on 2014: our hearts are broken so that we piece ourselves together to become stronger & find out who we are meant to become

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2014 has been without doubt one of the most challenging and defining years of my life. Although badly ravaged by my eating disorder and severe body image issues in the previous years, I feel that this year that perhaps with age, I’ve become more self-aware and cognizant about personal experiences and how the struggles I have gone through pushed me to my limits. The year has been peppered with so many ups and downs, with the lowest points topping me over the edge, pushing me to get back up on my feet and shaping me into the person I am right now and hopefully on track to the person I am supposed to be. While I am still a seedling in this universe filled with idealistic perceptions about the world and have yet to embark on many more journeys to teach me the harsh realities of life, I am definitely not the same person I was when the year started and I feel compelled to reflect on the happenings of 2014 that have molded who I am right now.

The one single experience that was responsible was initiating a chain of events that sparked transformative growth in me is, brace yourselves, heartbreak. That’s right. Plain, simple heartbreak. It sounds so cliched, even when I say it out aloud: “heartbreak changed me”. But its true. Its not the most incredible teacher, but one of the many incredible teachers in life. Love, heartbreak, pain, disappointment. I lost myself in the pursuit of something so wonderful; I said and did things that only one blinded by love can do and I had no idea who I had become. The happenings and the dynamics of the relationship meant that when the relationship ended and when I started looking back and evaluating what had happened, I felt a convoluted mixture of anger, being used, disgust, confusion and betrayal. It brought out the worst, but it also brought out a side of me I never knew.

I experienced pain I never knew. One worse than any physical pain I endured. It brought about tumultuous emotions and raging crying. Not “constant tears running down your face”, but “crying so hard that my throat closes and I’m clutching my chest and gasping for air” type of crying.

I won’t go into specifics as to what had happened. As all of us know, the first cut is always the deepest and most painful and will always bring back sad memories and emotions even if we’ve moved on and although the pain has subsided, I still experience pangs of anger and betrayal every now and then especially when I dwell on it for long, because my heart was hurt.

I’ve experience heart pain before. Monkey crushes and a puppy love that could have blossomed into something but never did. But this was different. This was more intense and painful because love was reciprocated, and trust was eventually broken. It was real In essence but sadly I gave myself away too early to somebody who didn’t know how to love me. I was blind to the advice of those whom I confided into and who told me that he wasn’t worthy. Of course, still fresh from the end of the “relationship”, I still saw good in him. I was fighting to keep us going. He wasn’t. He was keeping me close but he wasn’t fighting for me. As time passed I started to realize how unfairly he had treated me at some points with this charms and pressuring, and the young naive me was a fool to realize it.

 It took me months of pain and anger to process everything and try to accept that things happened the way they did and that things happened for a reason. I thought life to be unfair to me and shut myself from the world. I became cynical and skeptical, and for a while, very distrustful of men. Finally, when I learned from a friend that he had moved on, the pain only intensified. I felt, like a piece of meat, used and discarded for someone else and I spent a good amount of time thinking that that was what I was: used, worthless, expired goods. My feelings for him had blinded me and clouded my judgment of him. I felt dirty and cheap and experienced very depressive feelings. I realized that the fact that he had moved on within the span of a short number of months meant that I hadn’t meant much to him. That I was…a tool maybe. I wasn’t sure and I didn’t want to know. I realized that I had invested too much in this relationship and therefore, I had experienced much more pain than he did. How was that fair?

I stopped dancing for a month and I found no energy to even go out the house to do anything or enjoy simple pleasures. I couldn’t concentrate and my grades were affected, quite bad I should say, last semester. Music depressed me and I spent many long hours sleeping because when I was sleeping, I wasn’t thinking. It blocked everything out. I even looked forward to sleeping. When I wasn’t sleeping at night in bed, I shed tears I was tired all day everyday. I tried numbing the pain through other painful means, but the heartache would always return. I felt defeated, broken and empty with nothing to give. On the outside I gave the impression of someone who was still a happy person but on the inside, I was so broken that I literally had no clue how to go about fixing myself.

The spark came when I decided to watch Eat Pray Love on the telly while lying broken and tired on the sofa. A woman broken by her divorce and embarking on a journey to seek peace, happiness and rediscover her self. I found myself relating to Julia and it was then that I decided I couldn’t remain stuck in a rut forever. I didn’t want to be crying into my pillows at 3am in the morning and waking up and having to pretend that everything was okay but that shit is exhausting. I wanted my joie de vivre back. Like Julia Roberts, I needed a breath of fresh air; to get away from the negative vibes. I couldn’t stay down forever. There are things I haven’t done, places I haven’t visited, cultures I haven’t immersed myself in, food I haven’t tasted, song lyrics I hadn’t memorized and dances I haven’t learned.

