It doesn't feel that long, but it has been half a year since my 3-month stint in Europe/London.
Before I left, I wrote a really long entry with messy thoughts and right now, I’m ready to have a proper closure for that.
Ready because I’m more comfortable opening up right now and admitting the deeply buried issues I had in me I thought I'd never share. And the reason because these issues were unexpectedly damaging and I realised they destroyed every single bit of confidence I’ve had.
It is unbelievable how deep I have lived in denial. It was so destructive and honestly, very scary.
Now that I have figured things out and actually feel healthy (in the mind) deep down, I never never ever want to go through that again and sincerely hope no one will.
It hasn't been an easy road to admittedly conclude; London was somehow an escape.
I'm ready to share it as a final release to myself. But more than that, I really hope to be able to share this with people facing the same issues, for us all to learn from my own mistakes and handle negativity the correct way.
The months before I left were tough and looking back, I still remember how I felt at that point of time. Dejected, lost, hopeless and unworthy.
I myself am not too sure when I fell into that dark hole but I suppose it was an accumulation of various issues that weren't managed the right way. And gradually, everything amplified.
I ended up feeling disconnected, not worthy of love, belonging and embarrassingly, I allowed my frustration to show, especially towards the people around me.
I would bawl like a child ridiculously uncontrollably in front of my loved ones from time to time. I was almost sure that ending the business, Klarra, would be best. I didn’t want to look into the mirror, I didn’t want to dress up. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I was full of hatred and angst. I hated everything around me and about myself.
So I’d enough of being sorry for myself and decided taking a break elsewhere was best. So I left.
I had the chance to go to London, and signed up for some business and fashion courses at the same time. I grew to love the city very much and met some great friends there. It was a convenient place for a retreat and to enjoy a bit of silence from everything. It taught how to be more independent and I got to discover a lot of about myself which I didn't think I would. It was a beautiful three months that have given me with memorable experiences that I’ll keep dearly in my heart.
I did feel really recharged. Everything was better and I thought I had everything under control.
Then, It was time to come home. It was back to the daily grind and as usual, I kept myself busy with work and friends.
But strangely, I found myself exactly where I had left off. The same feelings kept resurfacing and I didn't want to admit them. I honestly thought I had fixed them in London.
I wanted people to only see the good side, that I am a changed person. I wanted to be admired and respected. So I convinced myself to shove these feelings deeper into my heart, hiding those negative feelings. I must have done it so naturally without thinking that it became part of my cognitive process.
I compensated those negative feelings by starting to try fitting in everywhere, seeking for approval. I wanted my confidence back badly and I was confused why I felt so empty. I didn't understand why I needed to please people and resented the fact that I did and felt I wasn’t good enough. I truly believed I wasn't, and it’s a scary thought looking back at it.
Unknowingly, I even leaned in to guys who came forward, believing it was love and attraction, confusing it for my need for self-validation and worthiness. With that, maybe I could feel complete or good about myself again.
I was lost and couldn’t make out what was right or wrong. I was tired from everything and I felt really pathetic, so I want to snap out of that.
I would say that this was a really tough time because I thought I had things fixed. But reality had forced me to come face to face with the fact that when you run, nothing changes. Even after these months, those feelings were still there, lying quietly and completely unresolved. Embarrassed again, it was a hard truth to swallow.
There were a few trigger points that made me woke up finally.
But I'll highlight one that was most significant and surprising to me.
Of the most random place and very recently… It was a particular book I just chanced upon at the airport while I was waiting to board the plane.
"Daring Greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead.’
By Brene Brown
I flipped it open and the executive summary read out everything I wanted to know. It all about ‘vulnerability’ and how we think we know it but in actual fact, it’s all in us, just the difference in intensity.
It argues that vulnerability is a strength we should not ignore. Shutting ourselves off from revealing our true selves means we grow distant from things that bring purpose and meaning to our lives. And the willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability will determine the depth of our courage and clarity of our purpose.
These five takeaways that I’ve derived from this book have given me great insights and answers to many of the questions in my head. I hope they will help for those in need too.
1. The myth, ‘Vulnerability is weakness’
We are conditioned into believing and accepting that vulnerability is a great weakness.
