The Year That Was

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The most whirlwind year was filled with the most unpredictable turn of events. I never could have truly imagined as soon as the clock turned midnight that the year would be filled with all the crazy things that happened. The year gone by has taught me an immeasurable amount of lessons that I will take on for a life time. I learned that through all the hurt and pain something has to change, and I have this moment to change all those parts of myself that are deeply hurt. Healing takes time. The important thing is to allow yourself to truly feel those feelings. The more you try to escape how you’re feeling, the more those painful moments will consume you in the long run. God puts us in the most unlikeliest places in life and in moments where we don’t expect but when we look back we realise that they were some of the most beautiful and precious moments in our lives.

You are the author of your life. There are aspects of our lives that we cannot control and we have to accept them as they are. However, there are many aspects of our lives where we have a choice. We can decide our attitude regardless of the situation. Our mindset determines the kind of life we want to live, as you become what you think about all day long. The limitation we create often starts in the mind when we tell ourselves that we can’t do something or that we fear the chance of failure. If we don’t go for what we want in life, we may never discover if it’s what we truly wanted.

It takes energy to not be who you truly are. The greatest blessing of a lifetime is to live as the person you truly are. We can spend too much time caring about what others think who don’t truly care about us. There was a sense of relief in accepting that I’m an introvert, empath and HSP and that that’s not a complete definition of who I am but a part of myself. Our true self shines through our character, personality and actions. No one can define who you are and one of the greatest freedom is embracing completely who you are.

We don’t need a lot in life to be happy. In a consumer society we are encouraged to obtain more materials and possessions. The truth is we don’t need a lot in our lives to be truly happy. Happiness that is based on instant gratification is not sustainable. If you have a roof over your head, water to drink, food to eat, clothes to wear and electricity then you have much more than many people in the world have. If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you have left? We take on memories, experiences, relationships and love for the rest of our lives.

Be kind to yourself. We can often tear ourselves apart in our minds by saying words to ourselves that we’d never say to anyone else. Think of the moments when your friend tells you how upset they felt when something didn’t work out for them. We tend to feel a sense of hope for them. We tell them they can do it, we tell them that everything will be okay and yet often we can tell ourselves the exact opposite. We can be incredibly hard on ourselves. I highly recommend reading Kindness: The Little Thing that Matters Most by Jaime Thurston. The book reminds us that it takes the smallest actions to create a ripple effect of positive change.

Practice gratitude everyday. We become what we focus on all day long. Do you notice when your mind starts focus on everything that’s going wrong, it’s increasingly difficult to see all the beautiful things in life. Gratitude isn’t the denial that life can be incredibly hard at times but it is recognising that even in the midst of struggles there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Gratitude reminds us of what’s important in our lives and it allows us to remember that very often it is the small and simple things during our daily lives that can bring us the greatest joy.

When you judge yourself, you hurt yourself. When we judge ourselves, we are harming our selves. The times I felt the lowest in life were when I was constantly judging myself and magnifying every small perceived flaw. The deep fear of rejection, the fear of being vulnerable and the unrealistic high expectations I held for myself did not help support, reflect or allow my true self to shine. Cultivating empathy and kindness towards yourself invites your heart to let go and embrace all the beautiful parts that make up who you are.

Our society needs empathy and compassion. Everyone has the ability to be kind. We live in a broken world and we desperately need empathy and compassion more than ever. There are many broken souls in our world and hurt people hurt people. It’s heart breaking because pain can latch onto pain and create a cycle, but empathy and compassion comes from love. Empathy is putting yourselves in someone else’s shoes and really trying to understand what they have been through.

It takes time to heal. We must allow ourselves to feel instead of burying the pain and causing it to erupt later. The only way we can truly heal is when we allow ourselves to feel those feelings. We tell many lies during the day when we say that we’re okay, that nothing’s wrong or that everything will be alright when we completely ignore, deny and suppress that there are areas of our lives that need attending to.

Imagine if you had a broken leg but you still walked around as if you weren’t wounded. Over time your leg would collapse and become worse because you didn’t allow it to rest. When we allow our heart to heal we are pouring it with love and forgiveness and empathy. The trauma that we experience in our lives do not disappear on its own. We have to face them even though it can be the hardest battle we may ever fight.

There is nothing wrong with being who you truly are. The words that we are told as children are powerful and can etch in our hearts and minds for a lifetime. As a child you can feel as if the words are defining who you are as a person. Growing up I was often told that I was quiet and shy. Only you know who you are in every layer of your being and all the complexities that can come a long with it. Only you know what you have experienced in life.

Forgiveness is powerful, letting go is freeing for the soul and feeling is a part of healing. We have to forgive ourselves and forgive others. We will all make mistakes, we have all hurt someone or been hurt by someone and being human means that we will all experience pain or negative experiences. Forgiving frees your heart as holding onto things can weigh heavily on us. Letting go is letting the bird fly out of the cage to breathe and see the world. When we let go we set free all the past hurt. When we allow ourselves to feel, we invite our heart to heal.

