Soloist Eric Nam has gone through his fair share of trials. He had grown up in the United States his entire life when, at 23, he took a risk and moved to Korea to pursue a career in entertainment. When he was a kid, he tried to blend in despite people treating him differently as a Korean American. When he arrived in Korea, he experienced culture shock because he was deemed too American.

eric mindset
| @ericnamofficial/Twitter

His latest project is DIVE StudiosMINDSET, which is an audio collection filled with lessons sprouting from personal experiences. In the first episode “Always an Outsider,” he briefly touched on what it was like to grow up as a minority in Atlanta, Georgia.

This is a story that I don’t particularly enjoy sharing and I haven’t really opened up about. Because it has… it brings up a lot of weird emotions and memories for me.

— Eric Nam

He then shared memories from when he first began to struggle with his identity. First, he described the toxic environment at his school. At the time, he felt like it was just something he had to deal with, but, as he looks back, he recognizes that he was a victim of bullying.

I hated going to school. You know it was the typical, ‘Where are you really from? What’s in your lunch box? You look like this. You look like that.’ And I think, looking back, a lot of things were very racist, but as a kid they’re just normalized and you just think, ‘I’m the weird one. I’m the one that’s different.’

— Eric Nam

eric kid
Eric with his brothers | @ednam10/Instagram

He remembered one of the worst instances of bullying he had suffered. In middle school, he and a few other students were walking down a long corridor to the locker rooms. The boy nearest him suddenly approached him.

[He] called my name, or he called me something derogatory probably, and I look over at him. And completely unprovoked, he pretended like he was sneezing, but he hocked and spit a loogie…into my eye. Just straight onto my face. And it was one of the most degrading, embarrassing, infuriating moments of my life, up until that point.

— Eric Nam

Eric explained that these incidents in which he was bullied resulted in him having a difficult time in school. He would wonder what could be wrong with him. He couldn’t understand why he seemed to be treated differently. Eventually, he came to realize that none of it was his fault. “There’s nothing wrong with me,” He said, “there’s nothing wrong with you.”

nam family
| @ericnamofficial/Twitter

He emphasized how important it is to not allow others to define you, but, instead, focus on yourself. Rather than worrying that there’s something wrong with yourself, put your focus in self-discovery and just being the best version of yourself. Through your own confidence, you can overcome any hardships or challenges thrown at you, even from bullies.

People who experience bullying or these types of, these are things that probably stay with you for your entire life. You know, this for me is what, 15-20 years ago, and I still remember it like yesterday. It’s unfortunate but most everybody’s going to go through their own form of struggle or challenge, whatever it may be— in the form of a person, a certain situation, a scenario.

— Eric Nam

eric nam
| CJ E&M

Eric went on to describe that he used overactivity as a coping mechanism. He acknowledged that he might not have been especially handsome or talented. He knew that he was never going to be the best of anything, but he was going to try his hardest at whatever he did. With hard work, he could accomplish something.

eric nam the other side
| CJ E&M

I could try the hardest that I could, and it was going to get me to a place where even if I’m not number one, I could be number two or three. Now that’s more than enough for me.

— Eric Nam

He said that putting all of his focus and effort in hard work ultimately helped him cope with his negative feelings. Nothing would be able to keep him down and no-one could disrespect him.

Let’s do the best I can. Whatever I can control, whatever I choose to control, and whatever I can excel at, I’m going to be the best I can— to the point that you can’t knock me, you can’t disrespect me.

— Eric Nam

eric nam mindset
| MINDSET Dive Studios

Eric wrapped up his thoughts on bullies, “That person is going through something on their own and that’s their issue.” He stressed that it’s not your fault. Do not focus on the negative thoughts asking, “What’s wrong with me?” It is in these moments that you can discover what is unique and special about yourself.