meet stephanie liu hjelmeseth
The digital creator who believes it’s gratifying to connect with mothers from all over who have different experiences and yet still share an overall common denominator, especially the experience in the Asian American community.
Skincare is very important to you. How does your skincare routine impact your mental health?
My whole skincare routine is very meditative and everybody in my family knows that I have to do it. My husband gives me space to do that. I was never really into skincare until my late twenties. I didn’t have any guidance growing up in my life regarding beauty and taking care of my skin. It just wasn’t a priority my mom placed upon us kids.
I was 26 when I transitioned to clean beauty. I saw how much it changed my skin because I had suffered from acne and hormonal breakouts my entire life. But switching up the ingredients and getting to know what I’m putting onto my skin and diving into everything really changed it all for me. It ignited more of a passion for taking care of myself.
Was acne something that impacted your mental health?
Acne definitely impacted my mental health growing up. I was never confident. I had very low self-esteem because I always dealt with huge pimples all over my face. My mother was not very helpful. She would always say she had clear skin, so why didn’t I. I didn’t know how to take care of myself, so there was shame for sure. It started to level out as I got on birth control in college and onward. So it got better, but it was still something I dealt with. And I’m still dealing with the repercussions of low confidence and low self-esteem.
“I’m still on that journey.”
I’m definitely at a great place where I feel happy and confident in my skin, even though I have breakouts and I have scars. But for the first time in my life, these last few years, I feel so comfortable sharing that with my followers. It’s kind of scary, but it’s very freeing and I feel okay with it.
Do you have any daily rituals or practices you put in place?
I take supplements every single day. I have to know that my body is getting the nutrients I think it needs. It freaks me out when I think about all the problems that my aging family has and the people around us. I went through this very transformative period in my life where I went vegan. I took an intense supplement regimen and it completely eradicated this health issue that I had. So I know that there is so much power in diet and nutrition and supplementing the right way.
“The health issue occurred when I was 24. I had cervical dysplasia.”
If I didn’t catch it at the time, the chances were 40% to 50% of developing cervical cancer. The doctor gave me the option to do surgery, which is called LEEP, to remove it. It can affect your fertility if it’s not done correctly, so that really scared me because I was young and I had always wanted a family. I went to a naturopathic doctor and she put me on a regimen and diet to help treat the dysplasia. And within six months, I saw a difference. I didn’t have to get surgery. I went back to the doctor to check in and through the pap smear, the biopsy was completely clear. It was so frightening, but through my experience, I found a lot of truth and success in approaching it holistically.
You speak a lot about motherhood on your platform and have built a strong community. What’s been gratifying and what’s been difficult?
It’s really gratifying being able to connect with mothers from all over who have different experiences and yet still share an overall common denominator experience, especially the experience in the Asian American community. Growing up as an Asian American, most of us with immigrant parents have a very different experience than most Americans. It’s something that I continue to struggle with. I talk one on one to a few Chinese American moms that I know; how do I raise our son in a way that honors the good from my childhood?
I don’t want to bring any of the hardships or the trauma from my childhood into raising my child. I have to train myself into not doing something out of impulse because impulse was how my parents treated us, treated me.
Childhood parenting trauma is something that I’m really passionate about. I don’t share a lot about that right now on my platform. But I do one-on-one when I’m talking with people through DMS or that I’m friends with. I feel it’s important to speak about. But it’s hard because I have to confront that with my parents. If they see that I’m speaking publicly about it that’s a whole other obstacle to get through.
What was your childhood like?
Growing up, my childhood was really difficult because of my mom. My mom was the one solely there day in and day out with three kids. We’re each seven years apart and I understand now, especially having a three-and-a-half-year-old, how overwhelming that can be, managing children and managing your children’s schools and schedules, all of that without emotional support from her partner. So she was very strict with me, especially as the eldest.
“It was very hard for me to hang out with friends and maintain friendships because that required spending time outside of school.”
She wouldn’t let me out of the house. I would have to be home doing homework, doing chores, whatever it was. It felt very alienating. I suffered a lot of physical abuse, a lot of verbal and emotional abuse and a lot of shame. The trauma that I carry is around not being enough. And I don’t want my child to experience a single fleeting moment or a fleeting thought of that coming from his family. I’ve raised him the complete opposite way.
As a child, my mom had a very authoritarian style of parenting. But I believe you don’t want to do anything to upset your kids or make them hate you or feel bad or cry. So I have to be somewhere in the middle, and Kyle, my husband, helps me a lot. His style of parenting is very much the opposite of his way of growing up. We’re both pushing and pulling every single day with Jacob. We see a therapist every single week and she specializes in family therapy and childhood development. So we actually go to her a lot for parenting advice.
You’re a content creator and you said you spend time in your DMs talking to other mothers. Is that hard constantly having to open up or answer to people you don’t necessarily know?
I’m lucky to have grown up with a mom who instilled in me the value of not caring what anyone else thinks and also not comparing yourself to others. My Instagram, my whole online presence, the journey of blogging to Instagram and now whatever is going to be next, has somewhat been easy. I look at other people and I look at my friends with support and a positive outlook. I’m glad that these people are getting what they’re getting. I’m glad they’re doing what they’re doing. It works for their specific brand or their lifestyle. I know that if I keep doing what I’m doing, I’m going to get the work that is meant for me. And that’s totally okay.
But being able to connect with people is one of the greatest joys of social media, so I look at it every single day as a very positive experience.
When do you feel most at peace?
Playing with Jacob.
When do you feel your body tense up?
Walking into a room with people I don’t know.
What gives you serotonin?
My child’s laugh.
What does your body language say about you?
I’m very reserved.
When do you speak your mind?
With people, I know who love me.
next story — marta pozzan