So I decided that the best way to recover from this experience was to reinvent myself. Transformation. Transition. Caterpillar to butterfly. I was motivated by a combination of a want to prove myself, feelings of anger and in strange way, a form of revenge. I had become one of those girls I always scoffed at, girls crying into their pillows and re-reading sappy love poems by Lang Leav and desperately trying to get their ex-boyfriends back and pining away for them. Not me. I didn’t want to be that. I wanted to be someone else. I did not want to this heartbreak to define or destroy me. I wanted to emerge from it victorious. I wanted to overcome it. I fought my eating disorder for 6 years so I’ll be damned if I can’t fight this. I wanted fierce, fresh and fabulous, knock-me-down-but-watch-me-get-back-up-my-ass-up-and-make-you-regret-hurting-me Serene Juan.

And so the journey began. It took me a hell lot of effort to pull myself together. It was hard because memories would come rushing back that knocked me off my feet. I was reinventing myself and moving on, but I still missed him even though he had moved on in only a few months (jerk).

I went for a week of yoga, compliments of my friend N who felt that it would be a nice way to start my restructuring program – focusing on the present, deep breathing, mindfulness and sweating out all the negative vibes. I started going back to the gym again, resumed Latin dancing, went out again, and much more often and started meeting new people. I began experimenting a little more with makeup and started wearing red lipstick though only occasionally nowadays. Furthermore, it was because of heartbreak that I decided to create this blog (tah dah! The truth) – documenting my journey through recovery from my eating disorder and body image issues by capturing pictures of myself – though admittedly my photo taking skills need improvement – which created a focus on myself. I focused my efforts on getting better from my eating disorder and learning how to love and accept my body through changing my thought patterns and going running. I also went to Washington D.C to present my research that I did on social media and body image at a conference in July and just recently, performed my very first official Latin dance performance in which my dance team put up a Dominican bachata routine.

All throughout this, memories and moments would came rushing back at unexpected moments that challenged me and threatened to bring me back to ground zero. I hate it when the emotional pain lies format and for a while you think you’ve finally overcome it but then it comes flashing in your face and makes you curse and swear.

With each bout of sadness, nostalgia and negative episode that sparked depressive feelings or of those of anger, I was so aware of how difficult it was to pick myself up again. It kept knocking me down and to made me feel like giving up at times.  But what kept me going was the determination to reinvent myself & the refusal to be seen as “the pitiful victim”. Pitiful, my ass. Through each fall I learned new ways of getting up and staying up. I grew in strength and determination.

Moreover, I had the help and support of my close friends and family, all of whom were there to give me advice and see me through dark days. It was through their love, concern and advice that I leaned how this particular person wasn’t worthy at all. That despite the bittersweet memories he gave, he did and said some sucky things that broke my heart and hurt me really bad. And that’s something that can never be undone. I became smarter and wiser and could feel myself growing stronger each day.

Through heartbreak I’ve learned how much I am worth, that apologies are just words and that nothing can take back whatever pain has been inflicted onto me, and that forgiveness means that although you are willing to see past the pain that you have gone through, it doesn’t mean you will trust the person again. With the help and support from my friends, I’ve picked myself up again through much effort and pain. My heart has been through so damn much and I’m proud of it. More importantly, I’m proud that I learned to walk away from something, and someone, who does not deserve my energy. I learned that courage means to walk away from something that doesn’t bring you happiness no matter how much you want it. I learned how resilient the human heart and spirit is.

The human heart is a funny thing. We can shut our minds off to things we don’t want to see or hear, but our hearts still feel it. It reminds us that we cannot run away from denial. In heartbreak, our hearts want revenge but after a while, we grow weary of it because its a burden. I’m mad at him, but at the same time, I understand why things happened they way they did. He was young, I was naive, we met each other at strangest of times and location and we both didn’t understand.  Like every relationship that ends, there will always be bittersweet memories. Maybe its sad that these are memories, but then again, maybe its not. Regardless, I choose to not remember because whenever I do, my feelings of anger at him will sometimes come seeping back.  My trust in him has completely gone and at times I doubt the sincerity of some of things he said. I learned I am worth more than insecure apologies he gave me that was fueled by lack of awareness of what hurt me (which really actually goes to show his immaturity), and I’m worth more than the offer of an insincere pity friendship. I deserve so much more than that damn it.

Some women would end by thanking their former love for changing them, for helping them see how much they themselves are worth and that they are worth better things. Well, not me. I’m not going to thank this guy. You know where you can shove my “thanks”. Why thank him when he wasn’t the one who helped me be the stronger, confident person I am now? He didn’t do anything to help me become the person I am now. He wasn’t the one who hauled me on my feet, encouraging and supporting me all this time. So instead of thanking him, I’m ending off my post my thanking these few people:

To my best homegirls, Shu and Zee for being there for me 24/7 and helping me all day and all night, enduring my 3am nervous breakdowns, my depressive emotions, tolerating my endless rants about what I went through and especially for forgiving me for not following your advice despite your good intentions. It definitely tormented me a lot to think that I disappointed you both when I would do things against your advice, and I’m so glad that the both of you accepted me still and continued to support me. You both were so patient and supportive and encouraging me to do things I never dared to.  I honestly couldn’t have survived this ordeal. without both of you.

