Throughout my formative years, I struggled with self-acceptance and self-esteem issues.
Suffering from setbacks while growing up, such as failure to perform well in school, and heartaches as a teenager made it even harder for me to accept who I was, much less love myself.
While I could occupy myself during the school semester with work to avoid thinking about any of these insecurities and the negativity I was feeling, I could not hide from it when the holidays came.
My friends would always complain about my sudden disappearances because I would become a hermit. I was unreachable on any social media platforms because I couldn't bring myself to handle any form of social interaction.
Like many others, I was dismayed when the news of the circuit breaker broke out. We weren't allowed to go out, we couldn't meet up with our friends, we couldn't even go to school. But I promised myself to make the best out of the situation I was in.
And so during the period of relative solitude, I put myself through the biggest challenge I've ever faced in the past 19 years of my life: Learning how to love myself.
Basking in my own company
Staring at this challenge in the face felt like a David versus Goliath situation; it was very daunting, so I decided to approach it step by step.
The first thing I did was to set aside time for myself at the end of every day. This proved to be easy because of the amount of free time I had. Since classes were conducted online, I saved a considerable amount of travel time.
During this time, I would write down my thoughts and reflect upon what happened throughout the day. I thought about what I did well and what I could improve on.
Gradually, I started spending more time by myself and found new things to engage in activities during my me-time.
My favourite new activity was to hold a steaming cup of Milo, sit at the balcony and watch the sunrise while letting my mind drift.
There's always this strange peace in the wee hours of the morning. The birds are chirping, the ground is fresh from the night's dew, and the scent of nature fills the morning air.
I feel like it is Mother Nature's way of telling me that it doesn't matter how dark, difficult or depressing the night before was. What matters is that the sun will still rise and the light that dawns means that there's hope for a new day.
The sky at dusk and dawn has a way of making me appreciate life.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/RUTH CHAN
And it was that hope that began to shift my perspective about life, society and myself.
Because of all that self-reflection, my self-awareness increased exponentially.
In all honesty, however, self-awareness is like a double-edged sword. I became aware of the many areas of weakness I have, and I felt seemingly helpless about it.
But this led me to my next step.
Embracing my flaws
This step was the hardest pill for me to swallow for two reasons. First of all, no one likes to admit their flaws, even to themselves. Secondly, once I accepted them, the sheer multitude of them made me feel like a terrible person.
I was stuck in this step for a period of time, but I shared my struggle with a couple of close friends.
With their help, I slowly came to realise that growth is not a linear line, but more of a constant alternation between a plateau and an upward incline.
When I found myself stagnant, it was actually a plateau, an area of a fairly level high ground. I needed to give myself grace and time here to learn and equip myself for the next jump.
I also need to constantly remind myself to see the bigger picture, which is admittedly more difficult to do than it sounds.
My closest friends really helped me in that aspect. They've encouraged me, cried with me, laughed with me, and helped keep me grounded too. I've been blessed to have such friends to journey through life with.
But I knew I couldn't settle for being on a plateau for the rest of my life as I believed I had the ability to reach the summit. This brings me to my third step.
Focusing on personal growth and development
During this season, I focused on getting to know myself better. I did personality quizzes from Psychology Today as well as got to know my Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
My Myers-Briggs personality type, the INFJ, is thought to be the rarest.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/RUTH CHAN
This was to complement my self-reflection and help me to find out what works best for people with a similar personality type as me.
It was an essential step for me to understand my quirks, habits and mindsets and remind myself that I'm unique and I deserve to be loved too.
I also educated myself with self-help tips on various platforms (books, YouTube and even Instagram) to help me relate to the experiences of others which in turn helped me realise that I'm not alone in my struggles. Recognising that fact prevented me from isolating myself further and wallowing in despair.
Last but not the least, I made sure to set aside some time every week to do something I enjoyed, be it taking a walk in the park or hanging out with my friends.
Truth be told, there's no such thing as being perfect at loving myself. My grandmother likes to say that the biggest room in the world is the room for improvement, but learning to fall in love with myself is a challenge that will get easier over time and one that I will see through for the rest of my life.
BANNER AND TEASER PHOTO CREDIT: CONTENT PIXIE VIA UNSPLASH
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