“ Vulnerability isn’t good or bad. It is not what we call a dark emotion nor is it always a light, positive experience. Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness.
Our rejection of vulnerability often stems from our associating it with dark emotions like fear, shame, grief. sadness and disappointment which we don’t want to discuss, even when they profoundly affect the way we live, love, work and even lead."
How accurate is this?! I can’t agree more.
I really want to do greater bigger things. But I realised I had unconsciously worked throughout my years keeping work small. I enjoyed sharing but at the same time, I wasn’t confident to let myself be seen. I was afraid people will dislike me. And like what the author pointed out, I was afraid that I won’t be able to handle the mean-spirited criticism that’s so rampant in the internet culture.
I felt that being vulnerable and owning those feelings will give these keyboard warriors more ground to attack. So I went into a hiding mode and tried to protect. But now I realised the issue wasn’t to prevent criticism from coming forward because it’s not within my control. The key is to embrace what’s coming and importantly, to change the mindset, behaviour around it, aligning my life with the values I strongly believe in.
Like what the book said as well, I’m seeking help to ‘live a wholehearted life’ but not finding solutions on how to ‘stop living like this’.
Frankly speaking, these wise words have been told to me a few times but I just can’t connect the dots. In my opinion, Brene Brown has an impressive sense of articulation and there were solid justifications which made so much sense. Am really convinced right now.
2. The Never-Enough Problem
"We live in a culture where everyone is hyperaware of lack. Everything from safety, love, money to resources feel restricted or lacking. We spend inordinate amounts of time calculating how much we have, want, don’t want and how much everyone has, needs and wants.
What makes this constant assessing and comparing so self-defeating is that we are often comparing our lives, our marriages, our families and our communicates to unattainable, media-driven visions of perfection, or we are holding up our reality against our own fictional account of how great someone else has it."
So much truth. I subconsciously compared myself with many of my successful friends around me and it opened a door for self-doubt to creep in. I really hated it and even more so that I’m aware of it but I can’t seem to move away from it. It affected my self-confidence and I questioned my self-worth many a time.
I do see the light now and we should feel good instead of chasing things that look good. I came to understand that what's good for others might not be the best for me. Because we all have different goals and I know what kind of life I want to lead. I’ve my own dreams to fulfil.
I spent the whole of last week sitting down with myself and honestly had a detailed review on my personal needs. I finally am able to clearly list down what I want to be truly happy and live a purposeful, meaningful life.
3. It’s a dark hole when you link self-worth to achievements
" Most of us hitch our self-worth to what we produce and create – in other words, results/achievements.
Because of how we were all raised or how we approach the world, we unknowingly or knowingly attach our self-worth to how our products, works are received.
People like our products/works, we are worthy. People don’t, we feel worthless. "
This was exactly how I felt when Klarra’s designs were not well-received or as silly as it sounds, when my instagram posts didn’t generate enough likes (sometimes accompanied with a worry if I can generate enough response for sponsored postings too). It’s so ridiculous now after reading this and reflecting back.
I do have my own expectations of the quality of pictures I want to put out but I’m very glad I can finally unlink the ‘need’ and ‘want' for likes to prove that I’m good enough. It’s really a terrible feeling to place our self-worth to what people think. We are not a prisoner of ‘pleasing, performing and perfecting.’
I also agree with the Brene Brown on how she describes what we all need in life – Connection (and that’s why we look for love and belonging). Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard, valued and when they can give and receive without judgement.
Sharing those pictures/posts on social media can be a meaningful thing to do. Meaningful because it gives us a platform to remember all our little personal achievements and the joyous moments along the way. I personally think by doing so, these platforms can be a good reminder on gratitude and provide that connection we all seek.
I’m viewing it as platforms where we can utilise them to help empower each other, giving support and appreciation even when we might not know each other personally. Don’t you think that’s the beauty of it? We can potentially make a difference, strengthen and show a little kindness to one another, giving each other a push when we need.