To my Auntie Christine for her words of wisdom, her insight, her support and her encouragement that made me reflect on life, of the challenges that lie ahead and supporting my decisions with regards to my recovery. Having had been through much more with regards to relationship and even similar experiences, I can always count on you to understand exactly what I’m going through, why I did what I did and offer mature, level-headed advice. 

To Neav for being a fresh breath of air to my life and being the spark to bring new things, such as chocolate martinis, yoga and red lipstick along with your quirky British sense of humor & lessons on the harsh realities of life, and relationships. We may lead different lifestyles, but ties because of that discrepancy that I learned what life really is and that the perception of the world I have is so idealistic. You are my reality check, and I mean that in the best way possible and as a compliment.

To Sue, Sharda and Joe. We study in the same school, but share different  and very hectic schedules yet you both were there to listen and offer comfort and advice. The fact that you both do so is big enough and it brings me comfort to know that I can count on ranting to you whenever I feel a need to explode. The same goes to Sue, even though we’ve gone on separate paths with you about to embark on the biggest journey in your life, I found peace and comfort in knowing that you were there to support and care for me despite your own busy schedule.

To Jia and D, my two oldest friends who I’ve known since I was 15, for being my second dose of reality check and again helping me and with their no-nonsense-tolerated, just-delete-him-from-your-phone-like-right-this-second-here-let-me-do-it-for-you-now, pushed me further my efforts in reinventing myself and getting better.

To Steffi, even though you are miles and miles away from me, you were just a text message away to keep me company and take my mind off things. Your cheery voice, down-to-earth personality and your own words of wisdom as you shared your own experiences with heartbreak and healing were needed comforts, especially late at night when the sun is up where you are at and when its dark in my side of the world and when I am most vulnerable.

And also to Steven, for being a sounding board and comforting me whenever I needed it and offering words of advice and wisdom to help me get back on my feet. You personal experiences with love and loss and how you rediscovered life through latin dance encourages me further and I’m so glad that I’ve met you.

My trusted friends helped me come through this ordeal, and I’m a little more stronger and wiser now because of their efforts and also because of my determination to break free and refusal to yield in to swaying emotions and challenges. And so I ask again, why thank him?

I’m sure many women have gone through this before, but each journey is different as I always say and this is my own personal trumph that I celebrate in this personal reflection. I’m proud that I survived a heartbreak like this, one that emotionally ruined me and made me psychotic. I applaud women around the world for refusing to let unworthy men define them because I now know the strength it takes to get up again. Did Katie Holems shut herself up for good after her divorce from Tom Cruise? Hell no, she went on to establish her fashion label Holmes & Young that received fabulous reviews at the NY Fashion Week and is the new face for Bobbi Brown cosmetics. Selena Gomez went on create a name for herself after her rocky relationship with Justin Bieber and looks fabulous. But best of all, the woman I look up to is Taylor Swift. With her infamous dating history and strings of heartbreak, she has 3 perfumes under her belt, transitioned from writing corny songs about heartbreak and loss to a pop album about female empowerment and even sang at Victoria Secrets’ Fashion Show looking stunning. Female empowerment. You never know how strong we are until being strong is the only option to go for.

Life will go on and there will definetely be more challenges to be dealt with in the next year and in many years to come. I’m not saying that I will overcome every single obstacle now that I’ve gone through this. I know people who’ve experience many painful experiences still and are still growing and learning. I still have so much more to learn and to experience. I know that there will definitely be more pain that will come that comes with a new set of lessons, but now that I’m a little more wiser and a little more confident, I feel ready to tackle them and ready to grow from each challenge & I hope that I will not repeat the same mistakes I did. Hurt me once, shame on you. Hurt me twice, shame on me. When you do the same actions twice, it no longer becomes a mistake, but a decision.

So now at the end of all things with the passing of 2014, I pride myself on blatantly refusing to buckle under the broken heart.  I didn’t give up. I wanted to win. Not for the sake of proving it to others, but more for myself. I want to live a life and look back in the future and say “I survived this bullshit”; that when looking back at this in 2015, this episode and this boy were just drops in the ocean. There are hundreds and thousands of women who have gone through the similar journeys, but as I always say, each path we take is different and this is my own personal triumph that I celebrate. It hurt me, it taught me and it changed me. To date, it was through this particular heartbreak that I learned that he may have the biggest mistake I ever made so far but unexpectedly,  best lesson in life I have ever received.

