Known by many for breaking barriers and advocating for change in the Malaysian beauty industry, Nalisa Alia Amin is not one to hold her tongue when it comes to speaking out for what she stands for. While she has become an inspiration to many for embodying power and beauty, she has had her fair share of tragedies in her life. In this interview, Nalisa speaks up about her own struggles with mental health and what she does to give herself a confidence boost.
You’ve always been very vocal about the struggles you’ve faced with your size, what led to your decision to share your journey via social media specifically?
I guess I needed a place to vent my frustrations and struggles with my body, and social media was an outlet. It became an even bigger outlet when I noticed a lot of people struggle the same thing as I do and it helps me keep in touch with people and the relatability. Talking about it out loud also helps me manage so much better with struggle.
How has that previously affected you and your confidence? Did it affect your mental health? What did you do to overcome it?
It affected my mental health since I was 10 years old due to my weight gain which led me to be a very depressed child. I had zero confidence in everything in general and my self-esteem was so low. I remember how every time there was a report card day, my teachers would tell my mother that I was always low in confidence. I was not confident of my mind, my thoughts, my body, my intelligence… everything, you name it. It amplified more when I reached my teen years. I finally overcame it after many years by starting my self-love journey in my mid-20s. Slowly learning and building my confidence, having more love for myself, surrounding myself with good people and energy. I’m 31 now, and it’s the best damn decision I’ve ever made in my life.
What’s your current state of mind on body positivity?
I used to be all gung ho when it comes to body positivity but I soon learnt that it’s not sustainable for everybody. It works for a lot of people but I realise it’s very exhausting to constantly be positive of your body 24/7. I find the term body acceptance more in tune with where I am now and it still falls under the body positivity movement. I’m accepting my body as it is, the beautiful and the ‘ugly’. Accepting all of that makes me want to live a healthier lifestyle. Sometimes I feel bleh about my body and I don’t feel beautiful in it, and I find that totally okay because we’re humans, you know? There will be days where we’re just not happy with ourselves and I think it’s healthy to acknowledge that. It’s more realistic, in my opinion.
When we talk about eating disorders and body issues, people mainly focus on women and young girls but there’s a recent report focused on the increase of eating disorders among men and boys. Have you any thoughts on this subject?
My thoughts are the same when it comes to ED for people in general. ED affects all genders and it’s not gender exclusive, and not everybody that struggles with ED looks the same too. A man might go to the gym and ‘eat clean’ on weekdays then eat a crazy amount of calorie intake on their cheat days in a span of one or two days. That doesn’t sound sustainable at all. It’s just harder for men to either talk or acknowledge it because we’ve been told by the fitness industry that’s the correct way to live a healthy lifestyle and if you’re ripped, you’re good.
It’s also not surprising that younger boys and men are struggling from ED due to social media and movies as well. Constantly looking at ripped influencers then consuming unrealistic body standards in blockbuster movies like the stars from the Marvel films. We have to remember we’re not movie stars that are paid millions of dollars for a project. We don’t have the time to train in the gym five hours a day for months. Nor do we have a personal chef, dietitian and nutritionists on deck. Some actors even had a little bit of ‘help’ too in order to achieve the aesthetics but a lot of people don’t know that because they’ve never disclosed it.
On those days when you’re not feeling 100 percent, what do you do to give yourself a confidence boost?
I allow myself to have a slow day. I would go out for long walks while listening to motivational podcasts. Then stay in, light up some incense and do some meditation. Watch a feel good movie, listen to music that relaxes me and makes me feel good. I would create a little safe bubble surrounding me so I can rest my thoughts and my mind before a new day.
Read more: Reza Ramli on His Fight with Anxiety