This is one common issue most of us face and just take some time to digest this:
What perfectionism isn’t
- Perfectionism isn’t the same thing as striving for excellence
- Perfectionism isn’t about healthy achievement and growth
- Perfectionism isn’t about self-improvement
- Perfectionism isn’t the key to success
- Perfectionism isn’t a way to avoid shame. It’s a form of shame
- Perfectionism is self-destructive because of this belief: If I look perfect and do everything perfect, I can avoid or minimise the painful feeling of shame, judgement and blame
- Perfectionism is self-destructive because perfection doesn’t exist as it’s an unattainable goal
- Perfectionism is more about perception than internal motivation and there is no way to control perception
- Perfectionism is addictive because we often believe we weren’t perfect enough
- Perfectionism sets us up to feel shame such as “It’s my fault, I’m not good enough"
That’s the perfectionist problem and I like how Brene Brown defined it. So much sense.
We are unknowingly pushed to feel that we are not good enough and that we can always be better. I agree very much with the latter and that life is long, we should always seek to grow. And be careful of that mindset because I myself fell into the negative one. Instead of thinking we aren’t good enough, we should know that we’ve already done enough things to make us who we are today, but we want to grow, so we want more.
Appreciate that "a twenty-minute walk that I did is better than the 4km run I didn’t do”, or “The imperfect article that I wrote and was published is better than the perfect book that never left the computer”.
5. Practise self-compassion
I like that the book encourages me to think in another direction, and to appreciate the beauty of cracks and being free from perfectionism. It says to practise self-compassion. If you face similar issues as mentioned above:
- Bring warm and understanding to ourselves when we suffer, fail or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.
2. Common Humanity
- Common humanity reorganises that suffering and feelings of personal inadequacy are part of the shared human experience – something we all go through rather than something that happens to ‘me’ alone.
- Taking a balanced approach to negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated. We cannot ignore our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time. Mindfulness requires that we not ‘over-identify’ with thoughts and feelings, so that we are caught up and swept away by negativity.
Just as what Brene Brown says, it’s so easy to get stuck in self-criticism when one makes a mistake. And with the above self-compassion exercise, I personally think it’s important to learn to view pain and shame in a more observant and accurate perspective going forward.
Some personal lessons,
- In the heat of things, I realized I was seeking attention unknowingly by acting out and it didn't solve anything.
- I know now the 3-month stint in London was a false sense of assurance. But it is still bizarre to me today, that I actually believed that very much when I was in London.
- Finally understood to better let go of the need for approval. And learning to have more courage even when there are no certainties.
- There's no need to please anyone because there is no meaning to that – every single one of us is focusing on ourselves most of the time. Time to focus on ourselves now, go all out with things but not compromising on the values we strongly believe in.
- Practice gratitude and self-compassion
I’m still halfway through the book and I can’t tell you how the helpful first few chapters have been for me. It’s so crazy. I didn’t think a book would be this helpful, especially when we are talking about these issues. It preps, talks about marriage, parenthood and shares insights on why you need to take care of yourself first before you can give.
I’m still struggling with confidence issues but I’m just so glad to be feeling much better now. It’s a huge turning point (especially in my mindset) after reading this.
I’m happier now and it surprised me rather greatly that how thinking positive can impact your day to day actions and attitude so much. Suddenly life feels much more purposeful. It can be meaningful. Just how you make out of it.
I feel great and and I would like that to stay.
Able to be healed made such big difference in my life and I also learned to embrace uncertainties. I feel that this positive mental state of mind could impact us greatly and I hope people facing similar issues can heal faster. I’m no expert, but would honestly like to extend a hand, answer to any questions you may have or share my story further in depth if you think it could help in anyway. And should you do, I will definitely try my best to be as quick as possible in my email replies as I would rather send a proper email to address the important points than a half-hearted one.
I’m clearer on who I wanna be, what I wanna do and I’m working on that. The beautiful thing is, I feel so much happier working towards that although it might still take a while.. and that’s because I finally understood how to channel the focus to the journey instead and not entirely the results. I hope you guys will be able to feel it the same way deep down in your hearts too, and together, let’s be here to support each other and to ensure that we focus on our goals. Just know that you are not alone and you will never be. Let's not wish for the road ahead to get easier, but wish for us all to have an increasing strength to welcome what's ahead.
To brighter and chirpier days ahead! :)