PowWoW 02:
Every Body Has A Story

"How you love yourself is    how you teach others                     to love you." — Rupi Kaur

Last Saturday, we had another amazing, soul-ful #PowWoW session. The topic this time was “Every Body Has A Story.” Our body image, the way we see ourselves, the way we allow others to define our self-worth, how we treat our bodies and struggle with it, and learning to be grateful with what we have are some of the things we wanted to talk about with our guests.

We kicked off our morning with an hour of yoga led by our lovely friend Amadea Ng, followed by another hour of heart-to-heart chat. Words are not enough to express how grateful, humbled and honoured I am to be in the company of each and every one of the women who shared their stories so courageously (not fearless, because, trust me, the fear was there in our quaking voices, the fear was very real), and so authentically. It was inspiring, to say the least. Some of us were strangers to one another when the day began. By the end of it, we were, one way or another, irrevocably connected. Our problems are different and unique to us, but our struggles are the same. 

Too big. Not big enough. Too small.

Non-existent. Some women grew up stuffing their bras to be more. Others wore not one, but two sports bras to suppress a big part of them for which they have been made to feel small, to feel embarrassed and ashamed of.

Too skinny. Not skinny enough. Too curvy. Too straight. My hips are too wide. My butt too big. (“I feel like right now, there’s this whole movement where everyone likes big butts, and I see it all over Instagram. I’m like, no, does anyone want mine? I’d give it all away.”) My shoulders are too broad. I hate my thighs. My earlobes are too fat. I looked like a boy from behind when I had shorter hair. One woman force-fed herself hoping to fatten up, to look “normal”, and she speaks of a beautiful friend of hers who was not “happy” until she was bones and skin.

When are we enough? When are we just right? When will we stop allowing others to tell us what we should be, what we should and should not look like? When will we stand tall and be proud that we are different — that you are you, and I am me?

We have been taught since we were children not to judge a book by its cover. One woman’s story serves as a timely reminder that there is more than meets the eye.

“When I go through bad or challenging stages in my life, my appetite goes first. And everyone would be like, ‘Oh my god, you look so good. You’ve lost so much weight. You look amazing’. What they didn’t know was, on the inside, I felt like shit, like everything in my world was collapsing around me,” she said.

What you see is often not what you get. Maybe if we learn to first apply kind eyes and compassionate words on ourselves, we will also start doing the same for others. Then, we will not feel the need to judge others harshly so we can feel better about ourselves.

Every body has a story. Our stories, no matter how diverse, are ultimately what connect us, that make us human. They are what make us feel less alone in our battles. Here are our favourite bits from the chat which I hope will make you feel like someone out there gets you.

 

1.

“It doesn’t matter what the world tells you.”

2.

“For many years since I was a teenager, I struggled with the way I look because I was never the skinniest person. I always felt like I needed to work hard at losing weight, but I can’t because I really like eating (laughs). So I always thought that I wasn’t good enough. But every few years, I’d look back at old photos and I’d ask myself, ‘Wait, why wasn’t I happy then? I was so much smaller than I am now’. And I realised then that this never ends.”

3.

“I enjoy how I feel after a workout. It’s not just how I look anymore. It’s a torturous process, getting there to boxing or whatever — but once I’m done with it, I feel so energised, and I feel like my body is lighter. It brings a sense of achievement. Even though I’m 42, I feel like I’m at my peak.”

4.

“I went through a phase when I was force-feeding myself — I was overeating, thinking that if I ate double the regular amount, I would put on weight. But that never happened. I’m thankful that my parents never shot me down for it, but other family members and friends would tell me, ‘Oh, you’re too skinny! You’re too skinny. You’re not eating enough.’”

5.

“I think my image of a perfect body is a healthy one. It doesn’t matter how big or skinny a woman is, but when I see that her body is toned, that’s when I’m like ‘wow!’. Because it’s not the body that was given to you, it’s the body that you worked for. I think that is admirable.”

6.

“Be grateful with what you have, and work with it. Because everyone’s different.”

7.

“When you’re young, you feel like don’t have your own voice. So when people tell you things like ‘you should put on more weight, or you don’t have a butt’, you believe them. You didn’t even realise you were giving them consent to say what they said about you… I know and trust my own voice now, and my stand is, ‘Say what you want, I don’t consent to your opinion about me.'”

8.

“I started to find strength in myself and realise that I’m built this way — my arms may have doubled in size since I started doing yoga, I’ve gotten a lot stronger, and no one can ever take that away from me. That was when I really started to accept myself.”

9.

“What I like about me is my smile, because it’s something I can control, it’s something I choose to give out.”

10.

“The part that I love about me and the part that I hate is the same part: My breasts. These girls have given me so much trouble, I was teased about them so much growing up, but I’ve learned to embrace them… What I really want to do is to communicate this to women out there — and also the men, because #HeForShe, and men play a big part in the community and how we raise our daughters in the future: Over-sexualisation of women needs to be over. I want to be able to wear a bikini without fearing for my safety, or getting judgmental looks. We should be able to be who we are, right?”

11.

“It gets better with age, it’s a process.”

12.

“The ideal body, in my head, unfortunately, is still the one that I see in magazines. Saying that I don’t want to have that body is a lie. I want to have those legs, those arms, that butt, those boobs… but, I think, in my heart, and now that I’m a mother, the perfect body is a healthy body that I can, you know, lift up my kids, get up in the morning, run, workout… I want to be a healthy mother. That is the end goal.”

13.

“We are so in our own heads that we can’t see the good that people see in us, and I think that is one thing we should learn to do.”

14.

“Growing up, I was always being compared to my sister. I love my sister, but it was just that body that I didn’t have — genetically, I couldn’t have that body. But I was an athlete, I was strong, I swam a lot — I knew that I was strong and that my body gave me a sense of accomplishment when I was in school.”

15.

“You just need to surround yourself with people who love you the way you are.”

Last but not least…

“I am so tired of saying no, waking up in the morning and recalling every single thing I ate the day before, counting every calorie I consumed so I know just how much self loathing to take into the shower. I’m going for it. I have no interest in being obese, I’m just through with the guilt. So this is what I’m going to do, I’m going to finish this pizza, and then we are going to go watch the soccer game, and tomorrow we are going to go on a little date and buy ourselves some bigger jeans.”

— Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love 

This edition of PowWoW would not have been possible without another group of women who gave us their support, making this session not only possible, but better. Dawn Chan, who so swiftly said yes to letting us use the gorgeous and zen space that is @yogaschool.asia. Ciara Yeo and Wen Ling Lim from The Mindful Company, who sponsored such meaningful gifts (a Joy-ful tote bag, anyone?). Poptsie Paper Co’s Trudy Zhang, who always goes above and beyond, personalising the goodie bags so thoughtfully and beautifully. And Angela May for the delicious juices from @ange.cafe. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Let’s keep talking about the things that matter. Let’s keep having each others’ backs. Can’t wait for the next session. 

✨💕

PHOTOS  //  KARMAN TSE

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