I was in primary school, in music class. Mrs Bong was choosing students for the school choir. She asked each of us to stand up and sing. If she found a student suitable, that student would get selected. If not, she would ask her to sit back down. I didn’t know much about choir, but I wanted to get chosen anyway. I stood up. “Froggy in a well, froggy in a well…”, I sang. “Nope, sit down,” said Mrs Bong.
Growing up, I lumped music, literature, art into a bucket called ‘iffy things’. Iffy things were uncontrollable. If I expressed myself, I would get judged. So I learned to have no opinions. I excelled instead at math and science; they were predictable and there were always fixed answers. I was safe.
I always chased academic achievements because they were the one thing in life I could control. I chased results not because I particularly cared for the results, but because I wanted the validation, acceptance, and approval that came along with them.
Even after I left school, I still chased achievements in my career. And today as a coach, I realised I am still chasing results in the area of personal development.
I worked very hard to improve myself, not because I had a destination, but because I wanted to “fix” myself, and because I believed I was not good enough as I was. I had a deep-seated belief that I was not okay. So I kept running and running away from myself, trying not to be myself.
Recently I was coaching one of my clients. The goal of the session was to learn to appreciate the moment. We were eating salad, using our meal to connect to ourselves and be in the moment. As I ate my salad one leaf at a time, I realised that I was not eating a salad. I was eating a leaf. I was always only ever eating a leaf.
And so it is with life itself. Constantly chasing results was like always holding my breath, always waiting for the future when I could breathe. I thought I could only feel relieved when I had achieved, but life was always in the moment. Life is being able to appreciate the moment for what it is. Life is just being.
No matter how hard we try to run, we can never escape ourselves. I’ve tried a million and one things not to be myself. I went to the US to study, I went to Cambodia to volunteer, I took many courses and personal development programmes trying to cure myself of the terrible affliction of being me. I idolised many people, wishing I could be them.
But each encounter always brought me back to me. Everything I did ended up with me getting the same message over and over again:
Be yourself. Love and appreciate yourself.
I realised that if I spend my life trying to be someone else, I miss out on the miracle and joy of being me.
When you’re ready for something, the universe sends you messages. I remember one day, just opening my YouTube page, and the first video on it was, “Accept it so you can be free.”
Then, when I was listening to the radio, I heard this quote:
I decided, very early on, just to accept life unconditionally; I never expected it to do anything special for me, yet I seemed to accomplish far more than I had ever hoped. – Audrey Hepburn
Being me is a wonderful privilege. I realised I am beautiful just as I am – with all my dreams and struggles and conflicts and doubts.
In the state of being and allowing, I am able to express myself and create. I feel light and free, accepting things as they are, without trying to fix or judge. I realise that I simply am. No adjectives or nouns or labels are needed.
In the stillness, there is space for allowing, acceptance, and appreciation. That’s when magic begins.
So I started to sing again, because I allow myself to be. And when I allow myself to be, I want to express joy. Singing is not about the end of the song. It is always about this note. This moment.