I know, I know it sounds so woo woo. Yes, I will admit that I was and still am a self-help junkie. In my 20s and early 30s I loved reading books on personal growth and development and I have come to realize that self-love is really act of resistance. Much of mainstream media teaches us, specifically women to not be happy with ourselves. To not be happy with our bodies, unless we sculpt, strain and starve ourselves. Not be happy with our faces, where we have to use all sorts of make-up to cover up all of our flaws. Not be happy with aging, to do everything in your power to not look older, where seeing your esthetician is a mandatory weekly visit and getting botox is like getting your nails done. Not only, does doing all of these things to maintain an unrealistic ideal of beauty drain our time, but it also can drain our bank accounts. Given that women still only make .77 cents to out male counterparts, it seems even more egregious that women spend so much money to try to attain a level of beauty, which in many ways is unattainable.
This year I turned 45 and have definitely fallen into the trap of wanting to defy my age, my skin and ensure that I maintain a certain physique. This came as a surprise to me, because I feel like I have overcome many of my insecurities and have a fairly healthy self-esteem.
Let me start from the beginning to give you a little bit of history on my journey. I grew up in a stable and nurturing middle class family, and both my parents are first generation immigrants from Taiwan. I was born in Littleton, Colorado, and grew up in Louisville, CO. I had a very typical childhood, I played with neighbors, went on summer vacations, attended public school and went to University of Colorado, Boulder for my undergrad degree. I was awkward in my tweens and teens, and definitely fell prey to peer pressure and not feeling like I fit in.
In college, I started to gain more confidence. I worked out almost every day, I loved going to the gym, I studied, dated, went to concerts and parties, and made good friends. Then after I graduated, I joined the Peace Corps service where I lived in Nepal for 2 years.
It was here when everything began to fall apart. After a year of living in Nepal, I started to become obsessed with my body, I gained about 10 pounds which is common among volunteers because of the high carb diet that many subsist on. Having a larger physique in Nepalese culture was considered beautiful, but by American standards, being larger meant you were not desirable and lacked discipline.
I began to track everything that I ate in Nepal and became obsessed with my body. I had lost my security blanket of control that I had in Colorado. The ability to work out in a controlled gym/environment for 1-2 hours every day, and the ability to control what I ate (salads certainly don’t exist in Nepal). This lack of “control” combined with the weight gain threw me into a deep depression. I literally started crying every single day and I couldn’t get out of bed. On top of feeling this way, there was so much shame I felt for not being able to, “keep things together.” It was a perfect storm.
Eventually the Peace Corps medical team intervened and I was sent to Kathmandu the Capitol of Nepal for psychological evaluation. I saw a few therapists who gave me an evaluation and treatment. What really provided the most healing and got me out of my funk, was a visit from my family.
I know it sounds so simple, literally having my father take me into his arms and giving me a big bear hug with tears streaming down both of our faces, started my journey towards healing. I think it was at that moment I was reminded that I was loved unconditionally; and my pain was actually causing pain to my father.
This realization caused a shift in my thinking and being. It cracked a light into the dark depression I was feeling and literally got me to “snap” out of it. I didn’t heal overnight, at least I felt positive and optimistic that I could get through this tough time.
It has been over 20 years since I have lived in Nepal. Nepal provided a “disruption” to my consciousness. It woke me up to how insecure I was feeling growing up in American culture, and truly changed my outlook on life. It gave me the confidence to purchase The Wellness Center over 17 years ago.
Now after 20 years since I lived in Nepal, I have re-cultured to American life. I work out, monitor what I eat, and am in control of my body. BUT my body is starting to change… I don’t recover as quickly from my workouts, I have a “soft” mid-section ever since my daughter was born, my skin is starting to freckle more and random moles are coming out of thin air! I have been resisting these changes, feeling like I have to work out more, buy clothing that tucks and compresses my mid-section, I have to put on make-up that covers up my freckles.
I think to myself is this self-love? Self-love is being ok with all of the changes that are happening in our bodies. Instead of resisting the changes, embrace and love them. As we only have one physical body, let’s love it unconditionally. Truly, it is not what is on the outside that make us beautiful people, it is what is on the inside. It is about feeling good about ourselves and our bodies no matter what they look like. That being a happy, generous and giving person mean so much more than being perfect.