Change is hard but it’s worth it. There are many things I reflect back on that I felt that I could have dealt with better or that I need to work on within myself. There were moments where I wish I spoke up or I had expressed what I was thinking. I was watching a video recently that quoted Ernest Hemingway ‘There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.’ The truth is that the grass is not always greener on the other side. True change comes from wanting to continuously grow.

Love can sometimes find us in the most unexpected ways. Life is unpredictable and the unknown can come with surprises. The most beautiful thing I will treasure was marrying my soul mate. It’s a rare moment in life where everything feels completely right in your heart when all the pieces of the puzzles connected together. Love is a choice you make each and every single day when you wake up in the morning and before you go to sleep. It’s a choice you make as you lay beside your loved one, it’s a choice you make as you both may experience a hard time yet you are still at each other’s side to support one another, it’s the choice you make knowing that you cannot change anyone but you want to grow together.

The way our present self looks back ultimately creates the past that we have experienced. Reflecting on the hard times that were experienced made me think about how much they pushed me to grow. Reflecting back on how in the moment it felt like it was the hardest year of my life makes me reflect back on how it was quite possibly one of the best years of my life. Through all the tears, pain and hurt there was an overwhelming amount of love, growth and healing. Every moment of pain experienced before was worth it to experience a tremendous push to change and grow as a person. Life isn’t a destination that we arrive to and receive a lifetime subscription of happiness. It’s an ongoing journey that we experience each and everyday.

Art by Monica Barengo

Opening Up About Not Feeling Skinny Enough

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I feel a little scared to write this. I was around twelve when I started weighing myself on the scales. I ran in the morning before school, and straight after school when I got home. I drank a lot of water and I ate as much as I liked because my metabolism was a skyrocket. When I left home at sixteen, I developed signs of an eating disorder. I would skip meals, exercise a lot, eat slowly, document what I was eating, weigh myself several times a day, obsess over my BMI and drink a lot of water to feel full. I had depression, anxiety and a fear of gaining weight.

When you grow up with people telling you that you’re skinny and that it’s said as a compliment, there is this pressure that stays inside your mind to maintain that body image. However, now that I’m in my twenties, my body is naturally changing. My metabolism isn’t what it used to be, and I feel more aware of eating healthy and having an active lifestyle. The beauty standard in Asia is to be very petite, but our bodies are all made differently. After many years of struggling with my weight, I feel the healthiest and happiest now. Surround yourself with people who love and support you, do the things that you enjoy and feed your mind with positive words.

There are days where I still struggle, but I know it’s not my true self. The true voice in myself says that your self-worth comes from who you are as a person, and it has nothing to do with the number on the scales. I don’t want to be defined by my weight, but by what I can bring into the world. The title really speaks about my teenage years. In the past, I went through a period where I was feeling a lot of hatred towards myself. I felt not worthy, and there was an overwhelming amount of worry and fear taking over my life. I felt like even though I was stressed, I could control my weight and what I ate. It’s not healthy, because then you end up neglecting your body.

I was 18 when I was living in Sydney in 2015, and it was a time where I really struggled with my body image. I remember gymming more and watching what I was eating. There was fear and insecurity during that period of my life. I felt incredibly lost. My anxiety was crippling at that time, and I really isolated myself. I was regularly going to the doctor and the hospital, and had a lot of health issues. When it comes to eating, I used to feel quite conscious at times when eating a meal in front of people, unless it’s those I’m very close to.

Our bodies are beautiful, sacred, precious and wonderful things that keep us moving, breathing and living life. I do think that it can be damaging if one compliments too much on a persons body size. When you grow up from a child being told that you’re so skinny and that it’s said as a compliment, it’s something that can really stay entrenched in your mind as you grow older. I know that my value lies in my heart, yet there are days where I stare in the mirror and feel a sudden fear of gaining any weight. It all starts in the mind. A persons weight can fluctuate when dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression.

Everyone has insecurities. We all have something inside and out that we’re conscious of. When I think about where I was previously, it was during a period where I was unhappy, and I felt like I wasn’t skinny enough (which was when I was the lightest). I rarely ate in the dining area in a previous flat a few years ago, because I literally didn’t want my flatmates to see me eating. It’s really been this year, where I’ve felt safe in eating in the dining area. It seems like something so small, but it’s a huge change. Since leaving home, there have been periods where I didn’t eat well. When I had feelings of stress, I felt like I didn’t have any appetite.

