Having small breasts was among the litany of imperfections I saw in myself.
Of the things I was told and repeated in my mind, my body was too small, I looked too Asian, my eyelashes were so short they may as well not exist, my thumbs looked like toes. Deeper than my skin, I heard that I was stupid, not responsible enough, not insightful or aware enough, not confident enough, I was too emotional, it was my fault for not having enough self-respect.
Throughout my life I wondered for what reason could I love or accept myself? What would make me stop feeling so empty and dead inside?
The answer would start with challenging a fundamental, underlying belief: that I was a worthless, weak piece of flesh who would be raped eventually, that deeper than my flesh I was less than a failure and a leech.
I’ve been in enough relationships where people enjoyed my body, among other things that make me enjoyable company. That felt nice, but it wasn’t enough on its own. Time and again, I was confronted with others not being as concerned about reason, integrity and the attempt to make ideals a reality.
Throughout my life I was encouraged to strive for happiness and fulfilment; it’s come through filling in the missing elements that would have made my mistakes into working equations.
I can now reflect on how I’d been trying to ‘be good’ through avoidance. Avoidance of: any show of “negative emotion”, physical threats – mostly imaginary in my case (e.g. if walking anywhere I’d constantly fear that someone would assault me), emotional and practical risks (which are everywhere). Ironically, I so was fixated on avoidance that I didn’t do much good, or anything at all.
It got to the point where I realised that if avoidance is my ultimate goal, then suicide is my best bet. But I didn’t want to die. Unlike some, I didn’t have real experiences that made me want to die. So I had to create a new framework and way of living; a paradigm shift of ‘striving directly for a goal’ and not ‘avoiding all manner of failure to meet the goal’. I continue learning how to relax, take things one step at a time and work with what immediately relates to each moment, and not stress about meeting some elusive gold standard created by blind faith and unchecked imagination.
Over the years I’ve built the courage to feel the fear yet strive for a vision anyway.
Taking full responsibility for my choices and my life, and expanding my perspective to see life’s many possibilities and choices, has led to a frame of mind I can only be grateful for.
Having refined my sense of purpose, working with children is my perfect field. I’ve learnt to see many past ‘imperfections’ as positives, based on the function I now want for my body. My height allows me to share special hiding places and not intimidate children; my small breasts help them to identify with me and open up. If I get fatter, I will be even cuddlier (I kind of look forward to this!).
Deeper than learning to love my body, I am much gentler on myself, because I try. Try to learn, to be kind, to be fair, to help others feel valued and listened to. To help my kids feel empowered, to help them know that as a person they are more than any thoughts or events or emotions could ever be. I also help them to piece their stories together, making sure they’re comfortable with the spin they’ve put on it, then extending and creating the rest of their life story based on where they want it to go – especially if it involves ninjas, fairies and slime!
Despite the ups and downs, I have something to anchor me now. While life may happen to us, we are the creators of meaning and worth in life. I hope this piece of perspective helps.
About Kathryn Yew
Kathryn runs her own business ‘Whole Hearts Personal Child Care’, where she provides private Early Childhood Education in the homes of different families each day of the week, for up to four families simultaneously.
Kathryn has a key interest in co-constructing the foundation for people’s social, emotional and psychological lives, with a distinct focus on character development and play-based, child-initiated learning through nurturing attachments. She also has a passion for helping human potential, dignity and well-being flourish — regardless of age. In general Kathryn is intrigued by the nature and optimal development of humanity, and awed by the huge range of quality within our human existence. Should she attend university after 5-10 more years of grassroots experience, she would complete a degree in Child Psychology (possibly with a double major in Early Childhood Teaching). As a strong believer that respect and love are earned and given freely, she wants her life to be a testament to how understanding people with acknowledgment and compassion cultivates love — and to document her practice of the art.
Her career path in 7 words: Perspective and patient collaboration expressing joyful love.