International Women’s Day: reflecting on what I’ve learned about empowerment

It just dawned on me that we’ve already entered March. Its baffling how time flies by so quick because honest to God, it felt as though it was only a few weeks ago that it just turned 2015. Its making me reflect on how time waits for no man and reminding me to appreciate the little things in life. I’ve been stopping more to marvel at sunsets and array of clouds spread across the sky, staring at fallen flowers and thinking how pretty it looks even on the harsh hot cement ground, petting stray cats near my apartment and bringing them cat food.

I’m dedicating this post to mark International Women’s Day (8th March 2015), a day for celebrating the milestones and achievements of women, calling for gender equality, raising awareness about the subjugation of women’s rights in countries with regards to issues such as reproductive rights, fair wages and domestic violence, as well as women’s empowerment.

There are quite a number of women’s issues that I’ve felt very strongly about on based on the readings I did, such as reproductive rights, the LBGT community, domestic violence and child marriage. For today’s post, however I wanted to talk about what I’ve learned about being empowered.

I’ve been doing some reflecting and I realized that I’ve actually grown quite a fair bit as a person.  I can say without a doubt that I’m not the same person as I was before. I’m a little more confident, a little more wiser and my outlook on life has changed. I used to hold such overly idealistic perceptions about life, about love and about relationships and I think my ongoing recovery from, and battles with my eating disorder, from heartbreak, from meeting people of all walks of life last year and the type of travels I did have sharpened my expectations and given me a real dossier on the realities of life. To me empowerment means strength, knowledge and bravery.

The trials and tribulations of 2014 and I guess even 2013 has taught me what it means to be empowered in various contexts:

Relationships

I used to want to maintain good relationships with others all the time and making them happy at the expense of my own personal happiness. Now I’m slowly, and still learning to let go of that. I’m learning to speak my mind more. I’m less inclined to wanting to please people, especially if they’re not close friends, or get them to like me because my wellbeing isn’t in their hands. I’m not afraid to burn bridges if it means distancing myself negativity, especially people who don’t know me as well as my good friends do. People will walk away from you, and you shouldn’t be afraid to do the same if they aren’t making you happy or making you doubt yourself. If you’re going to cry about every single person that leaves you every time, you’re only displaying a weakness within yourself.

Empowerment means to know when to distance yourself from negative people instead of wanting to please people all the time, from people who don’t make you happy, from people whom you should have let go of a long time ago, of people taking advantage of you. Empowerment means to know which relationships are the ones you should keep and which are ones you shouldn’t.

Love and Romantic Relationships

I used to have such idealistic perceptions about love. I held this fantasy that there’d be a Prince Charming somewhere along the way who’d sweep me off my feet; that heartbreak was something that wouldn’t happen to me. But after the months it took me to get back up on my feet again after being broken, hearing personal stories from female friends, and meeting different types of men along the way, I’ve learned how absolutely naive I was, and how I’m still very much unaware about romantic relationships and about human desires. I used to like romantic movies and swoon over them. Man meets woman. They fall in love. He does something corny to get close to her: learn a new dance, lose weight, take part in competitions, learn a new sport etc. Now I can’t stand them because I know that’s not how it will always be in real life. I’ve friends who’ve fallen for the charms of sweet-talking suave men who end up having sex with them and then dropping them like a hot potato after. Not just here in Singapore, but some European friends too. I’ve had some men – not all but some – who hit on me in bars being a little too sexually aggressive for my liking and when I reject them, they immediately turn their heads away and target another women using the same tactics. 

Don’t get me wrong I’m sure there’s a Prince Charming in the future for many women, and that not all men are conniving foxes who want to only have sex with you and run off. But I personally don’t want to hold myself to that by holding the mindset that all men are romantic beings who wouldn’t want to hurt me and put myself in a vulnerable position, and know I might meet some bad ones along the way who life doesn’t always give you what you want straight away. Its probably a hard thing to do because I’m a sensitive person and human behavior, especially when intoxicated by love, can be hard to predict, but here’s to doing the best we can. We might go about making mistakes a few times, but after that, we will know, and we will learn, and we will do our best to not repeat that my changing our behaviors because nothing ever goes away until it finally teaches us what we need to know.

Empowerment means to protect yourself from vulnerable situations by being smart and being aware. Empowerment means to know how much you’re worth and to think twice about accepting a man who cannot keep up with you. Empowerment means to question a relationship that isn’t giving you what you want, making you sacrifice more than your partner does and eventually decide to walk away from a relationship if over time, isn’t making you happy, isn’t making you grow or if its not giving you what you truly deserve.

Body Image

In the years I’ve struggled loads to be healthy and love my body without hurting it through starving, bingeing, self-harm and compulsive exercise. I always strived to be as thin as possible because I hated being bigger than my friends. I didn’t like my tummy rolls, my chubby face, my calves. Pretty much everything about my body because it just wasn’t skinny. I only started putting in a lot more effort into taking care of myself last year by altering my eating habits (i.e. no restricting and no bingeing), running more and going on a dance rampage. Through improving my health and learning to change my thought patterns I’ve slowly come to understand the true meaning of loving your body and accepting it. I reflected about this my post on discovering what body image empowerment means through a striptease workshop I did a few weeks back.

Empowerment means to accept that bodies come in various shapes and sizes, because everyone is different. It means to reject the ideals that society and the mass media has enforced upon us for decades and to not compare yourself to other people. Empowerment means taking care of your health and being the best you that you can be without the need to gain validation and approval from others about your look.

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This doesn’t mean that I’m now a guru who now won’t make the mistakes that other people make and will go on on to lead the best and happier of lives. At the end of the day, I’m still human and if there’s one thing I learned from my education in psychology, human behavior can be hard to predict at times. I’m only 24 and I’ve so much more about life and love I need to know but with this increased level of knowledge and awareness gained from self-discovery and interaction with many different others (especially people older than I am), I hope that I will continue growing in strength and knowledge and passion so that when I’m 90 and looking back at my life, I will do so with pride and awe instead of disappointment and regret.

HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY PEOPLE. I’m grateful for the women who helped fight for the rights of women around the world and for women who have pushed me to discovering myself and becoming the best version of me 🙂

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********** can i interest with you with some bloopers*******

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I had already removed my contacts and disposed of the pair before realizing I wanted my sis to take these pictures for me so I ended up holding my glasses like these half the time just so I wouldn’t need to keep taking them off and putting them on again!

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MEEP

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HAIRFLIPS ARE NOT AS EASY OR NATURAL AS THEY LOOK. LOOK AT THIS UNNATURAL ONE

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Glad to see my mum enjoyed having fun with photos as well 😀

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