Some of you might be aware that, in autumn 2016, we packed up and left the life that we knew behind. We made the drastic decision to give up everything we had, have the boys leave their school, move out of Hong Kong (the only home that my boys have ever known), and to start a new life as digital nomads, worldschoolers and, for me, a single parent.
For those of you who have been following our journey on social media or via my emails, you will already be aware of our crazy journey to discover the world, to transition into a new family dynamic, and to finding our identities all over again. It was NOT an easy journey, and we certainly had our fair share of struggles.
During the last 18 months, I can’t say that we haven’t had moments when we questioned what we were doing……I can’t say that we haven’t been homesick……and I certainly can’t say that we haven’t had moments when we just wanted to pack up and go home again.
However, our perseverance has paid off, we are a much stronger family unit now than ever before! We are also a lot happier, and we are proud to announce that we have finally found our identity!
…….and last month, I decided to get married. So I took a vow to protect, love and cherish this amazing person, this really caring person, who is super talented, self-motivated and driven, amazingly friendly (but also fiercely protective at times) and just fabulous with children! The strange thing is that I’ve known this person my whole life, yet, I never learned to appreciate all those qualities till recently……and when I did, I decided that I wasn’t going to let this chance slip by!
It is with great happiness I announce that I’ve married the most amazing person I’ve ever met!
……..and, in case you are wondering who this lucky person is, it’s ME!
Yes, I married myself 🙂 and no, before you say anything, I’m not crazy……I’ve just made the biggest discovery of my life, and once I share this discovery with you, I’m sure it’s going to make you stop and think about your own life as well!
Here’s what I’ve learnt……..I’ve learnt to LOVE MYSELF! As strange and bizarre as this may sound, have you ever wondered, why:
- We do things that aren’t good for us, because think we are too busy to take real care of ourselves?
- We often push ourselves too hard to only serve others (children, husband, parents, in-laws, extended family members, friends) that we hardly have time to do anything for ourselves?
- We are so hard on ourselves, and try to do everything and be everywhere for everyone, and when we can’t we feel so guilty about it?
Well, I think we do all the above because we (especially Asian moms) are taught to put others before ourselves, because it’s the condition of being selfless, and if we don’t do it, we are considered a bad wife, mom, daughter, daughter-in-law, friend, sister, neighbor, etc. As a result, we work ourselves to the bone to serve others from dawn to dusk, and we totally neglect ourselves, our personal growth, our health, our emotions……and I know this all too well myself, because I was brought up to think this way FOR THE LONGEST TIME!
I spent a huge part of my life trying to please everyone…..so much so that I could tell you everyone’s exact likes and dislikes. I know what pleases my children, what pleases my boys’ father, what pleases my in-laws, parents, friends, even my bosses……..but, the strange thing is……..when a friend asked me what makes me happy, I didn’t know what to say…….simply because I didn’t know what it was. I couldn’t even tell what would make me truly happy 🙁
I remember stopping dead in my tracks…….and started trying to figure out what I wanted, while also trying to remember the last time someone had asked me that question. To buy some time, I jokingly said, “sleep would make me happy……and some nice underwear that wasn’t full of holes would be nice too!”. But when I took the time to really think about what makes me truly happy, I couldn’t name anything…….and that is just sad. I know that I was happy when I gave birth to my boys……but, if I wanted to live a happy life, I couldn’t be giving birth to babies every other week. I also know that eating authentic Italian-made gelato makes me happy, but I can’t fly to Italy every month for it. So, really, what does make me happy?
Answering this was my quest when we left Hong Kong 18 months ago, we made the space and time to find ourselves, to find our identities, and to find what makes us truly happy and, when I finally found it, I couldn’t have been happier! I now know exactly what makes me happy! Strangely, contrary to my initial prediction, my list of things that makes me happy doesn’t include any material stuff…….it’s mostly the kind of environment I want to be in, and the people I want to be with, and once I found this recipe, it was super easy to replicate it every day!
I used to be sooo good at pleasing people, that people saw me as a first-class wife, mom, daughter, daughter-in-law, granddaughter, and everything else you could possibly think of, but I was so unhappy and I couldn’t figure out why. I also hated myself and my life and felt so trapped and without choice. “I should be happy! I have everything I need, I have the ideal family and healthy children, I SHOULD BE HAPPY!” …… those were the words I kept saying to try to convince myself that everything was fine. Now, I don’t feel that way anymore! I’m truly, genuinely happy, and my boys are the happiest they have ever been and I’m all-around a better mom, daughter, granddaughter, sister, friend, and employer for it!
