My story part 2: (Part 1 here)
This is written as part of a RockTheNakedTruth campaign, founded by Cheryl Tay (@cheryltaysg) to help people love themselves and deal with their pasts with community support!
It’s really hard to explain or even start to think about self love in this day and age. It’s very easy to say we’re not affected by the people around us when we are, and we know it, deep inside. My bullying story isn’t an uncommon one, neither is the other side of it – recovery, uncommon. Being a kid who was thrown down when it was the time where people dug and searched for their identity, I suppose it was much later that I got the chance to find mine. I got so used to putting myself down that it was nigh impossible to understand self love. At first, the victimization came from outside, then slowly I internalized it and I convinced myself that I was not good enough, that I needed some sort of beauty transformation, that Instagram-girls were one sort of beauty and had some grace/glamour that I coveted but would never attain. I unconsciously always reminded myself that girls with ‘airport runway’ chests and skinny figures were ugly and I believed that stereotypes were what drove the societal standards forward and that if I wasn’t a stereotype conformist then I had no way to fit in or be seen as part of society’s popular kids. I learnt to put myself down and every time any compliments came I’d fend them off, thinking that I wasn’t worth any of those. Till this day I still fight these fears, though to a much lesser extent.
It was in J2 when I was introduced to the world of lifting that I began to discover what strength was, literally and figuratively. I got hooked, to prove a point. I wanted to prove that small girls could achieve something, but that wasn’t self love, that was bitterness. I was angry and I wanted to make a statement, I still cowered whenever I heard words used for bullying. Bullying never ended. When I was skinny and bust-less I was shamed for that. When I started hitting the gym the comments became “wow so small hit the gym?! Can lift or not sure cannot la” or “small girl grow muscles very ugly can act like girl and look like girl or not don’t try be buff!”. I came to realize along the way that people are gonna shame you for everything, and that me proving a point by hitting the gym was not beneficial for me because I didn’t exactly feel motivation from within, I just did it to get back at haters. That’s not self love. I learnt, very gradually, that your only competitor is yourself. I looked in the mirror at the gym and I saw people lift heavier, they were much stronger. I realized I could not compare myself with them because the basis of comparison is different. I chart my own fitness path and improve based on how my body works. There’s no point comparing your strength with someone who’s already larger and stronger than you to begin with, you’ll never be happy because you’ll always be behind. Furthermore, if you’re going to continue and complain about what you DON’T HAVE, instead of taking what you HAVE and push it to higher standards, making yourself proud of who you’ve become, then you’re never ever going to be satisfied. It’s one thing to not be satisfied and want to improve, but it’s another thing to base your standards on something impossible and kill yourself both physically and mentally wanting to achieve/reach those standards.
I also learnt that self love is to be kind to my body, to sleep when needed to and train regularly, also to eat properly and most importantly to maintain a positive mindset. I can’t stress how important it is to maintain a positive mindset. I used to be a person who gave up easily, once things got difficult I walked away because I was too scared to deal with them. But I learnt to face them squarely and not walk away, yet also balance this with the ability to let go. It took a long time for me to learn to take compliments, but slowly I am learning that when people say something, say thank you. My confidence has grown and I am slowly growing in strength and maturity to appreciate and love myself for who I am.
The breakthrough did not come instantly. It’s been 4-5 years since the long spell of bullying has ended but the scars are still healing. I’m thankful for all who’ve patiently walked with me in the journey, hugged me when I cried, taught me how to smile and say thank you to compliments and not awkwardly react because I didn’t believe it. Thank you for teaching me what confidence is and for helping me grow as a person.