It Girl | LILLY WANG
Today I am introducing you to Lilly Wang. Lilly’s story resonates strongly with me right now and I loved so much of what she shared. Friends, as we work on our dreams let’s remember to take care of ourselves and fellow humans. We are all in this together.
Name: Lilly Wang
Job Title/Company: Creator of Frothy Living, #MorningWiggles, Freelance Writer and Mental Health Advocate
Education Background: Bachelor of Science in Biopsychology & Environmental Studies from Tufts University
1. Tell us a little about who you are.
I live by the belief that we’re here for a consciously good time, not a long time. This idea drives everything that I do and create. Before the start of a project, I like to ask myself: Is this conscious? Will it leave others better off than they were before? Is it a good time? Does it have style? Is it memorable?
A bit about my story:
My family background is Chinese and I was born and raised in an all-white community in Boston. Sensitive and intuitive from the start, I struggled to fit in and understand myself after I was bullied for being Asian. As a result, I suffered from intense social anxiety and went through my teenage years with extremely low self-worth. After four bouts of major depression, two intensive therapy programs and one hospitalization in my early 20’s, I’ve come out the other end more resilient and grateful for every high, low and lesson learned along the way.
Throughout it all, dance music has been a healing mechanism for me, a safe space where I could free myself from my fears, stresses and anxieties.
After working in Boston for three years after graduating, I burned myself out working and producing my own event, an outdoor silent disco dance party in the wintertime to help people cope with seasonal depression. The event was a success, but I was chronically stressed, overworked and fell into depression afterwards. After taking some time off for my health, I moved to Australia in 2017 on a work & holiday visa to work for a psychology practice. Four months later, my dad passed away unexpectedly. I had a really hard time coping with the grief, especially in the morning. To help myself get out of bed, I started playing my favorite music and filming myself dancing on Instagram using the hashtag #MorningWiggles. It’s my way of using music and creativity to move through my grief (literally). Wiggling is dancing with no moves, no rules and no expectations and I’ve since turned the concept into a #WiggleWithMe pop-up sidewalk dance party and a cheeky connection-based event called #WiggleInTheWoods.
Looking ahead, I hope to take #MorningWiggles around the world, doing more retreat style adventures (wiggle in the jungle anyone?), inviting people to #WiggleWithMe all over the world, building a community of wigglers and spreading global awareness of mental health.
2. What sparked your interest in your work?
They say necessity is the mother of innovation, and my work really came out of a need to improve my own mental health. I went through lots of trial and error over the years with multiple antidepressants, therapists, life coaches, self-help seminars and meditation retreats to heal myself from depression and anxiety. Once I got better, I felt compelled to give back and extend my hand to others who may be struggling. Almost all my work is inspired by my own journey and struggles. For instance, #MorningWiggles was born of grief after my dad passed away. I was in Australia on the other side of the world from my family when it happened and needed some way to cope with the acute grief. For me, that was music and wiggling (dancing with no moves, no rules and no expectations). #MorningWiggles has become a practice of courage and commitment to myself, and I’ve been so touched to see others adopt the movement as a way to get through tough times.
3. Who are you most influenced by?
I’m always influenced by fellow creatives, entrepreneurial mentors and “friend-spirations,” but if I had to name one person who’s been absolutely instrumental in my recent growth as a creative, it’d be Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way. Seriously, everyone needs to read that book.
4. What was your first job and how long did you hold that position?
My first job was working register at a local supermarket in high school. I held it for about a year until I got my first research job at my university studying the avian stress response. Guess who had to stress the birds... ?
5. Can you share one of your proudest achievements with us?
I organized Boston’s first outdoor silent disco dance party in the middle of winter to help combat Seasonal Affective Disorder. I made the event free so it was accessible to as many people as possible. Over 300 people showed up in freezing cold weather to dance outside and make the most of an otherwise dreary and depressing time of year. I partnered with Whole Foods and Dunkin’ Donuts and we ended the event with lots of chili, warm tea and hot chocolate. Truly heartening.
6. What were your initial goals with your work? How have they evolved?
My initial goals were to heal myself and others through writing. I’ve always wanted to share my experiences with mental illness to help others feel less alone. My goals now include producing more events, traveling all over the world to understand mental health and resilience on a global scale and collaborating with other entrepreneurs who are passionate about mental health.
7. What do you think is the most important life skill you learned through your work?
Writing as a form of resilience. Putting pen to paper to process pain and hurt. No matter how alone I feel, to know that there are others going through the same struggle and I don’t have to suffer in silence.
8. Where do you hope to be in five years?
In five years, I hope to be embedded in a community of fellow creative social entrepreneurs in a warm place I can call home where we live, work and play together. I hope to be based in one place but traveling frequently to collaborate on projects and speak about mental health all over the world.
9. What is a typical day like for you?
First thing when I wake up, I do my Morning Pages: three full pages of stream-of-conscious journaling. Then I get out of bed and make breakfast for myself (my favorite meal of the day). Next, I get dressed and do a #MorningWiggle (moving my body to music that makes me feel good). If it’s a weekday, I’ll head into the office where I do writing work for clients. If it’s a weekend, I’ll chill out and read a book after breakfast, check-in with friends and family and maybe find a new place to explore in nature. I try to end each day with a yummy home-cooked meal.