The thing is, if I had really loved myself, I should have known what makes me truly happy……..just like I did with everyone I loved. If I had loved myself, I would have taken better care of myself, like the way I take care of those I love. If I had loved myself, I would have stood up for myself like I stand up for those I love……..if I had loved myself, I wouldn’t have put myself last in every situation……if I had loved myself, I wouldn’t have tortured myself, the way I had before…….
So last month, after finding and falling in love with myself, I married myself! And I decided to love, protect and cherish myself, just like I would a spouse, and my whole life changed! I’ve been walking on air ever since……and falling more and more in love with myself every day!
Just the other day, I was hard at work planning my upcoming annual parents retreat, and I told myself to remember to take a break after that. I cancelled a few appointments so that I could have some downtime with my boys. Then, yesterday, I felt like I was coming down with a cold, so I got myself a nice hot cup of tea and took a nap, was soon back to my chirpy self after that. Just two nights ago, I was involved in a somewhat strange conversation on Facebook with some random person on some random group, and it lead to a heated discussion, so I told myself that this was fast becoming a toxic stress environment and that I needed to turn off all notifications from that group, so I did. Then two weeks ago, a well-meaning relative questioned me about my parenting skills, and I stood up for ME!
YAY!!!! Even my ex-spouse couldn’t take that good care of me! He failed miserably at standing up for me…..especially when his parents were involved! But it wasn’t his fault…..he just didn’t know how to love me because he didn’t even know how to love himself. Because of that, he never knew how to stand up for himself, and he never knew how to stand up for me.
Since I started loving me, I have become a way happier me! Happier mom= happier children! And everyone is slowly starting to see how much happier we all are now, and it’s even created a ripple effect to those around us!
But, it doesn’t stop there…….I did a bit more self-reflecting, and then I realized that everyone (more so moms) should learn to fall in love with themselves too, and they really can’t afford not to, because if we can’t even love ourselves, how can our children ever learn to?
I’ve met so many parents who complain about their children failing to take care of themselves and everything around them, and this has rubbed off on their personality development, and now we have so many children who are struggling to be responsible and disciplined, and to value their integrity. We have teenagers doing drugs, smoking, and drinking because they don’t love themselves enough to take care of their own bodies. They have sex too early because they don’t know how to love and respect themselves, and so they seek out superficial love from external sources. There’s more I could list: suicide, anorexia, obesity……..these things wouldn’t happen if our children learned to love, protect and cherish themselves.
What about the children who fall into the whole ‘entitlement’ issue? Do they love themselves a little too much? NO! They don’t know how to love themselves either, and that’s why they need to enslave those around them so that others can take care of them, and shower them with everything they think they need.
So, this is what I plan to do……to love and cherish myself, so that my boys will also learn to love and cherish themselves and, hopefully, we will also attract people who love and cherish themselves into our lives.
I don’t need a man (or woman) to help me feel loved or complete. I’m already loved and complete. And, if I legally get married again to someone else, it will be with a person who also feels loved and complete……not someone who ‘needs’ me to help him feel complete or happy (that is the hallmark of an emotionally needy person). If people love me, that’s great,it’s nice to feel loved, but I’m not dependent on it, because I already love myself (if all children learnt this, they would be less likely to succumb to peer pressure and bullying, because they would learn to validate themselves and to stand up for/protect themselves).
And the last point to consider is: I can now say that I know how to truly love another person…….because you can’t truly love another person if you don’t even know how to do that for yourself! So, learning to love myself means that I’m better able to love others, take care of others, stand up for others…….because I’ve become really good at doing those things for myself! My happiness level has gone through the roof……and so has my productivity level at work. I’m feeling a lot more accomplished as a mother now too, because my boys are responding so well to they’re new happier and ‘whole’ mom.
To all the parents out there……may you learn to love yourself, so that you can better love those around you!
Ps. For those of us who are wondering if this is Biblical……’Love thy neighbor as thyself’ (Matthew 22:39) if you are lousy at loving yourself, how the heck are you supposed to be any good at loving your neighbor? Food for thought 😉
Pps. For my Taoist friends, here’s a quote from Lao Tzu, “knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power”…….find out who you really are, what makes you truly happy, and how you can make yourself whole!