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(PC: Shu)


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christmas joys <3

Merry Christmas everybody! No fancy photoshoot today or reflective blog post about body image/body love/eating disorder recovery today as I wanted to take this time just basking in the woozy comfort of the holiday season.

Am feeling so blessed this Christmas because unlike last year, I am spending this season with loved ones instead of abroad. My mum put up the Christmas tree for the first time in maybe 3 or 4 years. I’m still surprised at how enthusiastic she is about Christmas this year because we stopped putting up the tree when my siblings and myself got older. I’m glad she’s immersed in the Christmas spirit this season because it has an influence on me.

I’m reveling in the comfort of sitting with friends and laughing at old times, planning for the future and just simply enjoying the company of each other. As we talk about the coming and goings of 2014, I’m amazed at how much I’ve grown. All the difficult experiences I’ve been put through that has molded me into the person I am right seemed like ages ago now even though it happened only this year and also even last year – the 2 most challenging years of my life thus far of which I’ll elaborate on next time. I’m better able to enjoy Christmas this year because I’ve let go of many unhappy things that have burdened my heart; out with the old (and of people not worth your time and effort who robbed you of your energy in the past) and in with the new.

When I was younger, Christmas was about getting fabulous gifts, but I think with age its about taking comfort in the company of loved ones and especially of things that money cannot buy and of things that will last a long time.

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Bobby getting his Christmas gift ❤

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dressember #16 – prostitution and human trafficking in amsterdam

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Human trafficking, particularly the trafficking of women and children for sexual services – has spoken volumes to me ever since I first read about how Middle Eastern women are being purchased for sex. The fact that something precious to a woman and which can be bought for a mere sum of money is, for lack of a more politically correct word – just completely crazy and nuts because I just don’t understand how there can be a legions of people around the world so large who see women only as a tool for sex that a trade is set up to facilitate that.

The most publicized and well known types of human trafficking most of us are familiar with include forced labour and sex trafficking or prostitution in Asia. Women from countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, India, Cambodia and Myanmar are used for sex and men & children forced to slave in factories for little to no pay. Each time I hear of human and sex trafficking I usually think of victims from Asia because it is these countries that have received the highest amount of media coverage.  However, the purpose of this dressember post is to also bring attention a group of individuals who live in a place where prostituion is legal, where women provide sexual services in a place that attracts hundreds and thousands of tourists each year and therefore gives the impression that such a trade is not prostitution, but a tourist attraction and that the women are assumed to be working there by their own volition.

Amsterdam is famous for its booming sex industry. It has many streets, particularly those in the Red Light District, that are  lined with sex clubs and exotic dancers performing dance routines in glass windows. Men and women from all over the world come not just to see the the city for its van Gogh museum, cobblestone streets and lovely water canals, but because of its easily attainable sexual services and also to gawk, catcall and whistle at women dancing to music against red-hued windows.

Prostitution was legalized in Amsterdam in 2000, with many different types of prostituition. There are prostitutes who work in a brothel, a club (“private house”), as escorts, in windows or on the streets. Approximately 70-80% of prostitutes in Amsterdam are not European citizens. Rather, they primarily come from countries in Eastern and Southern Europe, such as Romania, Hungary, Bosnia, Albania and Romania due to the fall of Communism. Due to disempowering circumstances such as poverty and lack of education, many become vulnerable to sex trafficking. Most prostitutes will tell you they weren’t forced to come to Netherlands to work. Why would they risk antagonizing the middle-men(pimps) that brought them here when they have hungry mouths to feed at home? Rather, they have been coaxed by pimps or by men who claim to love them into going to Amsterdam to work proper jobs or even as dancers. However, they find themselves in mounds of financial trouble when they have debts to pay for their passports, flights, visas, food, housing etc – amenities typically paid for by the pimps or brothel owners. In this way, they are coerced into becoming prostitutes to settle these payments and will continue doing the same work to send money home.

The type of prostitution most famous is Amsterdam are its window prostitutes in the Red Light District. Prostitutes dance in large contained glass windows with red lights hanging across the windows and they attempt to catch the attention of men. Passers-by would watch these dancers and would be whistling at them, catcalling them and urging them on. Some men take the bait, and the window doors would open. A man, and sometimes more would enter,  the red curtains would be drawn shut and a price would be negotiated for sex. I don’t know if this is true but I’ve read that the basic cost of sex with a prostitute, no matter how beautiful she is, is €50. This is how these women have to earn money to live.

The United Nations definition of human trafficking is this: “The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation”

According to research conducted by the International Labor Organization in 2010, it is estimated that approximately 9000 people have been trafficked into sexual exploitation into The Netherlands. Many women from other European countries are lured into Netherlands under pretences of better prospects yet find themselves working in brothels or dancing in windows and giving sex to men for money.

