By Helen Woo, Author of SELF-AID – Inspirations to Turn Struggles into Success
I am the ugly duckling. There are three of us – and I am always the odd man out. I am different from my siblings.
I want to be like my sister. Heck, I want to BE my sister. She’s older, she’s prettier, she’s taller, and she’s smarter. She gets all the attention. She’s perfect. My sister can do no wrong.
I like being a girl, so I don’t want to be like my brother – except I know that if I was born a boy, I’d get special treatment all the time.
I am seven years old, maybe eight, and I want approval so badly. I am proud and happy to carry the groceries on our way home from the market. We have no car, so walking is our norm.
I’d willingly help out in the kitchen every chance I could. I craved love and I wanted approval so desperately. Oh, please, please, please “Let me help you – let me make you proud. Please give me a chance.”
When I am nine years old, I am told to stop being outspoken. I need to stop expressing myself. I must keep my emotions to myself, I must keep my thoughts and wishes hidden. I should not express myself. I am a Chinese girl. I should “speak only when spoken to.”
I am now in the sixth grade; I think I am 11 years old. I look into the mirror, I smile into the mirror, and I brush my long, dark hair. I say to my reflection and affirm to myself: “I am NOT ugly. I am pretty… I am a pretty girl.”
I am a teenager now, 14 years old and just about to turn 15. I am told that even if there were funds available, it would be my sister that they would send to college/university. It doesn’t matter if I bring home mostly A’s and a couple of B’s. I still am not worthy. I do not deserve a paid education.
Throughout these years, I am told that I will not succeed. I am told that I am unfortunate because my sister got the good looks of the two girls. I am too short and too skinny; my voice is funny because it is too low and raspy. I am no good. I am the bad egg. I can relate to a book from my early childhood. Little did I know that in the end, the “Ugly Duckling” would turn out to be a beautiful swan.
I am 15 now. I have been raised with the belief that I am the black sheep of the family. So why not act like I am? The boys are looking at me now. They think I’m cute. Wow, I am cute! Not only that, but they tell me that I have a “good personality.” Nice. People like me; I am thrilled. There is no longer a need for me to compete with my sister. There is no need to try so hard and please everyone at home. However, I am still longing for their love… and approval.
I now start my rebellious phase. Trouble, here I come. I am a troubled teen like many, and I am involved with anything and anyone that is off limits to me. My excuse is that nothing I do makes a difference anyway, so why not test the limits. Ultimately, I do feel remorseful for my actions and I repent.
I am 18 now, and I want out. I feel restricted and confined to a place where I cannot be myself. I cannot speak out, and when I do, I am always wrong anyway. Nothing I do gains approval. I want my freedom. I want to express myself!
In a nutshell, growing up in the traditional old school, old culture-style home, I was told that I was too expressive and certainly too talkative. I was reprimanded for laughing too often and too loudly in public. I was told to contain myself and be aware of my body language. I was told to speak with my hands by my sides and to be still. I was told to speak only when spoken to and was discouraged to initiate conversations, as that action would be considered a display of bad manners. These requests were not easy, but I could at least honor them in public when with my family. However, when I was on my own, at school or elsewhere, I laughed, I jumped, I hugged, I felt passionate, and I felt free. I finally felt as though I loved myself.
Mostly, I wanted to love myself because I kept thinking to myself, who would love me if I didn’t? My friends, uncles and aunts and grandparents thought I was special. They loved me.
Outside of my immediate family, I realized that other people accepted me. They enjoyed my enthusiasm. They wanted to be with me. Even strangers thought I was a “fun and happy” person to be around. They enjoyed my laughter. I guess I was happy. I was happy because I felt freedom with them because I could be myself.
Though I recognize the bond of family, I also realize that they are not the only people who are important in my life. Whether bound by blood or by friendship, it is human nature to connect deeply to those who want to be with us and see the best in us.
Self-esteem grows immensely when it is nurtured by love and acceptance. I am grateful for the positive influence and guidance in my life. I am able to build my self-esteem through the people who were meant to be part of my journey to self-love.
Today I love and appreciate myself for who I am; for I am a swan.
S= SELF AID — One step at a time… We start by recognizing that we can improve, that we can get well, and that we can be better in every aspect of our lives. Self-Aid is necessary, as we cannot help anyone until we first help ourselves.
E = ESTEEM — With self-esteem and confidence, we also find strength to be able to face life’s challenges. This is the beginning of achieving success.
L = LOVE & LAUGHTER — Self-love is vital to our existence. Self-love enables us to give and receive love. LOVE is the main ingredient to finding happiness and positivity. Laughter makes us happy, laughter keeps us healthy. Laughter is more contagious than a cough or a virus. Laughter benefits us in more ways than one. Scientifically proven, laughter helps us emotionally, physically, and mentally. Without a doubt, laughter is the best medicine.
F = FREEDOM — Letting go of anger, pain and resentment gives us the freedom to experience happiness. Forgiveness allows us to live in the present and not in the past. Therefore, we can grow and move on and find true contentment.
A = ATTITUDE — A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes. A positive attitude exudes beauty and creates happiness.
I = INTEGRITY – Integrity is the key ingredient in our character… it gives us harmony with our body, mind and soul. Staying true to ourselves is the foundation for living a balanced and good life.
D = DREAM — We each have a dream. If we put our thoughts into action, we can LIVE our dream. Starting today, we are in charge of our own destiny.
Helen Woo is the author of SELF-AID – Inspirations to Turn Struggles into Success, a key to opening up the reader’s heart and mind to reframe his or her life from lackluster to luscious – much as Woo had to do for herself. After setback after setback in her life, Woo created the concept of SELF-AID–an acronym that stands for Self-Aid (self-help), Esteem, Love/Laughter, Freedom, Attitude, Integrity, Dream. SELF-AID – Inspirations to Turn Struggles into Success allows readers to be inspired and uplifted by the very quotes that ultimately turned her life around. Each quote is followed by one of her unique “Wooisms” – the ideal way to interpret the quote to engineer a shift into a higher and better way of thinking. The book provides Self-Aid for anyone to lift out of their doldrums or depression and move into a life filled with joy, peace, gratitude and prosperity. Woo is an emerging speaker, writer and leader, who brings a welcome ultra-positive perspective to everything she does. For more info, go to www.SelfAidwithHelenWoo.com