Walking Away from Toxicity and Focusing on Your Mental Well-Being with Jeanie Chang
Jeanie Chang is Founder of Urban Tress Salon, she specialises in blonde work. Jeanie has been in the industry as a hairdresser for 22 years and started Urban Tress Salon in 2017 after she decided it was time to embark on her own journey to start a place built on her morals and beliefs. After witnessing unfavourable circumstances while working as a part time hairdresser in her earlier years, she was certain of the business model she wanted for Urban Tress Salon. Today, Jeanie’s hard work and willingness to learn has slowly established and grown her business while forging a good relationship with her clients.
As someone who suffers from high function anxiety and has been getting the treatment she needs, Jeanie is not afraid to speak up on the importance of mental wellbeing in our everyday lives. Being through very rough points in her life in the past few years, Jeanie was able to slowly differentiate healthy coping mechanisms from self sabotaging acts to better deal with her anxiety and other challenges.
Jeanie shares with us her passion for hairdressing and how she was able to reach where she is today in her career. She also shows us the more personal chapters of her life such as her toxic marriage, divorce and learning how to deal with her anxiety. As someone who has experienced how the lowest and highest points of our lives can affect who we are as a person, she shares that it’s important to be patient with ourselves, listen to your needs and figure out what brings your true happiness.
This year marks my second decade as a hairdresser and six years running my own boutique salon - Urban Tress Salon. My focus and goal in starting Urban Tress Salon was simple - I wanted to open a salon that was honest and fully-focused on the client’s needs. My poor experience with an ex-boss who was too focussed on profits while treating both clients and employees poorly had made me determined to run an ethical business.
I specialise in blonde hair work, and my favourite part about hairdressing is seeing the face of my clients, especially when they get the results they were seeking for and their faces light up. I believe that a good hair makeover genuinely helps to boost one’s confidence and cheer them up. You could easily turn a bad day into a good one, which is why I love what I do. At the end of the day, I like to see my clients walk out satisfied and happy.
Starting a business was not easy. When I first began, I even stood at bus stops giving out flyers. I later got a call from Mr Simon from the Hair & Cosmetology Association (Singapore) (HACOS) who invited me for an interview with The Straits Times to share how hairdressing can be a viable career path. This article shed light on hairdressing today, and also gave Urban Tress Salon the exposure it needed as our business began to gain traction from it.
In the past 5 years, I have been focussed on establishing and running Urban Tress Salon. It was also during this period that I found the courage to walk away from a lonely marriage after 16 years.
Speaking from my experience, a lonely marriage is when two people are together yet feel so apart from one another. The lack of affection and shared common interests eventually leads to a breakdown of communication. You feel unsupported and neglected as you always have to tread on eggshells around them and the worst in each other are brought out when communicating through yelling. You feel like you end up losing yourself.
I had also met someone who treated me with respect and patience which made me realise that not all men are the same. I decided that I had the power to make a change in my life, and be in control of my happiness. I’m relieved that I managed to break free, and I feel so much calmer and happier after walking away from the toxicity of my marriage.
Amidst the divorce and business, I constantly try my best to be present and supportive in my teenage daughter’s life. However, you can never fully prepare your child for a divorce. My daughter witnessed all the fights and felt all the tensions at home and I knew it impacted her just as much as it did to me, so I tried my best to never stop showing her love. If I had to give my daughter and others advice when it comes to dating, it would be to know that you deserve a loving relationship, and that toxicity is never acceptable.
Many people do not fully comprehend how high functioning anxiety appears. I may seem well-accomplished and composed on the outside, but on the inside I am experiencing worry, stress and obsessive thoughts. Constant worries that my business is not going to make it one day, while stressing over every review and being obsessed with the idea of me not being good enough at what I do.
I started drinking heavily on a daily basis to cope during a period of my life when things were getting too overwhelming for me. All the anxious thoughts I was having, and drinking alcohol soon led to insomnia which left me both mentally and physically exhausted. I eventually sought professional help, which has greatly helped my overall well-being over the past 2 years.
My recovery is also aided by my boyfriend who showed me that I do not need to be drunk to have fun and that I can get things done without losing my mind. He is always calm and patient, he deals with unreasonable people or frustrating situations with calmness. He has shown me on many occasions that anger does not help solve anything.
I have since learnt that high-functioning anxiety is a lot more commonplace once I began sharing what I was going through, and people started opening up and sharing similar stories. It made me realise that you should not feel embarrassed if you are an overthinker who feels anxious most of the time and has constant thoughts of self-doubt.
On the other hand, there are people who dismiss your feelings and tell you not to think too much. However, if these thoughts become so uncontrollable that they start to affect our daily lives and relationships, then we should not feel ashamed to face them, and seek the help we need.
I believe that passion is key as it helps you to stay focused and throw away all the comments of bias and misconceptions. Following my passion in hairdressing and staying focused on my goal to run an ethical business has helped me to reach where I am today amidst all the challenges.
In order to achieve balance in my life, I have set a time to stop replying to work messages and even finish work early on some days. I destress by shopping, or going for walks to get some fresh air . As a business owner running my own salon, it is impossible to explain to my daughter in words how busy and tiring it is. So I chose to show her by having her over at the salon, sometimes she even helps me out by doing small but helpful tasks such as sweeping the floor. Her being with me in the salon during peak hours has made her realise why I can’t answer her calls most times and I appreciate her understanding it.
I believe that as women, we can be a wife, a mother, an entrepreneur but we are only human. We don’t have to be perfect. Being real, happy and kind is what makes us a true inspiration to our children and others. Don’t be afraid of losing people along the way and know that you don’t always owe an explanation to everyone. And lastly, no woman deserves a toxic relationship.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Photos c/o Augustine Yuen