We often don’t emphasize it enough, but your health is truly your wealth. Without your health, you wouldn’t be able to wake up and conquer the day. You wouldn’t be able to experience this beautiful life. When I didn’t have a healthy mind, it started to affect my body and I felt weak, unmotivated and a loss of energy. It was during that time where I suffered from panic attacks and had very deep depression. Our thoughts are so powerful. When I started being more present, thinking positively and accepting myself as I am, I really felt set free from the cage I’d built inside my mind.

I’ve read so many stories about those who showed warning signs of anorexia, and during those periods where they were the lowest weight, was when they were the unhappiest. Being skinny won’t make you happy. It’s embracing where you are, right here, right now. Accepting yourself as you are. Being grateful for everything that your body has done for you. Being thankful for good health and waking up to a new day. Treating yourself with kindness, love and positive self-talk. I am at the healthiest weight this year. I feel the most energy and happiness this year.

There were feelings of not being good enough. After really surrounding myself with amazing people and being kinder to myself, I feel an overwhelming sense of peace. If you can’t love yourself first, how will you attract the right people into your life? Our life experiences can affect us deeply in how we see the world. But, I really think that we can all heal from hurt, even when it seems impossible. It’s really the simple things in life that give us the greatest joy. We have to come from a place of not judging others because everyone has and is going through something. It’s easy to see things on the surface and believe what we see. The most healing comes from the periods of silence. I really believe that time heals.

One of the biggest blessings is surrounding yourself with people who are uplifting, encouraging, motivating, positive and caring. They bring the best out of you. The people we surround ourselves with are important. Our bodies are a blessing. It’s important to refrain from commenting on someone’s body. I can’t emphasize how much it can have an impact on them. I really believe we have to remind ourselves that we are enough as we are. We truly live in such a visual world. People will constantly judge others based on their appearances, and it’s inescapable that the first impression we have of someone often comes from their physical appearances. But, we have to go beyond the surface and remember that every person we care about, we couldn’t care less about what they look like. I really hope if you are on a journey of healing and having a healthy relationship with your body, that you will realize how beautifully made you are.

When you go through a stressful period in your life or a hard season, know that there are people who care about you. I know that when I went through depression, I often felt like nobody cared and that there wasn’t a way out. But, there are so many people who love you, and often the first step is reaching out to others. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to talk about these things. Those who matter in our lives, are the ones who won’t judge you for your experiences. When I’m reminding myself of what’s important in life, I like to think of the words from The Little Prince: Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye. If you are reading this and going through a hard time, know that wherever you are in your life you are enough.

Articles:

Why it’s not Always Smart to Lead with a Physical Compliment

What an eating disorder IS and ISN’T

Top 4 Things Recovery Has Taught Me

My Journey And Relationship With Food

Personal

I was watching the video below by It’s Jcanana. I could relate to what she was saying, and it made me think of my own journey with food. As it’s something so personal, it’s easy for other’s to think from the outside “Why should you be self conscious, you’re quite slim.” I really wanted to write this for a long time, and over the years I’d written a few drafts and always ended up not posting them. However, I feel that it’s the right time to write it out. Growing up, I often heard the similar words of, you should eat more and you’re so skinny. I feel that it’s not a compliment, and shouldn’t be, and sometimes it was said that way and other time’s it was said unkindly. It gave me a certain pressure to sustain the weight I was, even though I was in my early teens.

I remember going to markets or clothing stores, and older ladies telling me that the clothes are more likely to fit me than them. I ate very healthily growing up while I was at home, but at the same time I exercised a lot. I woke up every morning before school to go for a run, and every afternoon after school. I drank a lot of water, and generally lived a healthy lifestyle. However, in that aspect I was wanting to be fitter, but I was also wanting to maintain my weight, while still eating as much as I wanted to. It was when I left home at 16 when I became more preoccupied with my weight and body image. I went through a difficult time during 2013 where I hit rock bottom, and I fell into depression. I rarely ate a lot at the uni hall I lived at, and often didn’t have dinner.

When I lived at the hall, I’d buy cereal from the supermarket, and just eat those. I was going to the gym and exercising more, but following my second year, I was eating more, but I ate a lot of oats and often just had that for dinner. When I moved to Sydney for two years, I lost the most weight that I had since my first year at uni. I’d always eaten mostly vegetarian, but it was during this time I decided to go fully vegetarian. However, it made me lose a lot of energy and affected my mood. Now, after doing a lot of research over the years, I eat mainly vegetarian. Last year I cooked a lot for myself, but I really do think the environment we’re in can greatly affect our mood. At the time I wasn’t so happy where I was, but this year is definitely the most happiest I’ve felt in my environment and in my lifestyle.

Last year I went through a period of time where I ate far too much sweets, as I was going through a period of time where I felt stressed. I think it’s so important to eat when you’re hungry, and never deprive yourself. Be in a positive environment, live a healthy lifestyle and gradually change your mindset towards your body through self talk. Self love allows us to nourish our mind, body and soul. It can be frustrating when people assume you aren’t healthy if you’re slim, if you happen to have a small meal you can be judged from it and being pointed out about certain body parts. One of the best changes I’ve made is being with people who are uplifting, and those who don’t focus on the outward appearances.

