Eye-Opening Moments are real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives intertwined. In this episode you will hear about From Self-Abuse to Self-Love and The Need to Know.
Comments or questions are welcomed on Twitter @emilykaytan OR on my website.
Hello and welcome to episode #50 of Eye-Opening Moments where you’ll hear real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives intertwined. They are moments that can lift your spirits, give you some food for thought, or move you. For the introspective mind that likes to reflect, discover, and find solutions or meaning in a complex life, this is for you. I’m your host Emily Kay Tan. In this episode, you will hear about From Self-Abuse to Self-Love and The Need to Know
From Self-Abuse to Self-Love
Self-abuse? I don't abuse myself. How dare you say such a thing! Why would I want to hurt myself? I never had an exceptionally high opinion of myself, and I couldn't say I loved myself very much either. But if I didn't love myself, who would? I began to try to love myself because I wanted love in my life. I got some love, but I still didn't particularly love myself. I tried being nice to myself and doing things to pamper myself. It felt good for a few moments, but I wouldn't call that loving me. It wasn't until I discovered what self-love is that I realized I had practiced much self-abuse.
Mom said, "Why don't you get a Ph.D.?" when I got a Master's degree. I was infuriated. Mom and Dad never helped me financially with getting a Bachelor's or Master's degree; how dare she suggest it to be easy for me to finance and get another degree. What was the message Mom was sending me? I was not good enough; I needed to do more.
Uncle Holden said, "Why don't you apply to a community college? It's cheaper than private school, and you don't have to be smart." Okay, I am fuming; Uncle Holden suggested I was not smart enough to attend a private college. He labeled me stupid because I came from my father, and they deemed his family stupid.
Uncle Rick commented, "What's wrong with you? Why don't you talk?" I didn't know there was something wrong with me if I didn't talk. I believe Uncle Rick was suggesting that being shy was a bad trait. I needed to talk more. I didn't talk enough. I wasn't good enough because I didn't talk enough.
Grandpa stated, "What is this A-? This is not all A." That was his statement before signing my report card. I was so proud of myself until he said that. What did Grandpa mean by his words? My grades were not perfect enough. Sure I had the grade A on many subjects, but I had that one A- and it ruined the perfection. I took it to mean I was not perfect enough or good enough.
I told Hubby Anson I was not good at tinkering with cars like him and that I was not perfect. He said, "You can at least try to be." Though I was a perfectionist, I had long accepted that I was not perfect. Then I got a husband who said I needed to try to be perfect. I needed to like the same things he liked and be able to do the same things he could. Once more, I wasn't enough.
Hundreds of people have told me, "Emily, why don't you smile?' I hate them; I hate them all. I don't smile all the time, but who does? Why do you have to pick on me? If you want me to smile, why don't you give me something to smile about?! I know why I hate those who said that. They are suggesting something is wrong with me and that I am not okay as I am. They are saying that I don't look good enough. My existence was not okay. It hurt.
Throughout life, comments from various people gave me the idea that I was not good enough, not smart enough, not perfect enough, or not enough of anything. I believed them all. Hit by an eye-opening moment decades later, I realized that because I accepted them as truths, I lived a life of self-abuse. I abused myself by always thinking I was never good enough.
Struggling to pay for college and get a Bachelor's and Master's degree, I aimed to be good enough. I worked hard to get the best grades because my target was to be smart enough. Attempting to learn all I could to be handy like my hubby, I tried to be perfect enough. Practicing small talk in networking events, I strived to be talkative enough. Thinking good thoughts and forcing myself to smile more often, I aimed to please those hundreds who said I didn't smile enough.
Trying to feed all those who said I was not enough was tiresome. It was exhausting and disheartening to have done it for many years. Luckily, I one day found the meaning of self-love.
That one day was actually over several months of communication with someone I met online. Because I wanted to practice a foreign language in preparation for moving abroad, I conversed with this person for several months. Through our many dialogues, I discovered a me I had never acknowledged!
We shared many stories of challenges or struggles. Everett asked much about my stint in business, and it pained me to share the difficulties. But Everett helped me see that my tenacity and resilience were worthy strengths to appreciate.
I shared that I had a problem with people who were jealous of me. Everett said he wished someone was jealous of him because that meant that he had something so worthy that others wanted. I never saw it that way and came to appreciate myself more.
I told Everett that I was taking classes online and using the internet to gain much information and knowledge to do many things. I didn't think that was anything special. But somehow, Everett was impressed by that. He said he hadn't studied anything new since college and had no energy to learn something new. He was impressed by my thirst for knowledge and self-improvement. He said I motivated him to learn something new. Hearing his comment only made me thirstier to learn more. I felt good to be like a child curious about the world and taking action to enrich my life with it.
Everett and I shared our experiences as managers and working with bosses. Somewhere in the dialogue, I jokingly said that I was never reprimanded because my superiors and subordinates were afraid of me. I had a scary look, I said. I thought it to be a negative aspect of myself, but Everett was flabbergasted. He said I had an extraordinary power to be able to prevent others from attempting to cross me. His idea never occurred to me to be a positive thing. His comment tickled me in feeling that I possessed a little magic.
My many stories of adversity were, at times, emotionally draining and depressing, to speak. I felt like I had lived quite a miserable life, but Everett found them fascinating and said they inspired him because I found ways to overcome them. For the first time, I heard someone say that I had an abundant life. Everett thought himself to have a boring life with little ups and downs, twists and turns, or good and bad like me. He helped me see that just because I had many struggles and challenges, it didn't mean it was not a meaningful life. Indeed, it was precisely all the dichotomies that produced an abundant life that was mine. His comments suddenly awakened something in my brain to tell me that I have lived a remarkable life worth appreciating. He led me to have a little more self-love.
