Many women go through tough times at one time or another in their life where they lose their identity – bad break-ups, abusive relationships, violence, and so on. I, on the other hand, never had an identity to begin with.
That’s because I was taught from an early age that I wasn’t good enough . . . for anything.
I came from a culture where females were supposed to be weak and submissive. Not only that, but appearances counted for everything, so discrimination based on looks was quite severe. Being short and overweight, I grew up constantly being told by others, especially my five siblings, who were up to 20 years older than me, that I wasn’t smart enough, that I was useless and stupid, and that I would never amount to anything.
There were times that I was so depressed that when I was in Grade 3, I actually considered taking my own life with a kitchen knife. Fortunately I decided against it in the end, because I knew it would make my mother too sad. Even to this day when I feel down I think about that moment and it seems like it was yesterday.
My mother was very supportive of me but she worried about me a lot too. She knew that I would always have to struggle for opportunities in my career, relationships, happiness and success because of the discrimination against me.
She was pretty much the only person I could talk to. Because my self-esteem was so low I didn’t really have any friends and I was very much a loner. I spent most of my time just reading and thinking, trying to improve and encourage myself.
Once my parents passed away I felt there was nothing left for me where I was. I decided I had to leave, to make a brand new life somewhere else where I could be accepted for who I am, and I needed to find out who that was. I knew in my heart that I was more than a just a pitiful, repressed woman. I had dreams of one day being someone big, and of showing everyone I had grown up next to that they were all wrong.
When I moved to Australia I had no friends or family to talk to, no real direction, I still had no self-esteem, and little knowledge of the English language. I spent a few more frustrating years trying to find myself and lose weight – even though I had escaped the discrimination of my past, getting into shape was something that was still very important to me for my own self-pride.
After failing with yet more diets, exercise programs and weight loss plans, I was finally introduced to Thai Boxing one day. There I finally met people who were serious about working out and who really understood how to get into shape. I had discovered the real world of fitness, and I was hooked.
I started doing a lot of my own research and worked hard, and I finally managed to lose 12.7kg of fat to gradually drop my body weight from 62.5kg down to 49.8kg. Not a bad achievement, I thought, after a lifetime of searching for answers to my weight problem.
Unfortunately however, my success didn’t last long, because a couple of years later I gained weight once again. In fact, I put on more than I had lost. I ballooned to about 65kg – heavier than I had ever been before!
But the experience taught me a very valuable lesson. I learned that deep down I still saw myself as the fat girl and a victim, and I was still influenced by bad habits and mental weaknesses. I had lost weight, but inside I was the same person, and I knew that had to change.
I got back to work losing weight again, while this time also focusing on making myself stronger mentally and emotionally. Through my own self-designed program and more hard work, I once again succeeded in losing weight. From 65kg I lost 20.7kg – almost a third of my bodyweight – to finally weigh 44.3kg.
Most importantly, I proved to myself that I was more capable than other people thought. I started to see glimpses of the strength inside me that I had never seen before, but only dared to think might possibly be there. And I knew there was much more that I could achieve.
Training in Thai Boxing (I’ve never actually competed in the sport, but only trained for fitness) had changed my life. But looking back now I see that for all the good it brought me, there was always something in the back of my mind telling me that I didn’t belong there. I’m not an aggressive person, and certainly don’t have that “killer instinct” that combat sports are built on.
When I discovered fitness contests and started training for competition in late 2011 however, I instantly knew with every fiber of my being that I had found my home. Figure training has brought out in me a level of motivation and mental strength that I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams.
I realize now that people’s criticisms and judgments of me while I was growing up were like poison to my mind, working to keep me mentally small and weak. We’re all exposed to these poisons in our lives at one time or another. Fortunately for me, I was able to overcome mine.
I have no anger or animosity towards any of the people who put me down in my younger years and programmed my mind for failure, because I know now that it was just an expression of their own fears and weaknesses. In a way I’m actually thankful to them because I believe it’s my tough life that has made me so strong today.
Fitness makes me who I am – it defines me. Not in a physical sense, and not because I’m an IFBB Figure athlete or a certified Gym Instructor and Personal Trainer.
Rather, because when I think about the weak, repressed person I started out my life as and see myself now training as an elite athlete, I’m still in disbelief at the change I’ve gone through. I’m strong, powerful, independent and self-confident. Fitness has truly become my vehicle for growth in every aspect of my life.
When I first escaped my past, my dream was simply to prove my critics wrong. But now I see that really my decision was deeper than that. I simply didn’t want to surrender like a sheep, but to fight like a lioness. And now, because of fitness, I’m no longer a victim of my life, but a life warrior. My goal is to continue to challenge myself and fight life’s battles like a warrior until the day I die.
No matter where you come from, what you’ve been though, or what you believe about yourself right now, you have the strength inside you to be whatever and whoever you want to be. Every woman has that inside her.
And the more you’ve been hurt and held down, the more you’ve been poisoned by others and by life, the greater that strength has grown, lying in wait to be unleashed. You’re like a lioness, ready to pounce.
My mission is to pass on this message to all women, and to be a role model that shows them that it’s true.
So many times as a child I would lay down and cry because my life seemed so hopeless. Now when I feel weak and I see myself crying, I stand right up and fight because I don’t want that to be me anymore. There are too many things I have to do.
I don’t want to see any other women give up on life, give up on their dreams, and lay down and cry either. I want you to challenge yourself and fight life’s battles alongside me, each and every day. I want you to keep persevering with me, keep refusing to give up, and keep getting stronger and more powerful.
I love what I do, I’m chasing my dream, I’ll do whatever it takes to get there, and I want to help you do the same.
Together we can’t fail . . .