Of course the Amsterdam City Council has begun to gain insight into the impact of prostitution and has taken efforts to reduce the number of brothels. However, prostitution is still a soaring trade in Amsterdam and both locals and tourists alike contribute to this industry, thinking that all prostitutes working there are doing so by their own volition. Some are, but many are not.

I’ll be honest here. Like many budding travelers wanting to see the world, to visit the Red Light District in Amsterdam is in my bucket list. Just like how you can’t go to Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower, going on a walking tour of the Red Light District seems like a must-do for tourists. To not do so seems like a traveler’s crime. Of course now after reading up about prostituiton in Amsterdam and writing this post, it seems strange to be wanting to pay traveler’s tribute to a place where a percentage of women have been coerced into performing dance routines for the purpose of attracting men and getting paid for sex. The first time I watched that YouTube video, I started wondering what I myself would do if I were one of the passers-by who happened to have been there and watching something like that. I’d be pretty guilty I think. It’ll be a long while before I get to travel to Europe and so for now, I take comfort in the fact that Amsterdam has lots of offer that will be a visual feast for all plagued by wanderlust. 

Dressember is a global movement and call for women around the world to wear a dress each day of the month of December to raise awareness about the prevalence of human trafficking. By wearing a dress for the purpose of this campaign, women are reminded that the fact they can wear a dress means that they can live in a society where they are free to express their femininity, are free to make their own choices and free to lead their own lifestyles, and at the same time, understand that there hundreds and thousands of women around the world who do not have the luxury of doing that. Instead, they are being exploited for being a woman.

Anyway, as I mentioned, this post today is for the women trapped in prostitution in Amsterdam, so no overtly fancy pictures of myself in a dress to showcase. Amsterdam is beautiful, its charming and its quaint, but it has its also shady areas that many of us forget exist. Dressember encourages you to wear a dress everyday to raise awareness but forget about its true purpose: its less about showcasing your style, but more on being thankful that you can live in a society where you can live as a free-spirited adventuress and taking part in a global initiative to help those who are unable to live a free life. 

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(P.S. WordPress is being mean. I recorded a video clip explaining what Dressember was with the full intention of putting it up here but it wouldn’t let me. Bummer.)

facing my physical insecurities through pictures

Body acceptance and body confidence is something I’m trying to achieve, but my struggles with body image issues and my eating disorder recovery have really played a huge part in preventing that. I was starving and bingeing and my weight was fluctuating like the mood of a hormonal woman. I’d lose weight in a week, my clothes fit and my mood instantly lifts, but then 2 weeks later the weight goes back on due to the bingeing and the clothes suddenly and distressingly hugs my skin so uncomfortably. Rolls and bulges; I didn’t feel confident.

Now that I’m not starving and bringing as intensely as I did before and my weight has stopped fluctuating (for good I hope), its easier for me to start wearing clothes that I kept hidden my wardrobe, let them see some sunshine and not overly worry about whether they will fit again in 1 week. However, despite  gaining a bit of newfound confidence, I still have insecurities about several body parts that make me incredibly vulnerable.

I’ve never liked my arms and my calves. I thought my arms to be soft and flabby, and my calves too muscular for my liking, thanks to years I spent sprinting in primary school that really trained my calf muscles. I didn’t feel feminine. I felt too big for my skin. I wanted the thin arms and the legs I see on 90% of my friends. You know that stereotype about Asian girls being smaller and thinner than their European counterparts? I’d like to know who created that stereotype. Clearly whoever made that assumption haven’t met girls like me. Of course while it is true that Asian women tend to have a smaller bone structure than European women due to genetic differences, assuming that all Asian women are meant to be smaller and thinner is pretty much an unfair and extreme overgeneralization.

The dominant ehtnicity in Singapore is Chinese and although there are some women who aren’t skinny,  do quite a decent number Chinese girls my age who are lithe and tiny & they made me incredibly self-conscious about my body. If you lived in my head, you’d experience an endless conflict between self comparison and jealousy at not being a thin Chinese woman and feeling proud for standing out by having a curvier body.

And so in my effort to embrace my personal insecurities and accept my body for what is is, here I am wearing a dress that *gasp* shows both my arms and legs.

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And yes, ladies and gentlemen, Serene has officially left the building and you are seeing her out and about in the wilderness woods…just out and about.

