10 In Mental Health

Finding Self-Acceptance Amongst Imperfections

Finding Self-Acceptance Amongst Imperfections

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.

Throughout life I wondered how I love or accept myself? What would make me stop feeling so empty and dead inside? How could I find self-acceptance?

Photo courtesy of Kathryn Yew


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.

Finding Self-Acceptance - How to Love and Accept Yourself, imperfections and all.

Image courtesy of Kathryn Yew

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.

With love,




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.

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  • Muriel
    November 20, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    I think that, in Kathryn’s post, the key is to take it one step at a time. It is easier said than done. For me it was a lifesaver! Thanks for a great post!

    • Kathryn Yew
      November 26, 2013 at 11:37 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Muriel!

      Yes… one step at a time, easier said than done. There is so much to appreciating and giving each moment its due, especially little bits of progress — I think I read an article about how it’s a human habit of attributing 10x more ’emotional memory’ to negative events than positive. Something to watch out for!

      I would also like to add my memories of being ‘busy’, flustered and desperate for personal growth, putting in so much grief and pressure, yet not really ‘getting anywhere’. Reading your comment was a good opportunity to reaffirm to myself that while there’s always muck to wade through, just a few steps in the right direction are still worth celebrating, and that ‘wisdom’ and life aren’t a race — we can only do what we can, and how it all progresses isn’t particularly linear. Yay for wisdom and wiser investment of energy.

      • Janine Ripper
        November 28, 2013 at 8:03 am

        Wow busy for personal growth – its amazing how exhausting that can get, hey?! (talking from personal experience). Celebrate the small wins, and I love it how you say ‘yay for wisdom and wiser investment of energy’ – so true.

  • jonesbabie
    November 25, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    “So I had to create a new framework and way of living; a paradigm shift of ‘striving directly for a goal’ rather than ‘avoiding all manner of failure to meet the goal’.”

    This sentence speaks volumes, and is the crux of the matter to me. Striving for a goal means embracing and learning from failure, and not avoiding it. Everything in life is a lesson, if we are wise we realize that even failure has a lesson in it, AND THIS IS OK. Because to live life carefully, avoiding failure, means you are only half living. I’ve had plenty of failures in my life, some of which almost crushed me. But I thought through it, gleaned what I could and grew past the failure.

    Bravo to Kathryn, and the wisdom of her perspective.

    • Kathryn Yew
      November 26, 2013 at 11:20 pm

      Thanks for your comment, jonesbabie 🙂

      I love the word ’embracing’. Especially in the context of life and learning, I think it’s a much more powerful term than ‘acceptance’ or ‘acknowledgement’. To embrace holds a connotation of actively seeking the rest of the picture, of actively seeking to create and love, rather than simply understand one aspect of a situation or perspective. The word ’embrace’ denotes a greater openness and (honest) acceptance/acknowledgement, whereas ‘acceptance’ or ‘acknowledgement’ by themselves have been used as lip service while a person still feels begrudging or otherwise conflicted. If I ask myself whether I can embrace vs. accept certain situations, I often come up with different answers — which is a good indicator of what I’m truly going through!

      I would like to provide an example of how embracing life and situations has improved my quality of life tremendously:

      E.g. Sibling rivalry, a common occurrence.

      A four year old boy is experiencing some inner distress (e.g. from moving house, or moving school, or a change in caregiver arrangements), and this gets taken out on his little sister. The boy loves his little sister and often plays well, but because of situational stress he may ‘act up’ in front of caregivers — possibly as an attempt for greater security through experimenting while observing how caregivers react and view him, his sister and their sibling dynamic.

      Say the baby sister was sitting happily with me nearby, and the boy was happily driving a toy car around. Suddenly, the boy smiles, then runs toward his sister to run her over.

      As a carer, I came up with this response: Pick the baby up and keep her out of harm’s way (reason for anger or fear averted through embracing my power as well as the direct situation, rather than focusing on unproductive negative judgements), while playfully saying to the brother ‘Whoo! Lucky save!’

      The boy smiled and said ‘it was an accident’, to which I kindly responded, ‘You are very fast. I suppose that’s what I’m here for, to help take care of you, and your sister, and all the other things you love in your home’(providing an overall sense of security, particularly emotional security through maintaining a constructive self-image of the young boy).

      In understanding child development and basic psychology of distress, and having patience with life and the children’s process of living life, I found peace and how to be loving, to fill my world with love.

      “Everything in life is a lesson”
      For the sake of discussion rather than being pedantic: I believe we create our own reality, our own meanings, on at least some level. We can make everything in life a lesson or find a lesson, though I don’t believe that everything has a ‘god or fate ordained’ purpose – nor that there even ‘has’ to be a greater lesson or purpose in anything. At this point, I view ‘lessons’ and ‘meaning’ that people ascribe to life as ‘flavours’ that are up to each person’s preferences.

      I suppose this line of thought follows a ‘shaking up’ of one’s core beliefs about the world and reality – a heightened desire for pure truth, and a strong preference for ‘ambiguity about facts’ over ‘ambiguity about whether I’m correct in the truth of what I now choose to believe’. (Thank you for understanding.)

      “If we are wise we realize that even failure has a lesson in it”
      This reminds me of when I was recently upset about a ‘failure’ to live up to my ideals. My partner helped remind me that life, learning and progress are all a process rather than a black/white, linear, tick-box ‘achievement’. And he encouraged me by pointing out that being able to see and express where I had disappointed myself, in the way I had done, was itself a sign of personal growth and something to be proud of. From that perspective, it was much easier to pick myself up, embrace the situation rather than be distressed, love myself,
      and more fully enjoy my natural propensity toward growth. 🙂

      • Janine Ripper
        November 28, 2013 at 8:07 am

        Kat – you should write a book. Seriously.

    • Janine Ripper
      November 28, 2013 at 8:05 am

      I love your comment Cathy. It wasn’t until I started ‘allowing’ myself to try new things, to fail or to succeed, or to not do so well and learn, that I started to really grow and become my ‘self’.

  • Marie
    November 26, 2013 at 2:29 am

    This is the great epidemic of young women: perfectionism. Feeling that in order to be loved and to love ourselves, that we must be perfect. But, the moment you embrace your imperfections, you begin to truly love yourself and become more loveable to every one around you. Great post!

    • Kathryn Yew
      November 26, 2013 at 11:27 pm

      Hi Marie, thanks for the comment. 🙂

      Yes, perfectionism, with fear, low self-worth and lack of compassion at its root. I think the mindset makes the difference, as I think I’d still describe myself as a perfectionist and idealist. It’s not so much perfectionism that’s the issue, but irrational, unreasonable, illogical concepts of ‘perfect’ and WHEN we will be perfect (which may be never — and that’s ok).

      Absolutely, learning to embrace oneself, our stage in life, to have compassion for ourselves and others — wise compassion is invaluable.

      I thought this was a fantastic talk, “The Space Between Self-Esteem and Self Compassion: Kristin Neff at TEDxCentennialParkWomen”

      • Janine Ripper
        November 28, 2013 at 7:58 am

        Ah Kat I am so with you there. It’s a slow process to gain self-acceptance as who we are, rather than who we can be. Not that it should stop us for striving for things – there are just things we should strive for, and then there’s things we don’t need to and shouldn’t worry about so much – like the desire to have a flat stomach, no cellulite, etc etc. I mean, normal women have stomachs and cellulite!

        I can’t wait to watch the TED video you shared – thank you!

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