I consider my mom one of my best friends. I used to have an irrational fear of losing her because of how close we are. At five years old, my parents divorced, leaving my mother as a single mom to raise my older brother and me. I think that really shaped me as a child and more importantly as a woman. Seeing how hard she worked, raising us without any child support from my father, it set a profound precedent in my life. She worked multiple jobs to get us the tutoring, piano, clarinet, art, Taekwondo, swimming, and any lesson you can think of. My brother is eight years older, but by the time I was ten he was out of the house and off to college so more often than not, it has always been just mom and me.
My mom and I have very similar personality. Ever since I was a baby, she’d indoctrinate me like any other stereotypical Asian mom, to become either a doctor or a lawyer. When I enrolled at UCSD, she realized that neither math nor science was my forte, so she was set on me going to law school. She had convinced me as well, so I ended up taking LSAT courses after my second year of college. That’s when I couldn’t stop daydreaming about my true passion: my own clothing line and swimwear. When I told her about this dream, she scoffed at me and told me that it was a fantasy – that there would be no way to make a career out of selling “underwear”.
All my mom ever wanted for my brother and I was financial security so that we would never have to suffer like she did working multiple jobs such as a bank teller, caregiver, and paralegal. The perspective of an immigrant is different from first generation. My mom did most of the hard work, changing her lifestyle completely, moving to a foreign country, and learning a new language. To my mom, the only pathway to success is getting more licenses by going to graduate school.
Being the stubborn person that I am, I argued with her, that I wanted to pursue my dream. I told her if this clothing brand did not work out then I could go back for more schooling. She finally succumbed and we made a promise that I would only get one year to see how it would go. She felt a little more at ease because I graduated college within three years, and I told her to think of this as my “fourth year”.
I’m not going to lie, the path to starting a brand is not easy. It’s challenging and there were many tears along the road. I cried whenever things got tough. I didn’t know how to create clothes or what the process was to start it. I cried from loneliness when I went to Bali, Indonesia to find manufacturers alone.
I cried when retailers went bankrupt and couldn’t pay me back for my merchandise. All these times that I was sad and expressed these challenges to my mom, she took these moments to persuade me “Sophia, just go back to school. Become a nurse or go to law school.. Stop suffering. It hurts me to see you suffer.”
But that’s life. You will go through challenges no matter which path you take – whether it is law school, nursing school, or trying to start your own business. Even after having two successful years of Siempre Golden, where the revenue multiplied each year, my mom convinced me to go to community college and take a class that would be required for nursing school. I agreed to take the class to appease her—anything to get her off my back. She used to call me a “baby CEO” because she thought I wasn’t making enough money. It was very difficult the first two years of the business – I felt conflicted. I wanted to be an obedient daughter and make my mom proud. I wanted to provide for her how she did for my brother and me but the way she wanted me to did not align with my dreams.
However, things gradually changed. By 2017, my mom stopped mentioning graduate school and stopped calling me a “baby CEO”. She realized that after my second year, I was doing great revenue wise, and that my products were selling. Being my mother, she was hard on me, she simply assumed that a brand should blow up within the first year, but these things take time. Although, she wasn’t fully on board with this idea, now she’s happy to see me doing what I love. From this experience, I taught her that it’s possible to pursue something you love. Lastly, Siempre Golden allows me to work remotely; I’m not restricted to one area, so this gives me more time to be with my mom – who lives in Northern California. Now we are on the same page, and she hopes that I grow this business bigger each year. Almost three years later, she fully supports Siempre Golden and doesn’t question my passion.
Siempre Golden is more than just a brand. It’s a state of mind that you choose to live by, to constantly pursue golden moments or “goals” in order to live your best – golden life. When women wear my collection, I want them to feel empowered to be able to do whatever they dream of. If there is a will, there is a way. If I could persevere and persuade my stubborn, traditional Korean mother, anyone is capable of pursuing his or her dream as well.
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."