Anyway, it’s taken me only until this year to truly accept that my body is meant to be what its current shape is. I suppose if I were to give my body a description, it would be curvy/muscular. Body labels can be a pain. I am neither skinny nor plus-size; rather I am an “in-between” . I’m not skinny so by default I guess I’m curvy, but then I don’t have the body of a “curvy” woman that I always see on television or in pictures. “Curvy women” are always pictured as having voluptuous curves with these big boobs that make me think that they are a C cup. At least. I’m not skinny, but I don’t have those same great big boobs they have. So I’m curvy, yet not curvy at the same time. Its confusing for me and frustrating. I never saw myself as feminine because I don’t have the body that’s tall and lithe, nor busty and voluptuous. I have wide shoulders and a muscular calves. I didn’t have any “role models” to look up to; most of my girlfriends were skinny, and I knew no girls who had a similar body shape as mine.

People definitely notice my calves and sometimes would  say “wow you have really muscular calves” or “I wish I had calves like yours”. My first reaction would be: “You think my calves are hot? I want whatever drug you’re on”. Seriously. I hated my calves so much that I was convinced it was a birth defect; a genetic anomaly – women shouldn’t have to have calves like that right? Its crazy how whenever there pictures girls on social media and its completely obvious that she’s got these nice slim legs, people just always have to go “LEGS”. They only comment on legs when its tall and slim, and not when its short and muscular and this probably aggravated my hatred for my calves and basically my entire body itself for not being feminine.

My love for wearing dresses is challenged by my insecurities about my ams and calves.  Dresses are supposed to be these gorgeous feminine creations meant to accentuate womanly curves, and not be put on someone with a body like mine with muscular calves. Right? I mean it just felt and looked wrong. Most of the dresses I wanted to wear were sleeveless and the thought of having to bare my flabby arms to the unsuspecting public was too much of a shame for me. So I always wore cardigans to cover them arms and always would wear open toe sandals or nude shoes because these apparently “lengthen the legs”.

Honestly though I got tired of it. Its so boring to have to wear a cardigan all the damn time and wear nude shoes. I love shoes. I was in Kuala Lumpar a few weeks ago for a 3 day getaway with my family and I bought 4 pairs of shoes. Yes. I went to KL with 2 pairs of shoes and left with 6 pairs of shoes. Go figure.  The point is, I felt trapped by these rules that I imposed on myself. I didn’t want to always wear the same things. I wanted to express myself and wear whatever clothes I wanted without fear or doubts. I didn’t want to be trapped by fashion rules established by by body insecurities. Life’s too short!

I think what really helped me was looking at plus-size fashion bloggers boldly wearing sleeveless outfits and short dresses and shorts with so much confidence. I felt ashamed. Here I am, whining and moaning and feeding my insecurities about my calves and arms with cardigans and nude shoes when these women were just killing it. I want to stop looking at sleeveless dresses and tops without the feelings of shame and longing that I always had. I wanted to stop looking at these outfits without having to plan which cardigan I will have to wear with or whether my arms will look flabby in it.

So I just did it. But it wasn’t gradual, mind you. There are mental battles to be fought. Before stepping out the house there’d be World War III in my head and I’d waste like 20 minutes just freaking out about whether my arms will look like flabby dumplings and whether people will judge my calves. I don’t know why, but somehow I think I look good in the mirror, but somehow the same “goodness” doesn’t exactly translate all that nicely into pictures. Like why do i look good in front of the mirror but not in pictures can someone explain this sorcery to me?! I wish my pictures were my mirror reflections. Really.

But yes, its a constant battle between “shut up woman you look fine you want to love your body right and not hide behind baggy stuff so just get the hell out there and GO” and “but i can’t my mind is not ready i need my cardigan or just need to get out this dress because my calves are too disgusting PLEASE GOD”

Usually in the end I just go “oh sod this” and I just walk out the house quickly before I can change my mind about changing my outfit. This past year I’ve started wearing more dresses without covering up with a cardigan and wearing black shoes instead of nude ones, simply because I wanted to change my wardrobe. I’ve started growing comfortable with showing more arm though I can’t say the same about my legs. I’m still self conscious about it and I’d always have moments in each day where I’d just pinch my calves and go “for the love of God, will you get smaller already?!?”

This is probably the first time I’m wearing a dress (1) without donning a cardigan, (2) that shows my arms and legs (3) and being photographed in it. I think it takes confidence for people struggling with body image issues and body acceptance to be photographed because there are inner demons they have to face every minute. To wear a dress out in public is one thing, but to be photographed in it is another. In the latter, there are pictures; a physical reflection of your body; a mirror; a reality check. When I know I’m not photographed, I definitely feel more secure as I know that really isn’t going to be anybody who will see my calves and also because I’d be able to avoid seeing them, along with my arms. When looking through these pictures, the first thing I zoomed in was my calves and my arms (obviously). Its so strange to see my body in a dress like this. I’ve worn dresses sure, but usually I’m in heels than lengthen my legs, in a long dress that hide my calves or in a cardigan to hide my arms, but never when I’m in a dress that shows both my physical insecurities.

