I have not written anything in almost a month. I took three weeks road-tripping with a friend, mostly visiting mountains and national or state parks to avoid people because of COVID. It has been months of careful quarantine, and I missed being in nature.
Going on this trip gave me pause due to the length, but I am glad I did, because as trips do, it allowed me to reflect and either learn more about myself, or confirm to me what I already knew.
This time, I knew I am proud of myself and my progress in life, no matter how slow.
Growing up, I always felt like I was never enough. My body was picked apart, my demeanor deemed too unladylike, and my choices could be better.
My lips and nose were too big; I was too skinny. Then I gained some weight, and my arms are so meaty.
My chest and ass were too flat according to western beauty, but I guess my hips were big according to Asian standards.
Then there were comments about my fingers being long; that my arms looked weird when outstretched because I’m flexible and my elbows bend slightly the other way; that I don’t have any hair on my arms.
The only thing that people stopped commenting on? My smile. But before braces, damn… her teeth were too crooked (that was true haha).
When I was younger, my aunt scolded me for talking back or not cleaning. How was I ever going to survive in a marriage, she wondered. When my future husband scolded me, was I going to mouth off to him too?
After my parents separated, I was advised not to tell others, because people will judge me negatively for coming from a broken family.
I started working my first real job, and dating, and those choices were frowned upon. My family probably thought I could do better, but I only felt judged.
This feeling of not enough persisted throughout my adult life, evident in my interactions with others and in relationships that failed. The basis on which I grew up in became internalized in the way I viewed and handled myself. I felt like I didn’t matter, so consequently, what I said or did didn’t matter.
Long ago, a guy told me that I was easily replaceable. I was rightly offended and upset about that comment. I remember asking a colleague what she thought if someone said that to her, and her response was to replace away then. I hung on.
At work, instead of speaking my mind, I just let others make and agreed with whatever the decisions were, because… what did I know?
When I traveled to Asia and stayed with family, I made myself as small and invisible as possible for fear of imposing on them. One time, while we were driving somewhere and I was in the back seat, and after a long period of silence, I finally uttered something. A family member expressed surprise, and said she had forgotten that I was even there.
In all important areas of life, I succeeded in not taking up any space.
Over the years, as I encountered different people and experiences, a burgeoning sense of self and esteem developed. For the first time, I started seeing myself in a different light, one that was soothing and even positive. I recognized so much of my own potential and abilities, and had a zest for life. It was during this time that I met my husband, and I thought I had made it. I thought that finally, I was deserving what I got after working so hard for so long.
Fast forward to the end of our marriage. In an attempt to push off responsibility, my husband said that if the situation were reversed and I was the one seeking other people out, that he’d feel bad that he wasn’t enough for me.
I pushed back.
“Don’t try to turn this around on me,” I said. He was at a loss for words. He had underestimated my strength even at a time of empty.
Indeed, at the beginning of our relationship, my sense of self-esteem and worth were actually good and improving. He sensed this and, I felt, needed to take it away, because he was insecure. And I let him. The more I was with him, the more I let go standing up for myself. I wanted him to feel loved and whole and secure. I only learned, really learned, later, that no matter how much you give that part of yourself to someone, it will never be enough, because they have to cultivate that within themselves.
It took a long time for me to rebuild what I lost in myself. I regressed back to my teen years, and reflected on why I let one person take so much from me. I vowed that I would never give that power to anyone again.
During this weeks-long trip, I got to know my friend in a deeper context. He is super smart, ambitious, bold, and fearless. In some ways, he reminds me of my ex, except better in every sense of the word. Much more considerate and less selfish, more flexible and giving, etc. Better.
But yet, he brought me back a sense of not enough.
Because of his propensity to achievement and success, he also wants to bring out the best in his friends and help elevate them to their next level. His drive and hunger are inspirational. This is all good, and we need more people like this in the world and our lives, except his speed for growth far outpaces mine.
At times in conversation, he made me feel where I am at and where I am heading is not good or fast enough. He made a point about executing quickly and not wasting time. I am moving forward, but at my own pace and intensity.
His mindset has done well for him, and I can say interactions with him will certainly bring me out of complacency and to success faster, which I can definitely appreciate. But I recognize that although we have similar goals, the way we go about it is different. I need to figure things out on my own without feeling rushed. To me, as long as there’s progress, the game still isn’t over. The finish line will still be there, waiting to be crossed.
These past three weeks have given me a lot to think about, and he has undoubtedly put my self-worth on the line, albeit unintentionally. To be fair, he did not know all of this swirling within, and has no malicious intent; this was just all in the name of conversation.
Although there’s lots of room for improvement on my end, by all counts, I am immensely proud of the progress I’ve made thus far. It took a lot of soul-searching and energy after my marriage to finally reach mental health again, and I am more confident in myself than ever before.
I don’t know what the future might bring, or when I am going to reach my goals, but one thing is for sure: at this moment right now, I am enough.