The most radiant people are those who are unapologetically themselves.
When I was younger, doctors diagnosed me with Nephrotic Syndrome. I had to take pills nearly every day since I was two years old. When the illness seemed to have gone away, I would always get a relapse at least a week without medication.
I was born the healthiest out of all my siblings but grew up the sickliest. My medications had long-term side effects, making me shorter and smaller than the rest of my family. Whenever a relapse came, I would start bloating. I had stretch marks all over my body.
My healthy body is skinny. People who haven’t seen me for a long time now say, “You look sickly! You looked healthier before!” What they don’t know is that my chubbiness came from my syndrome.
For a very long time, I suffered from major self-esteem issues. I hated myself and felt ugly most of the time. When I was sick, I looked bloated. When I’m healthy, I looked “too skinny”.
When I was a teenager, I was not as developed as the other girls. I’ve been called “negative cup” and “butch” for my lack of breasts. I’ve been called “terbantut” (Malay word for dwarf) for being short.
A friend even called me worried, asking me if I was sick. Apparently someone in school had spread a rumour saying I had breast cancer.
If someone liked me, I considered myself lucky. I stayed in an abusive relationship for 3 years because I believed that no one would love me as he did. I settled because I thought this was as good as it was going to get for me.
One day I woke up and decided, “F*ck this.”
I understand how tiring it gets when your mind is constantly looking down on yourself. You become exhausted.
This doesn’t just apply to superficiality. You might feel inadequate in many ways.
I felt like I was failing as a daughter and a sister. I felt like a failure. I ended up not taking care of my wellbeing because I did not believe in my importance.
The more people I met, I realised one simple truth: The most radiant people are those who are unapologetically themselves. What people point out as flaws, they don’t consider as weaknesses.
They embrace their imperfections and downfalls. They consider them as strokes on an otherwise plain and boring canvas. No two canvas has the same strokes, making every person their own unique painting.
When you try to copy another person’s strokes, you will always feel inadequate. There is no need to be a different painting. You just have to be your own.
When I started loving myself, I gathered enough strength to move on from toxic relationships that I grew comfortable with. Instead of getting upset at what people say about my looks, I’ve learned to laugh at it.
I no longer see myself as a failure, but a work-in-progress. I wish you would see yourself this way too.
Your importance does not lie in the words of others. You’re not a diamond in the making — you already are a diamond. All that’s left is to show the radiance that you’ve been hiding.
Believe me, the day you start loving yourself, you will be unstoppable.
This article was originally published on The Ascent.