I am more than how I look…

Posted On: September 18, 2019

I wrote about this before and I wish I had the foresight to take more photos of me at my “ugliest” when I was 11. I had geeky glasses, baby fat, cystic acne, poodle hair, and was called the ugliest girl in school… and I was. When I was in primary six, the class bully chased me home several times.. and once he punched me on the arm. When asked why he picked me on me, his reply, “Because she is so ugly.” I was terrified of him, and more than that, I hated being “ugly”, being the “weaker” sex, and being alive. I didn’t know what the future held, and I knew it couldn’t be worse.

I used to stare at myself in the mirror for hours – willing my acne to get better, squeezed at my pimples praying they will subside the next day for school, because I didn’t want anymore unwanted attention or bullying. I would look into the mirror confused – why did people keep calling me ugly when I didn’t feel ugly on the inside? I knew I was just as beautiful as the next person inside – the outer and inner didn’t match. I vowed to myself that I would never judge someone based on how they looked – but instead focused on who they were on the inside.

Because of the bullying I received by both boys and girls through my schooling years, I learned about the cruelty of humans, the stupidity of peer pressure, and the need to be my own person earlier than many people I know. I drifted in and out of different cliches in class, never quite belonging, and eventually mostly gave up, “If this is what friends are like, I am better off by myself.” I kept to myself a lot, was a bookworm, and an introvert.

I couldn’t wait to grow up, be free of school, and have a life far away from these cruel people. I was a late bloomer but it did happen. My baby fat went away. My complexion got better with treatment. I developed curves and suddenly I was considered “above average” and “attractive”. Yet I never forgot my young years of being bullied, vow not to judge people based on how they looked, and be nice to all people regardless. In fact, I had to heal my belief that good looking people were cruel.

When I became a Sexologist, I would post articles on various topic on sexuality – sex & disability; sex & aging; LGBT awareness, sexual attitudes/ expressions, body image etc. They were random, and on a as-and-when-I-come-across basis. Imagine my shock when one day, an acquaintance private messaged me and accused me of not being a body-image advocate because lately I hadn’t been posting articles relating to body image.

In addition, she took offense at one of my repost description. She assumed that because I looked the way I do NOW that I could never understand what it is like to look like somebody like her (a bigger bodied-person). Only people who looked like her would understand how she feels, and why she feels the way she feels. This was so baffling for me that I struggled to express myself. I explained that the assumption was all her. I DID struggle with and understand body image struggles/ pains – more than she could ever imagine.

This acquaintance was not a happy person – every little thing would set her off; she would go on rampages on my Facebook posts; she would repeat the same victim stories with full-blown emotions every time I met her; and it was always about her, her, her. She couldn’t accept that she was wrong about this – and we stopped being “friends”. I didn’t have the bandwidth to have her in my life.

I love my body. I have no reason not to, since life is pretty good (not to be bullied for how I look, and not have to run home afraid of being punched). I have come so far and so long. My body serves me well. The only challenge I continue to have is with my stomach. My stomach bloats easily. It wasn’t until about seven years ago that I learned that I have gluten intolerance. Before, I suffered from chronic fatigue – preferring 10 – 12 hours sleep per day. In fact, I am a lot of food sensitivities – gluten, dairy, sugar, caffeine and choose to also not eat meat (cheat with seafood). People call me “difficult”. I’m not. I know my body and how she suffers when I “cheat”. I do what I can and let go of the rest. When people suggest meeting over a meal, I struggle. I really rather not get into another conversation why I can’t/ don’t eat this or that.

Don’t assume the struggles people have based on what you see. We all have struggles and challenges -from our past and current time. Try to be nice to everybody. The only way we will have the capacity to extend a helping hand, words of kindness/ graciousness, a smile… is IF we ourselves are at a good space. This is where sleep, exercise, healthy diet, mindfulness, meditation, and other self-care practices are important! When we are more than OK, we will have the space to be more than OK with others. The world will be a better place.

Each of us can make a positive difference. Yes, we can.

#lifeislikethat #cannotmakethisup #bodyimage #childhood #puberty #bullying #sexologist #toxic

About Dr. Martha Tara Lee

Surrounded by friends who were sexually inhibited and struck by dire lack of positive conversations around sex and sexuality in Singapore, Dr. Martha Tara Lee set out to make a positive difference in embarking on her doctorate in human sexuality before launching Eros Coaching in 2009. Today, she remains dedicated to working with individuals and couples who wish to lead self-actualised and pleasure-filled lives.

She also holds certificates in counselling, coaching and sex therapy, and her fourth degree – a Masters in Counselling in May 2018. In practice since 2009, she is the only certified sexuality educator and certified sexuality educator supervisor by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) in Singapore. She is also a Red Tent Women’s Circles Facilitator from Star of Ishtar.

Often cited in the local media, Dr. Lee is the appointed sex expert for Men’s Health Singapore, and Men’s Health Malaysia. She was recognised as one of ‘Top 50 Inspiring Women Under 40′ by Her World in July 2010, and one of ‘Top 100 Inspiring Women’ by CozyCot in March 2011. She has published four books: Love, Sex and Everything In-BetweenOrgasmic YogaFrom Princess to Queen and {Un}Inhibited.

Martha works with individuals and couples in private coaching sessions, and conducts her own workshops. She takes prides in making sure all her workshops are also fun, educational, and sex-positive. This comes easily to her because even though she is extremely dedicated and serious about her work, she fundamentally believes that sex is meant to be fun, wonderful, amazing and sacred. As such, this serious light-heartedness has shone through again and again. For her full profile, click here. Email her here.

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