Mai Nguyen, Mental Health Advocate + Lifestyle Influencer
We met Mai through our boss ass woman, Tina, and instantly hit it off. Mai is such a beautiful soul and highly creative as a social media maven, lifestyle influencer and an advocate for mental health. We like our women how we like our conversations: real. Read about Mai's jouney for self discovery and best practices on getting your mind right.
Mai, what did you want to be when you grow up?
I actually didn’t have any specific career in mind. Like any typical Asian parent, my mom wanted to me to be a doctor. And though, I knew I didn’t want to work in medicine, I did consider that if I were to be a doctor, I’d want to be a pediatrician because I wanted to work with kids and help in some way. But I think deep down, I knew I actually wanted to work somewhere involving the arts.
As an influencer, how do you practice “self-care,” especially mental/emotional self-care?
The more I take the time to understand what “self-care” really means to me, the more I realize that it’s actually a personalized definition, catered uniquely to each individual. I think self-care is about making choices with your well-being at the forefront of your decisions. So whether it’s unfollowing an account that makes you feel worse about yourself because you continually compare your life to theirs or canceling plans because your body needs rest, despite the anxiety of disappointing the other person, you are intentionally making a choice for yourself by yourself. For me, I practice my own self-care by choosing to listen to my intuition, consciously connecting to my present, and actively shutting off my negative mindset. I’m practicing every day to be kinder to myself by reminding myself that I am important and enough and loving my vulnerabilities and insecurities as strengths rather than weaknesses. It’s a difficult habit to adopt since I’m used to constantly worrying about how my actions will affect others, but it’s part of my self-care journey to tune into my inner relationship. And I’m especially learning to invest my time into things that truly invigorate my positive energy, solely and intimately. For example, listening to live music always puts me in a such an enlightened mood so I make it a point to go to music gigs, even if it’s by myself. Ultimately, it’s about being completely immersed in my present and deeply connecting with my moments.
Why do you think people steer away from talking about mental health and can you share your how you are taking a stance into opening that dialogue?
I think people are afraid of bringing mental health into the everyday conversation because it means exposing vulnerabilities and addressing insecurities out loud. We are all fighting some sort of internal battle, but I think most people believe that to vocally admit this battle means to sacrifice one’s mental stability and discredit one’s strengths. Life is hard as it is and we feel pressured to uphold a solidified character without showing any cracks. But it’s exhausting and cumbersome to sustain that mentality every day, no one is that one-dimensional.
Personally, I hated living a double mental life because I didn’t want to pretend that I was okay all the time. I wanted to be honest with myself and those around me that I’m not okay and I actually like that I don’t HAVE to be okay every minute of my life. In fact, accepting that made me feel in more control of who I truly am, and that is really the ultimate goal of any personal journey.
In realizing this for myself, I wanted to share this knowledge with everyone else and work to break down the negative misconceptions regarding mental health. The more I felt I opened up that dialogue and brought it into everyday conversation, the more I hoped people would feel comfortable doing the same for themselves. Mental health shouldn’t be regarded as a flaw, it should be celebrated as a beautiful feature in our human nature.
It is easy to be boxed into “you’re just a blogger” - how do you identify yourself to be beyond that?
It’s funny because I’ve recently determined a more goal-oriented approach to what my “brand” is. I didn’t want to be “just another blogger” because honestly, I don’t even know what that means anymore. But I think what sets each of us apart is our different missions. I don’t identify myself as “just another blogger” because I convey a specific purpose to contribute to the world. I pride my “brand” as the voice for people who aren’t ready or comfortable enough to say certain things out loud, especially our emotional insecurities and mental imperfections. I want to use my personal experiences and self-journey as an example for people to truly relate to and can deeply identify within themselves. I know I’m not someone who can influence fashion or beauty or travel and that’s fine because there are more credible sources out there, but I do know that my influence prevails in openly talking about mental health while balancing (and sometimes struggling) and “I’m still figuring it all out” lifestyle. I just hope that I can be a public figure that is an understanding of the “average” sense but can still inspire and empower positive thinking.
What helps you to be creative?
I can draw inspiration from anything, really. From listening to music to reading books to watching movies to deep and honest conversations with friends (wine sometimes helps!), I like to fully take in every minute as it were a lesson purposefully sent to spark inspiration. And that also means actively being aware of everything around me to take in as a source of creativity.
How do you hope you and your platform evolves into?
I hope my platform becomes a creative community or channel of ever-growing inspiration for others. So far, it’s been a paralleled reflection of my current self-journey, taking on all different kinds of artistic forms to relay my developing being, but I’m striving for it to become a contributive hub for anyone to share their own journeys while simultaneously learning through others’. But for now, it’s my personal diary displayed publicly for anyone who seeks a bit of advice or empathy because I know I look for compassion during overwhelming times, and I hope I can provide that kindness for others through my work.
Stalk - we mean follow, Mai's adventures on instagram @littlemaisunshine
Interview by Chary