24-year-old Stephanie Ng uses her platform to share her mental health story while creating space for others to tell their own.
As a teenager growing up in Hong Kong, Stephanie struggled with anorexia. She remembers how misconceptions and stigmas around mental illness made her feel voiceless and powerless. Now, Stephanie amplifies voices that don't get centered enough. “I always say that my experience with an eating disorder was by no means pleasant, but it has instilled in me a sense of wonder for the little things, and an intuitiveness towards my own and others' feelings like no other experience could," she said. “I spent so long silencing myself during my disorder, and today, I love that I can laugh and cry with the full force of my being.”
“I spent so long silencing myself during my disorder, and today, I love that I can laugh and cry with the full force of my being.”
Stephanie started by sharing her story of recovery on a personal blog. After receiving messages from people who resonated with her story, she realized she wanted to do more. Now, she uses her voice to share how liberating and empowering it can be to share an experience with others. “When I first started trying to put my experiences into words, I felt incredibly frustrated,” she said. “I simply couldn't separate one strand of thought from the other. I knew that I had a voice when I realized that it was the messy stuff that people resonated with and that I didn't have to have a perfect or even a complete story to have a say in this conversation about mental health.”
Stephanie is the founder of Body Banter, an organization that aims to create empowering and accessible opportunities for young people to engage in body image and mental health conversations. She and her team recruit students worldwide to collaborate on resources that offer new perspectives and awareness to the intricate links between body image perceptions and wellbeing. Body Banter student ambassadors work closely with their school communities by starting on-campus discussion groups. So far, they have established seven chapters in three different countries and hope to continue sparking conversations everywhere. "My reason for starting Body Banter was somewhat selfish," she said. “I not only wanted to share my story with others, but I also wanted to re-experience that magical feeling of finding pieces of myself through listening to others' stories, again and again. I still feel that fire of excitement each time I exchange stories with new student ambassadors."
Stephanie was honored for her work in the Mental Health space through The ConversationaLIST, our annual honoree list recognizing exceptional Gen Z'ers making an impact simply by using their voices for good. "In my advocacy work with my organization, I aim to create empowering and accessible opportunities for young people to engage in conversations about body image and mental health," she said.
"I aim to create empowering and accessible opportunities for young people to engage in conversations about body image and mental health."
Before the pandemic, Stephanie said she was the type of person to have her future fully mapped out, with little room for flexibility. But now, she's focusing on how she wants to feel over the next few years, rather than where she will be or what she will be doing. “When the pandemic messed up my plans at the beginning of this year, I was obviously devastated at first - but looking back at my year now, I realize that this jolt to my carefully planned future was what I needed," she said, “In five years, I want to feel just as curious, excited, and passionate about life as I do now - wherever life leads me.”
Still, she has a good idea about the legacy she'd like to leave behind. "I hope to be remembered as someone who followed her curiosity, who placed trust in the unknown, who was led by her heart and not her head, and who was able to give and receive love wholeheartedly," she said.
Stephanie hopes to see Gen Z lift each other up and come together and create a more unified world. She resonates with The Conversationalist's mission because she believes wholeheartedly in the power of conversation as a tool to unite the world.
"Starting a conversation symbolizes a person's dedication to seeing from the perspective of someone else, which is the first and most crucial step to closing the very deepest of divides," she said.
"Even if I may never completely understand someone's reasoning or perspectives, I can still make an effort to see the real human behind it all."
When it comes to breaking open her echo chamber, Stephanie said the best thing to do is spend time with people who have different perspectives. "This is a great way of reminding myself that even if I may never completely understand someone's reasoning or perspectives, I can still make an effort to see the real human behind it all," she said.