 The next thing I did was think, “I wish those calves were thinner”. Yet after a while the more I looked at the pictures and looked at myself, the more accepting I became of it, as though my mind had accepted that this is the physical shape of my body; that my body is curvy and muscular, that its normal and healthy, that somehow maybe having muscular calves somewhat balanced my curvier frame. I thought I even liked my body shape in this dress – something that would never have happened before. Of course this doesn’t mean I’ve fully accepted the way my body is. Change is gradual but I’m glad that this episode was a positive one and I hope that the next time I wear other outfits that reveals my arms and/or calves, I experience the same kind of acceptance as well.

This past year I’ve widened my shopping options and freshened up my wardrobe. I figured its time to stop feeding my physical insecurities. My calves are never going to magically shrink unless I go for calf reduction surgery or stop walking for an entire month. I’m going to have these legs for the rest of my life and I better start accepting them and embracing them instead of wasting my life away hating them.

If you ever experience the same emotions as I do and fear wearing certain clothing because of a body part that you hate, be it arms or legs, I think they key issue is to not let your fears and doubts hold you back and find styles that wok for you, flatter these physical insecurities and make you feel like a queen. I mean you’re not going to feel good about yourself if you dress like a wandering scavenger right? Effort, people. Effort.

 It is true that we tend to overestimate the extent to which we think people are constantly looking or judging us. People don’t really care as much as we think they do. We think they care because in our minds, we want to look good and look a certain way for them. For instance, I never liked wearing short dresses because I thought people will find me ugly in it because of my muscular calves. I know that this shouldn’t be the way.  You dress a certain way and look a certain way because you want to feel beautiful for yourself. Beyonce doesn’t dress for nobody but herself right? I don’t want to constantly be fighting my inner demons and starve myself and/or exercise compulsively just to obtain the perfect body.

At the end of the day, the body that you currently have now is the only body that you will have at this very moment, so you might as well start doing something about it and start accepting it. There are other people out there going through similar struggles as you and if they can find the courage to embrace their body, so can you. Its not going to be easy, but you will have a peace of mind in the long run.

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30 Things I Learned in 2014

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  1. Many people that you meet between the ages of 18 and 22 are only temporary.
  2. A queen is still a queen without her king.
  3. Sometimes forgiveness doesn’t mean you give the other person a second chance; it means that you are choosing to move on with your life without them.
  4. The only thing that changes a person is pain.
  5. Sometimes we need to be hurt and be broken to discover how strong we can really be.
  6. If someone treats you as an option in their life, you need to just eff them. They don’t deserve you one bit.
  7. Let go of toxic people; the moment that you feel like you have to prove something to someone is when you need to walk away.
  8. Words are meaningless. Apologies are meaningless. Actions are what count.
  9. The meaning of life is to give meaning to life.
  10. If something, or someone is not meant to be in your life, it means something or someone is out there that so much much much better.
  11. Your hustle should be louder than your mouth
  12. A woman stops dreaming of being a mermaid and an adventuress when she is hurt, but then she will slowly get back up on her feet and become a little stronger and a little more wiser than she was.
  13. Plans change. When you planned at 20 will not necessarily be the same when you’re 25.
  14. To resolve the conflict between doing what you want, and doing what is right, choose the one that benefits you and brings happiness to you in the long run.
  15. You will lose people when you grow older. If you’re not losing people, you’re not growing up.
  16. Closure does not exist.
  17. Karma will come.
  18. Delayed gratification is the definition of maturity. Sometimes.
  19. Heels & red lipstick will change your mood instantly.
  20. The first cut is always the hardest, and most painful. Even if you have moved on, a reminder of it will always hurt.
  21. Life is a blessing but also a painful journey. It has its good moments but also its bad ones. Our gift is to learn the lessons, cherish the good times, let go of the bad, dust ourselves off and start again waiting for the next journey in life (given to me by my gorgeous and very wise Auntie Christine)
  22. A man is not a financial plan.
  23. Life is too short to hate your body.
  24. There is life after an eating disorder.
  25. No one has ever had to walk your journey and only you know the complexities of your circumstance. Therefore, store the advice given from others, follow your heart and do what your heart tells you. It is your life and only you know what you want.
  26. Happiness is a state of mind.
  27. Don’t let anyone younger than you tell you shit about what to do with your life.
  28. Boys with soft hands are dangerous.
  29. Nothing is really ever lost unless your mum can’t find it.
  30. Mocha is delicious.

#ALDAwomen + #dressember

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First post for the month of December! I’m listening to Christmas songs while writing this post because there’s nothing that makes me burst out in song and eat all the Christmas cookies my mum buys than festive happy Christmas music.

Anyway, December seems to be a month of campaigns on social media and so allow me to share 2 campaigns that that I recently participated in that speak volumes to me.

