- Ella Wu
A #hyphenatedAsians POV: Song Kim
The Universal Asian got to know Song Kim, a holistic life and relationship coach. Visit her website to learn more about Song’s wellness advocacy.
Tell us a bit about your background.
Where to start? I am Korean-American, and I’ve been living in the United States since I was three years old. I immigrated here from Seoul, was raised in the South pretty much all my life, in Texas and Georgia. Growing up, I had a pretty normal experience, seemingly. I was dealing with a lot of trauma due to cultural clashes and other trauma-related things. I kind of lived through life like that, and as I became an adult I struggled a lot with mental health, addiction, and all the other things that come with that. In my young adulthood I struggled a lot with finding myself and my sanity, if you will. I worked as an HR professional and tried to do my best to make it in the world and do what was right for me, but in reality, I was not happy. And so, it wasn’t until very recently that I was able to pursue a career path that truly makes me happy.
What drew you to relationship coaching?
Well, I struggled a lot with my relationships in my adulthood, and I always thought that I was the problem. Every single relationship I was a part of either ended badly or was unsatisfying, and I really wanted to have a great relationship. After my last relationship, I was over it. I really thought I was going to be alone for the rest of my life. It was a horrible breakup, and it brought to the surface a lot of trauma responses that I wasn’t expecting. I had been in therapy for years and doing the inner work for years, and yet I was just not having fulfillment in my relationships. And so, I just spent some time after that breakup getting myself together and starting to actively try to figure out what it was. I started doing the work—and that’s something that I teach others with my coaching—and I just started to learn more about our subconscious relationship to relationships, and not just relationships, but everything—like how our childhood beliefs and our core beliefs affect our reality. I learned about all these things, and it worked for me. It really helped me break through some of my greatest challenges in relationships. And I thought, well, whatever I’m doing works, and I’m very unhappy in my job, so let me just do what I love and help other women, because I feel like everybody deserves to have a fulfilling, nourishing relationship. Relationships are quite powerful, you know?
In your opinion, what is the most important thing people should do to maintain a healthy relationship?
Consistently practice a conscious relationship with yourself, where you are aware of your own needs and you’re aware what parts of you need attention from you. Basically, practice great self-care and great self-love, independent from the relationship. It’s very important to maintain a sense of autonomy and a strong sense of self. Be aware of and meet your own needs, and clearly communicate them in a safe manner to your partner.
What are the most rewarding parts about being a coach?
Oh my gosh, everything. I learn. I become better, and I learn from my clients. Every time they share with me their stories and their challenges, I’m forced to look at and address the same things within myself. They teach me all the time. And, of course, when I see them get with the person they’ve been wanting to get back with or when they meet somebody that finally shows up for them in a way that they deserve, that just makes me so happy.
What does a self-care day look like for you?
I’m a single mother and I have two kids, so I ask for help so that somebody can watch the kids. I also communicate to my partner that I need some time to myself. Because, for me, I feel at my best when I’m able to get really quiet. After I’ve made sure everyone is taken care of, I love to just do my hobbies. For me, that means cooking, or taking pictures of random things or people, but usually it’s cooking. First, I’ll identify a recipe that’s ridiculous. Like, ridiculously complicated and very complex, one that no one would ever want to do; and I will want to do it. “Oh, it has 47 steps and takes 4 hours? Okay, I’ll do that.” I’ll go to the market and I’ll get some really good ingredients and start whipping up dishes at home, pretending that I’m some cool main character in a movie. Oh, and taking a bath—a great bath, really long. Meditating, doing yoga, spending time with my dog, and finally, sitting in my bed in my pjs eating whatever I want and reading manga or watching anime. That’s my jam.
How can people weed out and keep out toxicity in their lives?
It goes back to self. You really have to have a strong sense of self. What that means is, you need to know what your boundaries are. You really have to have a strong sense of what is okay and what is not okay for you, and clearly communicate that as soon as possible to the people who are in your life. Boundaries are everything. It takes consistent practice; like with family members. Let’s say you grew up in a highly enmeshed family, which is quite common in Asian households, communicating [your boundaries] is going to be hard. One thing that I had to practice with my family was my time. “Please respect my time.” “Please don’t call me between this time and this time.” So yeah, boundaries. If you know that, then you’re able to tell somebody when they do something to offend you or disrespect you. It can be as small as somebody touching you on your shoulder.
How do you define happiness?
Happiness is when you have stepped into the energy of the person you’ve always dreamt of becoming. That’s what happiness is to me. That’ll change, whatever you strive to be will change as you grow. There’s no stagnancy in who you are. If I dreamt of becoming more empowered, successful, loving, and free, and I finally stepped into that energy because of my efforts, I’m like, “Yeah, this feels great.”
What advice would you give someone who feels like they’re trapped in their relationship?
When I first hear the word “trapped” that makes me think that the person is probably in a really unhealthy space—emotionally and mentally. It’s much more complex than “just get out of it.” I would tell them to begin to ask, “What would you want to feel instead?” I ask that because I felt that way when I was in an abusive relationship, and I didn’t feel like I could leave. When you’re in that space, it’s hard for you to just up and leave. I began to daydream and think about what would make me happier, and as my desire became greater than my will to stay, I was able to finally leave and choose myself.
Who are you inspired by?
To be honest, I would say it’s the women in my life that I’ve been exposed to, new and old. As I stepped into this role as a relationship coach, I started developing a new community of women who inspired me. There are several people in the same line of work as me, who are also coaches, healers, and the reason why they inspire me is because they really have broken the mold of what it means to be successful. I’m surrounded by women who are truly authentic and doing what they love, and it shows. They inspire me to continue to be that as well. I can’t imagine myself doing anything other than what I’m doing right now. I’m very lucky to have these other women in my life—women of color. Being a woman is oppressive by itself, but being a woman of color comes with a very unique set of challenges. And yet, these women vibe and do whatever they want, and I’m just like, yeah that’s super inspiring, you know? Knowing that we’re building that community and being part of that community is awesome, because there are so many women of color out there who have so much talent and skill and they’re going at it alone, and that can be very isolating. So yeah, my community of women inspires me.
What advice do you have for others thinking about becoming a relationship coach?
First and foremost, you need to have a pretty strong relationship with yourself. I say strong, and not good. You don’t need to have the best. When I say strong, I mean: “Are you someone who is practicing good self-care and self-awareness, committing to yourself every day?” In my opinion, that’s essentially what a good relationship coach is—somebody who doesn’t necessarily know a lot of knowledge, like skills or techniques, but is practicing a great relationship with themselves. That’s the core of what it means to have a great relationship with somebody else. If you’ve got that, then you’re good to go. Also, another piece of advice is it’s very important to practice presence and full acceptance with your clients. You will come across people who will want very different things from you, who have different preferences in the type of partner that they want. It can be challenging to see a person pursue an ex you don’t think is good for them, but all you can do is practice that presence and allow them to find the best healing option for them moment to moment. You can only just be a sounding board for them.
Cover photo credit: Joshua A. Davies