Featured Writer: Corinne Lin

Women & Body Image

CORRINE LIN discusses growing up as an overweight child, learning how to make better choices for herself, and discovering that true beauty lives much deeper than she ever realized. 

I guess most of us face issues and insecurities with our bodies at some stage or phase in our lives. 

Weight issues, dress sense, cosmetics, and posture were not issues to me (not in my early teen days, anyway).  That is until I started feeling conscious in front of friends and colleagues in my late teens, to be exact, when I stepped into the working society. 

But, these issues did stem from the days of my childhood.

As you might already be asking: what was I doing in my childhood and teenage years, then?
If you could imagine, there was once this girl who was heavily studious and overweight (and heavy boned, having a large body frame, or whatever it's also called). She had droopy eyes with a single lid, a mole above her right eyebrow, and wore spectacles that don't compliment her facial lines. She enjoyed snacking and did not hold back when there was good food. She has no dress sense and felt comfortable in baggy t-shirt, shorts, and Japanese slippers. She owned literally no accessories—no earrings, no bracelets, and no necklaces. She couldn't differentiate between eyeliner and eyeshadow. She had good complexion, but she didn't think it was a feature to be proud of. She had smooth, long black hair that nevertheless laid flat on her head. She never learned to tie her hair. Neither did she learn to smile well with angles. Physical beauty was non-existent for her. 

She didn’t care about the way she sat and felt especially comfortable on the sofa with one leg propped up on a cushion. She liked to read and because of this love and efforts to study hard for exams, she often stayed up late, sometimes into the mornings. Coupled with her genes, she had dark circles from a young age. She listened to world news and watched dramas and world events like the Olympics and World Cup on television, which was a favourite pastime of hers. She had no deep interests for music and often felt left out amongst her friends. You could say she was a laggard in terms of social updates.

She was me in my teenage time. 

I would say that by not learning about personal care and having had a lack of social exposure, I had huge gaps to catch up with when I first started working. It's that time—being in public—when you realize how scary peer pressure is and how much you don't know despite having good grades in school. 

I found it hard to come to terms with my body image issues then.  This resulted in my low self-esteem and confidence in many areas, from my friendships to my work performance. Most times I was so withdrawn with inferiority that I did not dare speak up. Other times, I would be so glad to receive attention from anyone who showed interest that I became a “yes” person. 

When I looked at my double chin or bulging stomach, I would feel a sharp decrease in self love and instead feel  detest towards myself, a feeling of anger and disappointment for not being able to exercise self-control. I was already overweight, and I was not an active person back then, either. That would send me into bouts of self-sabotage, overeating and feeling remorse.

While I used to look into the mirror, I would hold the layer of mush around my thick waistline with both my hands, wishing that they would disappear, while frowning at the dark circles, the squarish jaw, the small eyes that I have.  I would feel disappointed at myself for eating all the food and snacks just a few hours before.  Doing this same thing today has become a rare event. 

It has taken me years, practicing self acceptance and self-improvement, to accept that I am who I am.  I have come to terms with what frustrated me and caused lost sleep in the past.  Today, I am fully accepting myself as a person, flawed or not.

The Change

What needs to change in us so that real change can take effect? Mindset. 

I was so used to the belief that I would never be beautiful, or slim, or confident.  Coupled with the fact that I didn't know how to dress nor had interest in it, I was basically pushing away suggestions for improvement. Many times, I had friends who literally showed me what to do to change my appearance or dress sense, or friends who outright suggested that I could use some help. Today, I am proud to say that I have done my part in making myself a better person both on the inside and on the outside, even though I am still nowhere near “ideal.”

I have proven to myself that through persistence, learning, and trial, the below quote is real: 

"There are no ugly women, only lazy ones." - Helena Rubinstein

Life is progress, and there are not really any shortcuts. 

If we want to lose weight, we have to put in the time, effort, and commitment to work out. Working out not only helps us lose weight and build strength and stamina, but it also functions as a stress relieving activity. 

Through learning about how to put on makeup, I learned to experiment, finding myself a look that is acceptable and pleasant. 

It wasn't until I started losing weight, getting dolled up, and putting on contact lenses that I learned about self-confidence; I have now seen the prettier side of me, a side I never knew I could achieve. Once I was able to look at myself in a positive light, my confidence built up. I enjoyed looking better to feel better. It wasn't until my early twenties that I received my first compliment. 

There is nothing shallow about wanting to look good, but it should not be the main aim in living a fulfilling life. 

Physical beauty may make up for the emotional lack we feel in ourselves, but intellectual beauty is mind-blowing. 

Learning and building our knowledge and wisdom are perhaps the best internal resources we can use to be better individuals each day. 

When I started taking on more challenges, enjoying what I was doing, staying present, and learning on the go, I began to appreciate myself, my resilience, my persistence, my efforts, and my achievements. 

While doing all that, I began to love myself and my life more, which led me to understand that I don't need external factors or people to validate me or to allow me to feel love and appreciation. I already have all of that in myself. Life happened to me while I was enjoying it. 

Fast forward to today.  I recently noticed my aging skin and crow's feet crawling up at the corners of my eyes whenever I laughed. Do I feel anger or disappointment? Anger? No. Disappointment? Maybe, for I know that my habit of using cosmetics daily and my lack of facial care have definitely taken a toll on my skin.  But, this was not something over which I would lose sleep or get frustrated. 

I no longer try so hard for the slim waist or the ideal figure with no cellulite. I have come to accept that no matter how much I stop eating or how much I work out, the size I am now is  healthy and beautiful. I have come to acknowledge that my weight is made for my build. I once tried to lose weight by going on a soup-based diet and limiting my intake to fruits and vegetables. I managed to drop 5 kg below my current weight, but with it came the constant dizziness, fatigue, hair loss, and wobbly teeth. I came to my senses that all the hunger and malnourishment was not worth it. As long as I eat well, maintain an active lifestyle, and get to enjoy my treats, I have already achieved my ideal and balanced lifestyle.

I no longer wish to have smooth, fair skin or even a dazzling smile. I have come to understand that we don't need to flash dazzling smiles to feel accepted; we need to be sincere. Have you ever seen someone who has a great smile, but they don't feel genuine to you? What good would a pretty smile be if it were fake? 

We focus so much more on external factors (dress sense, hair, nails, weight) than the internal ones (wisdom, general knowledge, caring, understanding, empathy, kindness) that we never really look at what makes us unique individuals. 

When I started getting acquainted with myself, I began to understand that there are inner and outer qualities that make us appreciate who we are by being simply us. 

And, I realize that I have started embracing myself—my physical and emotional self—as years go by. 

While I used to envy how slim people enjoy less luggage space, prettier clothing, and more attention, I now admire the beauty of girls and women who are vibrant, genuine, and active. I’ve begun to relish meeting people who are not beautiful, but charming in terms of their intellect and personality, and they are so much more attractive because of that. 

I got to know people who are common looking, but who have beautiful, kind souls. I enjoy being in the company of those who share deep, meaningful conversations rather than conversations which simply look sophisticated on the surface. 

Anyone can be beautiful, but not everyone can be kind and warm, make smart witty comments, liven up ambience, or engage with others on a deeper level. 

I’ve begun to understand beauty on a whole new level: the intellectual part. This is where the real hard work begins. 

Corrine Lin

Website: http://l3hub.org

Trish NelsonComment