I grew up with low self worth, lack of self esteem but covered it up with high ego. As a kid, I was used to uncles and aunts comparing me with my cousins ; what a bright kid cousin Cal was, how ladylike cousin Vivian was and etc. I was also quite a confused 8-year-old wondering why my uncles were in awe when cousin Cal’s dad subscribed the “elite” Singaporean kids magazine D’light saying, “see, this is what you called investing in your kid’s future” but then when my poor mom (already struggling to put food on the table, saved enough) also started subscribing that magazine for me so that I was exposed with better standard of English and I proudly showed the magazine to my uncles only to be greeted with a nod.
From those childhood experience onward, I had decided that I wasn’t good enough. Only kids like my cousins (either you were born with silver spoon or behaved like how the Confucian theology dictated you to) were the celebrated ones. I had decided that I was the black sheep. I was taught that I wasn’t good enough cos my parents were poor, cos I grew up in a neighbourhood rowdy enough to produce bar hostesses, pimps, drug pushers and what not in the like. I grew up a story teller. I told my little classmates that I am princess living in a mansion. I had a bondmaid just to take care of me. We had 3-4 servants at our “mansion” serving us.
Time flies. I am now a teenager studying in a public school. My classmates and buddies spoke more of Mandarin than I can ever count numbers in. I was the “banana”. I was the “arrogant new kid” who only spoke English. But these Mandarin speaking kids were the ones I shared laughter with, the ones who introduced me to Mandarin-pop songs and the ones I went hanging out at their new village houses where their aunts, mom etc served me with tasty delicacies and always welcomed me into their home with warmth and big smiles. These folks were far from being millionaires but they have what a lot of millionaires don’t. A big heart. A giving heart.
Even during my adulthood, I was ashamed of where I was raised. I was ashamed that my parents were poor. I was ashamed to bring my friends home to the cosy brick house we called home. The self inflicted stigma. I was ashamed of something superficial. I was blinded by materials. I thought by possessng materials was the way to gain respect. There is this Chinese saying “笑贫不笑娼” which means by the societal value we had, it is mostly poverty that is shunned and hence prostitution would be celebrated as long as it makes one rich.
Now at 40, and been through major life episodes that included a glimpse into death, I must say it is still not too late. Not to late to claim ownership of my life. The feeling of being ashamed and inadequate has been replaced by GRATITUDE. Not sure what I mean? Ok, I came from a modest family, I didn’t have the chance (and money) to learn musical instruments like many of my cousins and classmates BUT :
1) I grew up in a home, cared for, protected and loved by our loving and dedicated parents
2) I had food everyday, 3 times a day or even more
3) I had nice and proper clothes to wear
4) I had family trips (who cares if those were of local destinations)
5) I had complete formal education till tertiary
6) I grew up with toys
7) We had family night outings at movie theatres
This post would last till tomorrow if I continue on counting my real blessings. And I would NEVER be ashamed to invite friends (real ones) to my place or that my family home, anymore. My parents still live in a simple dwelling and it is no mansion at all, but those who genuinely befriended me wouldn’t even care. And those who care? Ooohhhh the kite is flying high!
Ending this post with what Mark Darcy said to Bridget Jones (the Bridget Jones Diary) : “I like you very much. For all that you are.”