I've lived my entire life with Asian Butt Syndrome (ABS). It was never an issue growing up in the '90s, as a woman's derriere wasn't talked about as a beauty standard as much as it is today and I wasn't impacted by pop culture-induced insecurities. Back then, Kim Kardashian hadn't yet broken the internet by balancing a wine bottle on her apple-shaped bottom and Nicki Minaj's hit song Anaconda dominated the charts. In those years, I was blissfully unaware that my underside was lacking volume, and that some people might view that as an issue.
It was only after an ex-boyfriend drunkenly told me that he wanted to give me butt implants—"huge ones"—that I became acutely aware of the fact that my butt was not the ideal of the moment. Despite having other unrealistic body expectations for myself, such as having an hourglass-shaped body or bee-stung lips, my flat ass became the issue that I was most insecure about, even though it was the one I knew I would never be able to change.
I was aware that I wasn't alone. Most Asians are born with flat butts—it's a genetics thing. Urban Dictionary even calls it "Asian Booty Disease." But that didn't mean it still didn't bother me. I loved living in the United States, but ever since the bubble butt trend started taking hold in the '00s, after J.Lo's green, sheer, booty-hugging Versace gown went viral, I found myself wishing I lived in my family's home country of Taiwan.
There, big butts are not a commonly talked about subject and "beflies," aka bottomless selfies, wouldn't proliferate my Instagram feed.
During those years, instead of wearing tight booty-hugging jeans and crop tops, I would opt for longer tops that partially covered my behind. I would wear short skirts that highlighted my legs and took the focus off my ass and always made sure to bring a coverup to wrap around my waist if I was sporting a bikini. I even tried padded underwear—it made my butt look great in jeans! But I was so self-conscious with them on, always worried that someone would brush by me and feel my obviously fake, squishy behind.
Instead of moving to Taiwan, which I admit was a little extreme, my friends suggested I do squats to grow my derriere. But the fact is, some of us are just predisposed to have pancake asses. All the lunges and booty bands in the world weren't going to make my butt magically grow in size—they merely toned and perked up what I already had. I walked miles on the Stairmaster and flung kettlebells up against gravity while diligently doing my sumo squats, yet while my butt did get tighter, it did not balloon in size, as was my goal.
At times, I even considered butt implants despite the horror stories about butt injections gone wrong, with cement and super glue pumped in instead of filler. I figured I would eventually fly to a reputable doctor in Brazil—home of the famous "Brazilian Butt Lift"—to get my butt changed.
But I did ask myself: Would getting surgery to "fix" my flat butt make me satisfied with my body?
I thought about it more, and I realized that although I'd long had body issues like many other women, I'd never had an issue with my buns until that ex pointed it out. Was I so desperate for male validation that I would opt to sit on two silicone implants for the rest of my life? The answer I came to was no.
Instead, I did years of work in therapy, and eventually I began to learn to stop focusing so much on my appearance. I also started meditating daily, during which I had an epiphany—how much more fulfilling would life be if I just acted as if I loved my body exactly the way it is? That shift in thinking was a game changer, from that point on, whenever I caught myself feeling troubled about my ABS, I would immediately replace it with an affirmation like, "I love my body" instead.
Besides replacing my negative thoughts with positive affirmations, I've also used social media to help me find self-acceptance of my tiny cheeks. On TikTok, many people celebrate their stretch marks, scars, and natural bodies, a huge contrast from all those perfectly polished Instagram feeds. It's also been satisfying to see many mainstream brands such as Sports Illustrated, Dove, and Old Navy celebrating a variety of body types, not just the ones that are deemed sexy in pop culture.
Growing up, I was used to seeing mainstream brands featuring only supermodels in their ads, women with endless gazelle-like legs and big butts. These days, we're all learning to celebrate a different, non-uniform kind of body type—just like mine.