#ALDAwomen

Organization: ALDA

What is it: ALDA represents a coalition of models with the overarching aim of showcasing beauty in all shapes and sizes. Founded by plus size models, Ashley Graham, Danielle Redman, Inga Eiriksdottir, Julie Henderson, and Marquita Pring, their original aim was to redefine what being “plus-size” means in the fashion industry. However, ALDA also strives to create an environment where fashion is broad and diverse instead of size-selective. Women are not categorized according to a number, shape or size in a bid to celebrate body diversity and instill a sense of confidence and empowerment in women of all sizes.

Purpose of Campaign: Women are asked to share what makes them feel sexy, confident and beautiful and share their stories with others to encourage acceptance of themselves.

So what makes me feel sexy, confident and beautiful?

Fabulous black dress. Wearing this particular black dress, donning my nude heels and slicking on a dash (or two) of chilli-red lipstick. I used to be incredibly terrified of experimenting with clothes because I felt that I didn’t have right figure to look good in clothes and so I desperately lacked confidence to express my style and embrace my body. I love this dress because it adds some curve and definition to my body and makes me feel more feminine. Moreover, as a strapless dress, it flaunts my shoulders which is a body part that I’m beginning to embrace more and more each day. Plus, peplums are just fab.

Nude high heels. My nude heels have the amazing ability to make me feel so empowered. With my heels, I stand and look taller, my back is more arched and my shoulders are thrown back. My overall posture improves and I feel like a tall, strong Amazonian queen with nothing to fear.

Red lippie. Finally, this outfit isn’t complete without my red lipstick. I love my red lipstick. I really do. To me, it reflects a woman who is classy, energetic, sensual, and upbeat with doesn’t give a cow’s kabootz about petty little things.

Together, they make me feel confident, passionate and definitely sexy, because seriously, a black dress + high heels + red lipstick = lethal.  It makes me realize that although I don’t have the body of Angelina Jolie or Jennifer Lopez, I can still feel beautiful and amazing in my own personal way. I’ve spent many years feeling ashamed of my body and wore nothing but loose clothing to hide my physique, but now wearing something that flatters me has made me realize that I deserve to feel good about myself.

Being in this outfit makes me feel like a different person. In this outfit, I forget all my physical insecurities and my struggles with my eating. I feel like I’m in a position of influence and power and can grab the attention of anybody I want to. I feel bold, I feel empowered and I feel fierce. Think Catwoman meets Beyonce in the sky with diamonds. In this outfit, I dress to impress and intimidate. However, it also makes me respect my body more and motivates me to want to treat it better than I used to in the past. Enough with the starving, bingeing and other disordered eating patterns that I did for so long. Not only does my body deserve to be in good health, I too, deserve to feel  beautiful.

What are the things that make YOU feel sexy, confident and beautiful?

#dressember 

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What is it: Dressember involves the use of fashion and creativity to advocate for women trapped in slavery and raise awareness about human trafficking. Throughout the month of December, female participants are encouraged to wear dresses to celebrate their femininity that they have been allowed to embrace, help raise awareness and/or funds so as to help their fellow sisters trapped in slavery to fight for their right to live free and to be no longer exploited for being female. All funds raised will go directly to International Justice Mission, which is a human rights organization that has, for the past 15 years, been involved in helping restore the lives of victims of human trafficking and put a stop to such sexual, mental and physical exploitation.

Fact: In many countries in the Middle East such as Iraq, Egypt & Afghanistan, young girls and women who live in poverty and lack access to education and financial resources are incredibly vulnerable to sex trafficking. Unscrupulous men from wealthier Gulf States with disposable cash search for young virginal girls and these girls are promised a life of economic security in exchange for marriage. These girls and their families, with no wealth and influence to negotiate, have little choice but to agree in order to provide for their family. However instead of being married to a good family, the girls are thrown into brothels and forced to provide sexual services for men. Many girls are unable to escape, and even if they do, they are shunned by society because a girl who isn’t a virgin before marriage is seen as “impure”.

Ladies, show your support to help end human trafficking by taking part in the #dressember campaign! Wear a dress every day of the month, or each time you go out, and post a photo of yourself on social media with #dressember. I wore mine today! Men can participate as well by wearing a tie each day! You can also start your own campaign page to help raise funds and invite friends and family to sponsor you! Visit: http://www.dressemberfoundation.org for more information.

We may not have the power to abolish human trafficking in its entirety, but every little action that we do that advocates women’s rights and that parallels the fight against global slavery speaks volumes to humans rights organizations and also to this trapped in slavery.

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And now to end off this post with a special guest:

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Isn’t Bobby a natural?

(P.S. I was just in the middle of taking photos out of the apartment when it began raining so hard that I was forced to take these photos at home instead. Bummer.)

(P.P.S. I just squashed a beetle with an old textbook.)