How do you be kinder to yourself, and in turn, to others? Singer Bihzhu shares her personal story
"I am enough"
Flipping through old family albums, and viewing my childhood memories through an adult lens, I know I had an idyllic upbringing—a sprawling kampung to run wild in, cocooned by my grandmother, doted on by my uncle and aunties, with cousins as playmates all living in the same house.
So where did this feeling of inadequacy come from?
The earliest recollection I have is 5-year-old me overhearing my neighbour describing me to her daughter: “I can’t stand her because she has a horrid face.”
I didn’t understand what I was feeling at that time, except that I felt small, and unimportant, and most of all—ugly.
It didn’t matter that no one else ever espoused the opinions of this bitter, old woman; all it took was a string of careless words from her to poison my self-esteem and perception of who I was.
It didn't stop after that through the years—relentless teasing by my schoolmates; flippant remarks by strangers i.e. “Wah, what are you feeding your daughter? She is so fat!” and so on. Of course, it didn’t help that my adolescent years hit me with the triple combo of coke-bottle glasses, braces, and an Afro!
They say that “hurt people hurt people”. Not knowing how to deal with my own wounds, I proceeded to inflict pain upon others as means to repress my own insecurities. In high school, my sharp tongue picked out targets I deemed fatter and uglier than I was, and my wit flayed them as they ran crying to the toilets, while I hid my lacking self-esteem behind a cruel laugh.
Instead of feeling better about myself, my actions caused a downward spiral culminating more self-loathing at my unbecoming behaviour, which in turn made me lash out even more—and so it was a vicious, vicious cycle.
When I turned 15 (after a whole decade of hurt), I finally admitted and faced the cold, hard fact—that I wasn’t a kind person. I didn’t like who I was, and I didn’t want to be her anymore.
So the first step I took was to apologise to innocent schoolmates whom I had previously hurt. To this day, I count my lucky stars that they were magnanimous enough to forgive me, and that helped me to forgive myself, although that took a few more years to eventually get to.
Soon after that, I chanced upon an exercise in a children’s spiritual book. There was an illustration of a ladder, and the rungs were labelled: “I can’t; I don’t want to; I don’t know how; I want to; I can; I will, I am.” Reading those words felt like a bell reverberating through my being.
I remembered hurrying home, hiding myself in my room, and then staring at myself in the mirror while repeating all the things that I wanted to be. These affirmations have evolved a little over time, but it eventually settled into a life-changing motto that I still use today:
“I am Soul; I am beautiful. I am loved, I am enough.”
I urge you to try this battle cry out for yourself whenever you feel down and in need of a pick-me-upper.
Yes, it will feel terribly awkward at first. You probably won’t be able to look at yourself in the eye for a sustained period of time. You will feel like a fraud, and you will cry.
But I promise you, that if you keep at it, slowly but surely, the truth of your words will resonate at a level that changes who you are. You will feel the love and kindness you are showing to yourself seep into your every atom of your being. You will start standing a little straighter, you will start to believe yourself, and yes, you will still cry.
I won’t lie. Your relationship with yourself won’t be transformed overnight. There will be days where you feel like breaking the mirror and hiding away from the world forever. But keep at it, trust the process, and most of all, trust in your own power.
It took me years to stand tall today at 36-years old, fervently typing these words out on my laptop keyboard and genuinely, earnestly, and excitedly sharing with you my song, with this simple technique that changed my life completely.
In today’s world, we are constantly inundated by society's standards of how we are supposed to look, how much money we should earn, how we should behave in public—a mounting load from society, (at times) family, and (almost always) from yourself that can be extremely overwhelming.
Don't cave into that pressure. Put your phone away, walk to the mirror, take a deep breath, smile and repeat this line: “I am Soul, I am beautiful, I am loved, I am enough.”