A Journey of Self Discovery and Awareness
Be Seen. Heard. Valued & Validated.
I grew up for many years of my life believing that I need to achieve perfect results and get a high social status,in order to get people’s recognition and attention, which will ultimately lead me to love and happiness.
As the eldest child in my family, I was expected from a young age to set the benchmark for my younger siblings. Growing up with precocious younger siblings and seeing them get more loving attention and recognition than me developed in me a belief deep down that I am never worthy enough for people’s recognition and attention. My emotional maturity and social intelligence were underdeveloped, a pattern that continued for many years of my life into adulthood. I believed that the only way I could get love and happiness was through external validation.
I became strongly driven to achieve the best grades by working longer and harder than others, getting into leadership positions and sports teams in school, becoming an attention seeker and humblebrag, to get the attention and recognition from my family, teachers, friends and girls whom I had crushes on in school. Along the way, my health suffered, many of my interpersonal relationships remained superficial, and I regularly burned out over many years. During my undergrad days at NUS, I drove myself really hard to achieve a good honours degree, losing 6kg in my final year, along with regular bouts of insomnia, nausea and fainting.
I did succeed in getting a good honours degree from NUS. However, love and happiness remained elusive despite my continued drive to accumulate more achievements. Even when I finally got my first girlfriend in my life at age 30, the relationship was largely bland, and it broke down after just 3 months. One of the major sticking issues was poor emotional connection, because I felt uncomfortable talking about feelings and my vulnerable experiences, regularly steering our conversations towards intellectual topics and my achievements in life instead, as a shield to cover for my imperfections and insecurities. Following the breakup, I felt lost, angry, frustrated and burned out, wondering what was missing in my search for love and happiness despite driving myself really hard.
I started talking to my psychotherapist about the failed relationship and went through materials on psychology and self-worth. I started to realize that we don’t achieve our way to love. The suboptimal outcomes I have been getting in my search for love and happiness since childhood were strongly driven by a deep sense of shame that I am never enough to measure up to others’ expectations, leading to compensatory behaviours that did more harm than good for me and my interpersonal relationships. I am increasingly appreciating the fact that I am already enough-to love, grow and contribute. This personal recognition that I Am Enough is giving me a newfound sense of freedom and self love, that my happiness need not be at the mercy of whether others give me recognition and attention.
And this is just the beginning in my life journey towards true love and happiness. I invite you to come along in this journey of self-discovery and growth as well.
- Lim Yee Wee