When you eat a healthy filling breakfast, it can really set the start of the day with a burst of energy. Don’t limit what you eat, but just eat until you are 80% full. We should try to judge less what someone’s body image is, and most of all ourselves. Most of us would never tell a friend that they should be skinnier, because we’d only wish that they are happy and healthy. That is why it’s important to be kinder, because often we can be the most hardest on ourselves. When I went through a period of time where my focus was so set on being at a certain weight, it was an unhealthy pattern and the cycle would continue, but I wouldn’t be truly happy.

Being skinny doesn’t make you happy. It’s the life you choose to live, making a delicious meal, surrounding yourself with positive people and the simple things that give us the greatest joy. We live in a judgmental and superficial society, and so there will always be people who will point out other’s appearances, compare themselves or judge them from the way they look. Our most beautiful self is in our mind and soul, and that kind of beauty takes time to discover from a person. The best that we can do is to be the best person we can be, and focus on living a good life. What is your relationship like with food? How has it changed over the years?

A Highly Sensitive Person’s Guide To Flatting

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counter.space

It is currently my fifth year of flatting life, and I wanted to share some of my experiences with you all as an HSP on what to be aware of. It’s important to note not all HSP’s may have a mental illness, but my experience as an HSP with anxiety has taught me a lot. If you’re interested in understanding more about HSP, feel free to read more here. We make up 15-20% of the population, and have a different way of coping with specific situations. Being an HSP means that we have a higher sensory perception, which means that we are more sensitive to the environment eg. loud noises, strong smells, crowded places.

I was four years old when I was in kindergarten, but I preferred quietly holding the rabbits and guinea pigs. Interacting with other children made me feel overwhelmed at times, and till this day, it is far more comfortable for me to interact with one person at a time or a group of people close to me. There have been experiences of living with people that are close to me, and experiences of living with people I don’t know very well. Being alone really gives one time to wind down, and to not become over stimulated. Not all HSP’s are introverts, however, introverts who are HSP may need more time to be alone.

Many HSP’s need to have deep relationships and build close interactions. The difficulty in this is if you are living with people you don’t feel close to, and it can make you feel out of place. There is a crave for meaningful interaction and understanding, as well as being surrounded by people who bring the best out of you. In the past, I’ve lived with people who really cared for me, showed compassion and understanding. It can be difficult when there are experiences where there is miscommunication and people (understandably) might not realise that you are an HSP, as it is a term that’s not widely understood.

A quiet space allows you to sleep well and be refreshed, as a loud space can cause stress, anxiety and overwhelming feelings. HSP’s have a strong inner world and feel emotions deeply, which is why the alone time is beneficial and much needed. Some HSP’s may also have a strong sense of independence and prefer doing certain things alone. Some of the things I’m very grateful from my flatting experiences is organisation, in terms of things being generally neat and organised. A few more of the things to observe when looking for a place to live is the lighting, window, temperature and the location. A few more things you’ll realise when living with people are the different habits we have.

The difficulty I have found in terms of living with people I am not close to, is the ability to communicate smoothly. This is something I need to learn, because I am someone who wants to avoid conflict or negativity, but then this causes me to build up those feelings and bottle them up. On the flip side, it can be much easier to tell someone I am close to about how I feel about something. This is one of the struggles I have found with flatting, because I feel more comfortable in expressing myself with those who know me personally. It is a learning lesson. A HSP really soaks up their energy, and if they feel happy, they feel deeply happy, and if they feel sad, they can feel deeply sad.

Living with people who accept you as you are will make the living situation much more calm and steady, whereas, living with people where you feel they do not understand you can be tiring and wear you out. HSP crave connection with individuals where both sides can truly open up, express sensitivity and have empathy. An article I’ve found helpful with the lists of things to take note when moving out of home, include the following things: living with people who have a balanced lifestyle, who aren’t partiers, drinkers, smokers and noisy and are considerate and quiet after bed time.

Are you an HSP? What is/was your experience like living with other people? How many people did you live with? How do you wind down at the end of the day? What is something that bothers you as an HSP? What were the positive and negative experiences of your flatting experiences? I’m very curious to know, as I’ve often felt that there are certain misconceptions about HSP’s being a certain way. There are also simple ways to make living enjoyable when flatting with others, just as it is simple for it to crumble like a cookie. If you are an HSP and live alone, what have been the pros and cons?

“They are living evidence that this rich and varied world with its overflowing and intoxicating life is not purely external, but also exists within . . . Their life teaches more than their words. . . . Their lives teach the other possibility, the interior life which is so painfully wanting in our civilization.” ― Elaine N. Aron, The Highly Sensitive Person

A great video to watch for more information about HSP