It has taken many years to shift from self-abuse to self-love. Though self-abuse may sound depressing, it did drive me to strive to do better and accomplish many things. Since I discovered self-love to mean not only being good to yourself but also appreciating yourself with all the good and bad, I rejoice. Tickled with joy, I am liberated. I am a soaring bird freed from the lock of the cage I had imprisoned myself. Self-love is a beautiful feeling. Valuing yourself is the most precious treasure of all.
The Need to Know
I had a need to know how children grew and developed mentally, emotionally, and intellectually, so I studied child psychology in college. I wanted to know how to start a podcast, so I researched it online and self-learned it. I hungered to know what it would be like to travel worldwide, so I ventured into the world. As much as I had a need to know many things, there were many things that I didn’t know or couldn’t know. When I didn’t know something, it disturbed me for the longest time until I learned to accept the unknown.
With so much information available to us through today’s technology, it is easy to find out what we don’t know by simply googling it online. With many courses conveniently located online, we can learn even more. However, much knowledge cannot be found online or in any of the latest technology. It is frustrating for the one who has a need to know!
I wanted to know if I could make millions in business. The only way for me to find out was to jump in and do it, but it would be risky to give up my stable job to get into an unpredictable income As it took me two years to come to a decision or to take the risk, I realized how much the need to know was important to me. Because my need to know was so strong, I finally took the risk to find out. I found out I did not make millions. While that was an unrealized dream, there was great satisfaction in knowing the answer.
I met someone online and fell in love with him. I thought we got to know each other so well that when we had the opportunity to meet, he would take the chance. He didn’t. I was baffled. Because I continued to have that sense of needing to know, I finally mustered up the courage to text him after not communicating for two years. To my surprise, he replied immediately, and we texted back and forth a bunch of times. My heart pounded loudly with excitement, and he sounded happy with exclamation marks I had never seen him write before. Then he said to talk later, but he never initiated another communication. While it did not end happily ever after as I had hoped, it allowed me the space to banish the thought of ever getting together. I had to know.
I reminisce about those years so long ago when I had my first boyfriend. I miss all the times we used to talk on the phone or spend time together. I wondered what he looked like now. With the need to know, I found him on social media. Now I could look at his pictures anytime I wanted. His latest look was no longer a mystery.
It wasn’t until I moved abroad that I began to be okay with not knowing. I suppose it was a survival instinct that had me skip down the path of the unknown. Living in a foreign country, I had more questions than answers to face daily. Even though I asked the locals many questions, they didn’t have all the answers. I soon learned that people do many things or have many habits or customs and do not know why they do what they do!
Further, it seemed that I entered a world where there was not a great deal of planning far in advance, so if I wanted to know something in advance, I was hard-pressed to know. Others wouldn’t have the answer because they didn’t plan it yet. This happened frequently. Daily or weekly, I would often get answers in the last hour or minute!
Learning that I often did not get answers if I wanted to know something in advance, I learned to be more patient than usual. Rather than getting frustrated that I was not informed ahead of time, because most of the time I wasn’t, I came to ask myself, so what if you know in advance? I comforted myself by saying that I would be informed when I absolutely had to know. So, I stopped worrying or trying to prepare for something. Much of all I refer to is related to my work environment. I chalked it up to a different culture I was not used to or a working style I was not accustomed to experiencing.
A few surprising results came from a change in attitude. Since I wasn’t told ahead of time, I told myself I did not need to know. Knowing less freed up time for me to relax. Because my environment was not well-organized around many set structures or plans, much was flexible or changeable. It allowed for more freedom rather than limitations or restrictions. The result was less stress and tension!
I knew there was a special event on the weekend that all employees needed to attend. The specifics of what I had to do or the exact time I needed to show up were not revealed to me until two days before the event. I had wondered about it and wanted to know ahead of time, but I reasoned that knowing in advance didn’t make any difference because it didn’t matter! So, accepting not knowing in advance became okay. While I could reason out everything to comfort myself, the best part was not only a new perception, but a valuable life skill mastered.
The new perception was that when I didn’t know something, I was in a position to receive more surprises. And indeed, I got plenty of surprises at work. It added to less monotony! The invaluable skill was frequent opportunities to practice being flexible or adaptable to change! As the scientist Charles Darwin coined the term “survival of the fittest,” once said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one most adaptable to change.”
It’s good to know many things to increase knowledge and intelligence, and it is good not to know many things and have more surprises. Now I can feel proud that while I may not be the most intelligent or talented person in the world, I can say that I am more adaptable than many. I have overcome many adversities because of creativity, grit, adaptability, and more!
Though I unknowingly abused myself by believing negative things said about me, they helped me strive to be better. But more importantly, through new perspectives, I learned to love myself by appreciating and seeing the value in myself.
Though I have a need to know many things, there are things that I don’t know, can’t know ahead of time, or am not privy to know. But not knowing can bring many surprises and wonder to life.
Next week, you will hear two new real-life stories called How to Turn Wounds into Wisdom and Tangible vs. Intangible Gifts. If you enjoyed this episode of Eye-Opening Moments, please share it with others, subscribe, support the show by clicking on the link in the description, or go to www.inspiremereads.com and leave a message. Thank you for listening!