, which is one of the top liberal arts universities in Japan.
I told my mother about my desire to get into the university. Of course she knows about it, but she told me that my score and grades are not enough to pass its entrance exam. Kids tend to believe what their parents tell them without doubts, so I almost believed what she said to me and I was like “okay, the uni must be difficult to get in, so maybe it is not for me.”
I was always like that until then. I always believed what my parents told me without doubt.
Yet, I really wanted to join the university, and I was slightly thinking “I know it is not easy.. likely impossible at this moment.. but if I study hard, is there any chance to get in!?” I was thinking only inside of me because I didn’t want to deny my thought. Until then, I had never studied hard, my score and grade was not bad, but always average or a bit above average.
But I really wanted to join the uni and I really knew that the grade that I had at that time was not enough to pass their exam, I finally started to study hard. It was my first experience that I motivated myself to achieve a goal that I set by myself and for myself.
And the result is…I passed the entrance exam!!
This incident really has a big impact on my life. I set the goal by myself for myself and achieved it. And the incident made me start to feel that what my parents tell me cannot be always right. “Maybe I can decide what I can do and what I want to do in my life.” At that time, I was not confident enough, still doubting, but slightly started to live my own life.
So, by reflecting on those kind of my personal experience, I think many people are affected what they were told by their parents. They sometimes limit themselves and cannot live on their terms even in their 20s or 30s.
2. Strong feelings about past failure experiences
I think everybody has fear in their lives, relationships, careers and so on. Feelings of fear sometimes make us stop going forward and stay at the place where you can feel safe and comfortable but not exciting and fulfilling.
Actually I used to have two very strong feelings of fear. Firstly, I was so scared to take a position of leadership. Secondly, I was so scared of women.
Why? Because I had traumatic experiences when I was a teenager. I can’t imagine then that I will eventually go on to establish Girls Bee to lead and create a community for women!
The first fear occurred at age 12. When I was a child, I was very active, chatty and genki / bright. I always took on leadership roles in elementary school. But one day in a class meeting, one male classmate shared his opinion– “Mana always takes leadership roles, so other people including me cannot do it because of her!”.
At that time I had no idea how people think about me. My classmate didn’t raise their hands to show that they want to become a leader. (Maybe they are too shy to show what they are really want, because it is Japanese culture.)
So I naturally did my role. Sometimes even my classmates recommended me to do the role. I was so shocked and felt so embarrassed at that time. I also I realized that leaders always get complained about. And after the incident, I stop taking leadership role until maybe when I started Girls Bee at age of 26.
That means the incident had affected me at least for about 14 years…
The second fear stems from my experience when I was around 14.
After graduation from elementary school, I joined a private girls’ school for six years. At that time I had one very close (or so I thought) girl friend. Let’s call her Girl A. We went to school together, we had lunch together and we went home together almost everyday.
Almost one and a half years later I got close with Girl A, one other friend suddenly told me “I thought you and Girl A are close friends. But I heard that Girl A said something bad behind your back.”
The incident left a huge impact on my life strongly. Today, I don’t have any hard feeling about the incident and about Girl A anymore really. But at that time, I was sooo shocked. I was just a teenage girl and friendship issues in girls’ school can be really critical. Actually I cannot recall my memories around that time because I was too shocked.
After the incident, I decided not to get close with anyone, especially girls, because I was trying to protect myself. I felt like I cannot believe anyone else anymore in my life.
As mentioned, I actually had those two strong fears until I started Girls Bee.
And even when I started Girls Bee, I was still scared to take a leadership role and get along with women. (Can you imagine? lol) But the feeling that I really wanted to make my idea into reality helped me a lot to conquer the fears I had.
And luckily I had some supportive and true friends who encouraged me to pursue my dreams at that time. From my personal stories, you might be able to see how fears can affect our lives for so long and so strongly.
3. A lack of experience of deciding things by themselves and taking action for those.
The third reason for low-self esteem is related of course to the first and second reasons. And my personal stories can also be seen as a result of the lack of experience in deciding things for myself.
We can always build self esteem by deciding on things or settle on goals by ourselves.
If you don’t experience those processes, you will live a life reacting to circumstances. You are always affected by others.
Wan Wei: What are the three practical and easy baby-steps any person can do to build self-esteem then?
- Put yourself as first priority.
This is especially so for women who tend to take care of others more than themselves.
Make time for yourself and allow yourself to do what you want to do. Even small things are fine, such as sleeping as much as you like, eating whatever you want to eat as much as possible, going wherever you want to go etc.
- Take your time to think about yourself, especially think about what you want to be/ become.
When you think about yourself, don’t limit yourself to think about where and how you are at currently.
The important thing is to just imagine what is your ideal “YOU”.
- Take action to become what you want to be.
Any small steps is fine.
You shouldn’t stop your action when you encounter something that you cannot go through.
Just keep moving, keep taking action. Then you might encounter some opportunities that you have never imagined and become what you want to be.
Wan Wei: What if the person does not know who he/she wants to become? Can you give this person three steps on how to find out what is ideal to him/ her?
- Be conscious for your five senses (or maybe including your sixth sense?)
Feel and recognize by yourselves what you like and what you don’t like. Busy women working so hard and they easily lost a sense of feeling, what they like and what they don’t like.
- What do you like to eat?
- What do you like to see?
- Where do you like to go?
- What do you like to spend time with?
- What do you like to be?
- What inspires you?
Try to visualize vividly and feel deeply. This is the first step.
- Take your time for yourself to think about what you want to be. Especially you need to think about those 5 points.
- How do you want to be physically and mentally?
- What do you want to do?
- Who do you want to spend time with?
- What do you want to have in your life?
- Where/ what kind of place do you want to live?
For a more detailed elaboration of each point, you can refer to this article.
- TAKE ACTION!
Once you think and write about step #2, please take action.
Taking action is the most powerful way to realize your idea!
And by doing so, you will find what you want to do and what you want to be at an even deeper level. We are often affected by others’ opinion and expectations from our society consciously and unconsciously. Along the way, you might find out that some of the things you write about point 2 above are not your real desires.
Just keep taking action and find what we truly want to be.
Wan Wei: What do you think is the relationship between “emotions” and “self-esteem”?
Mana Ogawa: I think “emotions” and “self- esteem” are closely related to each other. We can see the association strongly when we are in a stressful situation.
If we have enough “self- esteem”, we are not affected by emotions much, even if we are in tough situation. But if we don’t have enough level of “self- esteem”, we are affected by our emotions badly.
Wan Wei: On a parting note, do you have anything else to add?
Mana Ogawa: One of the important steps to have a healthy level of “self-esteem” is allow ourselves to be who we are now and keep on making the effort to become who we want to become.
We are never too old to start the journey; we can start anytime we want.
Photographs Courtesy of Mana Ogawa.