10. What was the biggest obstacle you’ve faced so far in the process of pursuing your goals?
Biggest obstacle has been maintaining my own mental health during the creative, entrepreneurial process. As entrepreneurs, we’re very passionate about our work and in the past, I’ve run myself into the ground by working too hard and ignoring my health. Back in 2017, I got to the point where my mind was so fried that I couldn’t make the tiniest of decisions like what to wear in the morning. A friend once told me that our biggest strength is also our biggest weakness. For me, that’s my creativity. Creating is so important to me and brings me great joy, but the challenge is to stay grounded in good sleep, good eats and quality time with friends and family to sustain my creativity for long-term success.
11. What is the best piece of advice you have received?
To not listen to other people’s advice. Particularly for intuitives like me, our most important voice is our intuition. We know what’s best for us, but sometimes due to fear or self-doubt we ignore that inner voice and pay too much attention to the thoughts and opinions of others. I’ve definitely made this mistake in the past and ended up paying for it.
12. When do you get your best ideas?
If I’m being honest, I usually get my best ideas in the middle of the night, lying in my bed at 3am, bleary-eyed and severely underslept, haha. That’s reality, but on the other hand, I do draw inspiration from environments where I feel safe, understood and deeply cared for whether that be with kind-hearted people, a beautiful spot in nature or reading a brilliant book. Those are places were I feel the best.
13. Can you share with us one time that you failed and what you learned from that failure?
Failure is a loaded word for me. I grew up in a Chinese household where your self-worth is defined by your ability to perform and succeed. Hence, I developed an intense fear of failure. To this day, I still remember the shame I felt from my last piano recital at age 13, where I couldn’t finish the piece and had to walk off stage with my head hung low, seeing my mom shake her head in the audience. That was over a decade ago and I still carry that feeling. It’s hard to shake.
I’ve spent most of my life operating from this fear of failure and rejection, but my perspective changed when I found entrepreneurship and the creative world. For entrepreneurs, failure is part of the process. You’re expected to try things, experiment, learn from failure and iterate, iterate, iterate. For creatives, you only fail when you give up. When you pick up a new form of art (writing, playing an instrument, painting, etc.) you will suck at it. But the trick is no keep going. You only fail when you give up.
In this context, you could say I failed at a lot of things that I quit growing up: piano, guitar lessons, gymnastic, martial arts, drawing classes, acting, track and field, softball... the list goes on. In more recent years, you could say I failed when I stopped DJing after my laptop got stolen. Or that I failed when I didn’t get into a scholarship program in Berlin that I really wanted.
But what I’ve learned is every experience leads you to where you’re meant to be. There’s no such thing as failure, only learning opportunities. When DJing stopped, I started producing parties instead. When I didn’t get into the Berlin program, I stayed in Sydney and did my first #WiggleWithMe pop-up sidewalk dance party. As long as you continue to be brave, honor your intuition and lean into joy, you won’t have to worry about failure. No matter what happens, just keep going.
14. How do you unwind?
I unwind by #Wiggling: playing my favorite music (usually confetti shower power pop or deep, groovy melodic bass house) and just letting my inner child move how she wants. It’s a totally freeing sensation and helps me move through stress, anxiety, fear and grief. Cooking is also hugely therapeutic for me. The feeling of sitting down to eat a beautiful meal I cooked for myself.... there’s nothing more rewarding. When I feel really shit or my self-esteem takes a hit, I like to re-read cards and love letters I’ve collected from friends over the years.
15. What would you tell someone else who is interested in entering your field?
Create something everyday, even if it’s just for yourself and always nurture your creativity. Make time for the things that replenish you. I cannot emphasize this enough.
Don’t be afraid of judgment. Start writing and sharing and find a crew of like-hearted individuals who are on your level, people who’ve been there and have done the work to face their own demons and confront their pain. Once you find them, cherish the shit out of them and find ways to work together. Everything’s more fun with a team.
16. What do you hope people take away from your story?
We are ALL creative beings. Life is beautiful, but it can also be really hard. Be brave enough to ask for help and admit when you’re not feeling great. It’s a huge catalyst for growth and change. Vulnerability is strength, authenticity is your power, and you are never alone. Own the things that make you froth with joy, you never know where that spark may take you. I froth over big trees, good dance music, aioli, a sky encrusted with stars, warm hugs and social entrepreneurship, but for you it may be fishing, skateboarding, cute dogs, Impressionist art, gelato or garlic bread. Whatever it is, share that joy... unapologetically. That sort of effervescence is infectious, and you may make someone’s day or inspire them to do the same. In other words, froth hard and the world will froth with you.
17. Anything we missed that you would like to share?
Follow me on Instagram @lilzwang and @frothyliving. I share real stories about mental health and how to #keepsocialmediareal.
Follow Frothy Living: