I feel a little scared to write this. I was around twelve when I started weighing myself on the scales. I ran in the morning before school, and straight after school when I got home. I drank a lot of water and I ate as much as I liked because my metabolism was a skyrocket. When I left home at sixteen, I developed signs of an eating disorder. I’m sensitive in typing that because these were warning signs, which is why I’m careful to not label myself as having an eating disorder. I would skip meals, exercise a lot, eat slowly, weigh myself several times a day, obsess over my BMI and drink a lot of water to feel full. I had depression, anxiety and a fear of gaining weight.
When you grow up with people telling you that you’re skinny and that it’s said as a compliment, there is this pressure that stays inside your mind to maintain that body image. However, now that I’m in my twenties, my body is naturally changing. My metabolism isn’t what it used to be, and I feel more aware of eating healthy and having an active lifestyle. The beauty standard in Asia is to be very petite, but our bodies are all made differently. No person is made exactly the same as another, and if that were the case, how boring would that be? After many years of struggling with my weight, I feel the healthiest and happiest now. Surround yourself with people who love and support you, do the things that you enjoy and feed your mind with positive words.
There are days where I still struggle, but I know it’s not my true self. The true voice in myself says that your self-worth comes from who you are as a person, and it has nothing to do with the number on the scales. I don’t want to be defined by my weight, but by what I can bring into the world. The title really speaks about my teenage years. In the past, I went through a period where I was feeling a lot of hatred towards myself. I felt not worthy, and there was an overwhelming amount of worry and fear taking over my life. I felt like even though I was stressed, I could control my weight and what I ate. It’s not healthy, because then you end up neglecting your body.
I was 18 when I was living in Sydney in 2015, and it was a time where I really struggled with my body image. I remember gymming more and watching what I was eating. There was fear and insecurity during that period of my life. I felt incredibly lost. My anxiety was crippling at that time, and I really isolated myself. It was really during that time where I wasn’t connecting with God, and my relationship with Him really weakened during that season of my life. When it comes to eating, I used to feel quite conscious at times when eating a meal in front of people, unless it’s those I’m very close to.
Our bodies are beautiful, sacred, precious and wonderful things that keep us moving, breathing and living life. I do think that it can be damaging if one compliments too much on a persons body size. When you grow up from a child being told that you’re so skinny and that it’s said as a compliment, it’s something that can really stay entrenched in your mind as you grow older. I know that my value lies in my heart, yet there are days where I stare in the mirror and feel a sudden fear of gaining any weight. It all starts in the mind. A persons weight can fluctuate when dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression.
Everyone has insecurities. We all have something inside and out that we’re conscious of. When I think about where I was previously, it was during a period where I was unhappy, and I felt like I wasn’t skinny enough (which was when I was the lightest). I rarely ate in the dining area in a previous flat a few years ago, because I literally didn’t want my flatmates to see me eating. It’s really been this year, where I’ve felt safe in eating in the dining area. It seems like something so small, but it’s a huge change. Since leaving home, there have been periods where I didn’t eat well. I think when one’s stress, you either eat a lot or you feel you don’t have any appetite.
We often don’t emphasize it enough, but your health is truly your wealth. Without your health, you wouldn’t be able to wake up and conquer the day. You wouldn’t be able to experience this beautiful life. When I didn’t have a healthy mind, it started to affect my body and I felt weak, unmotivated and a loss of energy. It was during that time where I suffered from panic attacks and had very deep depression. Our thoughts are so powerful. When I started being more present, thinking positively and accepting myself as I am, I really felt set free from the cage I’d built inside my mind.
I’ve read so many stories about those who showed warning signs of anorexia, and during those periods where they were the lowest weight, was when they were the unhappiest. Being skinny won’t make you happy. It’s embracing where you are, right here, right now. Accepting yourself as you are. Being grateful for everything that your body has done for you. Being thankful for good health and waking up to a new day. Treating yourself with kindness, love and positive self-talk. I am at the healthiest weight this year. I feel the most energy and happiness this year.
There were feelings of not being good enough. After really surrounding myself with amazing people and being kinder to myself, I feel an overwhelming sense of peace. If you can’t love yourself first, how will you attract the right people into your life? Our life experiences can affect us deeply in how we see the world. But, I really think that we can all heal from hurt, even when it seems impossible. It’s really the simple things in life that give us the greatest joy. We have to come from a place of not judging others because everyone has and is going through something. It’s easy to see things on the surface and believe what we see. The most healing comes from the periods of silence. I really believe that time heals.
One of the biggest blessings is surrounding yourself with people who are uplifting, encouraging, motivating, positive and caring. They bring the best out of you. The people we surround ourselves with are important. Our bodies are a blessing. It’s important to refrain from commenting or complimenting someone on their body. I can’t emphasize how much it can have an impact on them. A reminder to myself is 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 which reads: Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies.
How powerful is that? God wants us to take care of ourselves, and He wants us to live our lives as fully as possible. I really believe we have to remind ourselves that we are enough as we are. We truly live in such a visual world. People will constantly judge others based on their appearances, and it’s inescapable that the first impression we have of someone often comes from their physical appearances. But, we have to go beyond the surface and remember that every person we care about, we couldn’t care less about what they look like. I really hope if you are on a journey of healing and having a healthy relationship with your body, that you will realize how beautifully made you are.
When you go through a stressful period in your life or a hard season, know that there are people who care about you. I know that when I went through depression, I often felt like nobody cared and that there wasn’t a way out. But, there are so many people who love you, and often the first step is reaching out to others. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to talk about these things. Those who matter in our lives, are the ones who won’t judge you for your experiences. When I’m reminding myself of what’s important in life, I like to think of the words from The Little Prince: Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye. If you are reading this and going through a hard time, know that wherever you are in your life you are enough.
You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you. Song of Songs 4:7
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14
This is quite a personal post for me, but I wanted to share it with you in case anyone reading has also felt this way. I truly believe that this year I have improved in terms of my mental health, and I want to share a snippet of my experience with you. I remember I used to cry every week, every few days. The only way to express this is that it drained my soul. I used to feel a certain level of fear when I knew I would be going out. It felt as if I was inside a giant birdcage, unable to set myself free. I’d have a panic attack several times a month and it was debilitating.
I have far less panic attacks than ever before, and I wanted to share some changes I made in my life in order to take control. What made me want to write about this, was because I recently had a panic attack after a long period of not having one, and I was experiencing suicidal thoughts again. In the past, this would happen too often. I can’t express how important it is to speak out about it even when it feels incredibly hard. This time I realised how much more I love and care for myself, and knew I needed to go to the counselor again since my last time going four years ago. It’s never wrong to seek help or speak out about how you’re feeling with someone you trust.
If you ever feel you are having mental health problems, please see a doctor. It’s very easy for someone to throw the term anxiety, depression and having a panic attack around and self diagnose. It’s easy for someone to say “I’m feeling depressed” but they may or may not be just feeling sad. What I’ve found helpful is to write an anxiety diary for one week, to see what makes me feel anxious during the day and to decide what I can do about it. The best thing to do is to see a healthcare professional. They would have a talk with me, let me take a mental health test and ask me questions on my experience. This will clarify many things.
The advice I received from the counselor was very helpful, and the counselor told me that at the core of anxiety, there is always a reason. I found this extremely important, because there are times where I forget that. One of the ways I’ve improved my anxiety these past two months have been going out for long walks for 2-3 hours. I finally bought new trainers recently, after walking in my boots and wearing their poor soles out. This has really helped with my breathing, appreciation for being alive in this world and just learning to face my fears and go outside of my comfort zone. It also releases stress and allows me to think properly.
It’s so important to love yourself and be kinder to myself. We can sometimes be the hardest on ourselves. We can be kind and loving to other people, but forget to be kind and loving to ourselves. This is so true for myself, because I found that negative self talk is the same as talking to someone unkindly. No one deserves to be hurt. The more love and kindness we pour into ourselves, the more we pour out into the world. Our thoughts create our life. Creating a habit of gratitude has truly helped more than I can express, and realising the power of our thoughts and how our thoughts create the life we want to live, makes me realise that we all deserve to live a good life.
Remember to eat healthy and good foods and drink enough water. I can’t emphasise enough how much food and keeping hydrated affects our mood, mind and body. A few years ago I would resist going outdoors even when the ones I love were constantly giving me advice to go outside for a short walk. The more I resisted, the more fear it built. Now, when I go for a walk, it’s natural and I don’t feel any fear anymore. I remember being invited to networking events in Sydney, and I’d always turn them down. I’d miss the opportunity to meet amazing people. We create opportunities for ourselves, when we face our fears. It makes life more exciting to go outside of your comfort zone.
If you ever feel depressed, anxious or you have a panic attack, don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to seek help. A few years ago, I was feeling negative and attracting negative people and situations into my life. Remember, your thoughts have so much power. The more good thoughts we have, the more we attract good things into our lives. It reflects the law of attraction and the radiating power of positivity, love and kindness. Surround yourself with good people and be at present in this world with the feeling that makes you feel good. If someone is being unkind, don’t resist or react, just let them be. The way we react to things comes down to ourselves.
I’ve recently been reading a book with these wise words and I want to share some with you. We have so much love to give, and the more that we give, the more we receive. Life is mirroring back to you what you are holding inside you. Take a moment to think about all that nature gives to you every single day so that you can live. And yet nature never asks for anything in return. That is true giving. “A feeling that greater possessions, no matter what kind they may be, will of themselves bring contentment or happiness, is a misunderstanding. No person, place, or thing can give you happiness. They may give you a cause for happiness and a feeling of contentment, but the Joy of Living comes from within.” – Genevieve Behrend (1881-1960).
You deserve all the love, happiness and joy in the world.
Photography from Mary Salas
As I type this, there is the lovely sounds of cicadas outside, and the sun is starting to hide behind the clouds. My room is dimly lit, and I’m home from a day of lectures. I believe that university is not the only road to succeed. It’s a place to learn, expand our knowledge and learn new skills. Though, often university is tied into the belief that everyone must finish high school, go to university, graduate, find a great job and get married. The reality is that everyone is on their own journey. There are some people who will go to uni and then there are some who won’t. Writing this article out feels like a breath of fresh air.
I left home at 16 and started my first year at university. At the time I was studying a Bachelor of Music in Classical Performance, majoring on the flute. Fast track two years, I was 18 and didn’t feel that it was the right path for me anymore. I moved to Sydney and studied a Fashion course for a year, and gained a few internship experiences, work experiences and life lessons. It was a really beneficial time for my self growth. I’m a firm believer of going for what feels right in your heart. If you have a goal set in your mind, the only downside you could face is failure. If you don’t try then you’ll never know.
Work experience is so important. I knew several people in Sydney who didn’t have a degree, but built their work experience over years and years. However, I do find that in our generation, a huge majority of jobs require a tertiary education. Timing is everything. This time round, I felt a little more wiser and more mature. There was more sureness of what I’d like to achieve in my life, and I felt more desire to learn new things. I’d learned a lot of lessons you learn out of school, but there are certain skills for specific jobs, that you can really learn in more depth when you go to school.
Employment is something that every graduate wants to achieve. One of the things I learned through my work experiences is that they are valuable. An employer is often (though not always) likely to give a position to someone who has a tertiary education and also has had experience in that field. Education is supposed to benefit ourselves, and work experience is where we can apply it. What I learned in my previous degree was not applied in my life, because I decided not to work in that field. Whereas, if you study a degree that can help expand your skills for a certain career, then you will apply that knowledge.
As a young adult, I cope with stress far better than when I was teenager. I’m able to balance a more healthy lifestyle, and not be too hard on myself for every small thing. It’s never too late to do what feels right. I was sitting in class the other week, and there was a gentleman roughly in his 60’s. There are plenty of adults at all sorts of age that return to study. It might be due to a career change or a desire to learn more about an area of interest. One thing I’d like to stress is that university is not for everyone. Once upon a time, it wasn’t for me. But as I mentioned, we all have a different journey.
Now, it feels much more enjoyable, because I’m more sure of where I’d like my degree to take me. It’s common that people will switch degrees, take a gap year, drop out or return to study. The truth is that the first time round, I felt lost. It wasn’t until I traveled to Australia, that I really found more of myself and grew more as a person. Personally, I felt less able to grow during my last time in uni. In my first year of uni in 2013 I had depression near the end of the year and didn’t cope well. There’s often an emphasis that university will help us grow, but it’s really all the experiences we have in our daily lives no matter where we are.
The first time, I felt that the paper I’d receive when I graduated wouldn’t help very much if I didn’t feel the desire to work in the industry any more. It also wouldn’t of made sense to spend another year of tuition fee to study a course I didn’t have my heart in. I really do believe if you go to university, it’s important to think about where you’d like your studies to take you, how you want it to benefit you in your life and what your true interests are. Work takes up a significant percentage of our lives. University is for those with a desire to learn about a certain subject area. It’s not a ticket for success, but a place to learn.
Photography by Eefje De Coninck
Life is fleeting. Time never stops or waits for us, but it teaches us many valuable lessons in our lives. Recently, I experienced a loss of a close member of my family. She was intelligent, strong and wise. As a young girl, I looked at the younger photos of her, and saw the beauty and grace she possessed. The kind that comes naturally. She wrote beautifully, and taught my sister and I how to write calligraphy, and would never cease to remind us of the importance, the art and the beauty of the Chinese language. There was an energy of encouragement to always learn something new. It’s a reminder of how important it is to treasure our lives.
No matter what age we are, we’ll always be learning. That is one of the many gifts of life. Education doesn’t stop after you graduate, because we learn various lessons throughout our lives. Knowledge is limitless, and there is always something to learn in each new day. When you experience a loss, it makes you really realise that we will all die someday. It’s a natural process of life, and it reminds us to make the most of it. The koi fish above symbolise good fortune in Japanese culture. My grandmother practiced Buddhism for as long as I can remember. I still remember her telling me a mosquito was in her room, but she couldn’t kill it.
I thought of Koi fishes, because when I was younger, there were many of them in the water below the bridge that we would often walk on every time we visited her. They are such beautiful creatures. The speech by David Foster Wallace reminds us that we have a choice in life. Everyone will have those small moments in their day to day lives, where they blank out or feel frustrated. Those are often the moments that we can create meaning in, or we can ignore them and let them pass. It’s okay to feel sad, and it’s okay to feel those feelings that we all go through.
Let’s appreciate how much life is around us, and be grateful for those who are and have been in our lives. Every person we encounter teaches us something new. Nobody is perfect. Nobody can stay young forever, but they can always be young at heart. That tells us how important it is to see things with your heart more often, even when the world tells us to look with our eyes. I saw an advertisement recently that read seeing is believing. They were pointing towards the discounts they were having. I’d like to think that actually believing is seeing. As always, in The Little Prince, it says But the eyes are blind. One must look with the heart…