I Advocate

Just another WordPress.com site

When I Was Ugly

I remember when I was 13 and utterly self-conscious of my body. I was a skinny, gangly kid with long hair, worn way past my waist – with sticks for legs, and my frame was totally boyish. I was a late bloomer.

The idea of wearing a bikini was beyond me. I was so painfully shy, I couldn’t imagine revealing so much of my body that way. I thought I looked terrible and everyone would be laughing.

I also hated taking pictures, and being captured on video killed me. I would never look at them again, and every time I did I was so critical of how I looked that I always looked horrible to myself. I was too skinny, my hair was too messy, my teeth was crooked, my lips too big – it was never ending.

Maybe it is that way when people go through their teenage years, but I took that feeling of self-criticism all the way to my mid-twenties. I never thought I was good enough and of course, everything that I saw about myself, affirmed the exact way I felt about me.

By the time I was in my twenties, I was too fat, my face too round, my eyes too small, my clothes too tight; that was what I saw in those photos. The reasons for self-detestation may be different, but the underlying story remained unchanged – I still didn’t like who I saw.

It’s funny, but I found all these photos and videos again now as I was house-moving; and I wondered how I could have thought that girl in the photos was anything but beautiful.

It was fascinating when I was sitting there sifting through all my old photos – remembering how disgusted I felt looking at them over 10 years ago, and marveling at the total change in the way I see myself now in those same photos.

The photos didn’t change. The way I saw myself changed, and that changes everything.

It’s my reminder for me that I see the world as I am, I don’t see the world as it is. And if I wanted something to change in my world, I need look no further than to just change the way I see it. That was a simple and powerful affirmation on how I, and I alone, have the power to change anything in my life.

And for that, I am truly grateful.

So when you find yourself criticizing – take a pause, and be a little kinder. There is a difference between criticizing and recognizing, the former terminates possibilities and options; while the latter opens them up for you to make a different choice. This holds true whether it’s your relationship with you, with another, or with the world.

Be acutely aware on how you are seeing, because it is your quickest indication on how you are being.

Namaste. xoxo

Advertisements

Lessons From Con-Men

I started working for money at 18. That age marked the beginning of one of the darkest, yet most educational, periods of my life.

Working in bars and entertainment outlets while going through college, I met men of all ages, all backgrounds, and with all sorts of intentions.

There were the distraught husbands in bad marriages that they don’t want to fix. The cheating husbands that came in at 7pm for dinner with their wives, left at 9pm, and came back again at 11pm with their mistresses.

The pushers who will try to sell you anything and everything for that one elusive high. The corporate yuppies who wanted to just drink down a bad day at work and forget for a couple of hours, that they have to get back to that same bleak existence the next morning.

The jocks who just jostled the whole night at the foosball tables. The freeloaders that come in with their rich friends, polishing off bottle after bottle but slinking away to the loo when the bill folder arrives. The smooth shooters hanging at the pool tables, chugging their beers, chalking their cues and playing for “winners’ stay” all night long.

The players who dress like they walked out of a GQ cover, dropping the same cheesy pick-up lines that for some bizarre reason, works every time – or maybe it’s just the really nice cars the valet brings them that seals the deal with pretty young things night after night.

The young boys that just graduated into this seemingly exciting and mysterious adult world, acting macho and downing alcohol by the bottle – swiping for the bill with their daddy’s supplementary credit cards.

The expat trying to kill another lonely night away from their homeland far away. And the VIPs with their bulky bodyguards, sitting alone, sipping wine, smoking a cigar and watching the crowd.

I met them all. Some, became my friends – and followed me from joint to joint as I changed jobs. And some, once they got to the point where they realized I am not susceptible to their romantic advances (being in a relationship that whole period) – turned me into a drinking buddy/ confidante instead.

While some, offered me job opportunities in their companies or businesses. And one day, fed up with the dead-end vicious cycle of the relentlessly mind-numbing entertainment circuit, I took up one of the offers from a VIP that prospected me for 6 months to work in his trading firm. Always, he is in a 3-piece-suit, something that is decidedly hard to do in the mucky tropical Malaysian weather; with a bodyguard shadowing him, and a driver dropping him off at the bar by 5pm every other day.

He took to having conversations with me, and soon started to pursue me to work for him. He owned a trading firm and was relentless in his approach. And one day I agreed – deciding to walk away forever from the entertainment scene to pursue my financial dreams working with this man.

The first day of work at his luxurious office in downtown KL, he gave me an office with a wrap-around window view. He taught me the trade – how to read graphs, charts, indices, market trends. He showed me how to lead prospects themselves to close the deal for me. And soon I brought in enough revenue for him that he made me the head of department, managing a group of men at least 2 decades older than me – who’ll have to report to me monthly.

I was still only 22 then and dying to own the world. I was fearless, impressionable, gullible, and ambitious. I started out broke and so was driven to work really hard, and on such bad terms with my family then that I haven’t had a proper conversation with my dad in 2 years. I wanted to do it all, to prove that I had what it takes to succeed in a world dominated by men, and I thought I could do it alone. I was arrogant. I was blinded by the money I was making and jaded by the company I was keeping.

And as I learned from this chapter of my young life – all that, made for a very dangerous combination. And one day, the time bomb of inexperience exploded.

In less than a year I worked there, the outfit was shut down by the authorities. I walked straight into it reporting to work one morning, finding out from my PA that the Directors were all not contactable, turning around to see the enforcement agents from the Securities Department crashing in and confiscating everything in sight. I spent the whole day being interrogated. All my clients’ money got frozen with the company’s bank account. Only after 7 years was the case finally closed – when they found one of the Directors and put him in jail. When I received that letter in the mail, I broke down and cried.

That was one of the most unnerving experiences in my life. I was so traumatized. I started questioning my own lack of judgment. And for the next 5 years, I spiraled into a life of mediocrity – afraid, so afraid of my ambitions to be wealthy – wanting only to be in a safe job with a legit company. Trying to reinstate my own self-worth. It didn’t matter that I took a massive pay-cut. I didn’t want any of it. To me at that moment, money was evil. Men were evil. I was racked with guilt. I spent years trying to rebuild relationships with the people who trusted me but got hurt in this incident.

But now, I’ve forgiven myself and that man too. I look back now and I realize that it was an extremely valuable experience – especially in the arena of learning about myself and human psychology. That chapter has closed for me, but the lessons I’ve learned from that period – would serve me for the rest of my life:

1. Do not be impressed easily – look for the substance, not just the form in all you encounter
3-piece Armani suits, nice, flashy sports cars, VIP reservations at all the best joints in town, fine dining, cash splashing, drivers and bodyguards, dinners and gifts, posh offices and beautiful homes; I love these things – but this experience taught me to see the difference between the authentic and the sincere. It’s not the stuff, it’s who’s showing you all these stuff – and why. Heed your instincts, they won’t lead you wrong.

2. A fool and his money will always be parted
I don’t need to deliberate on this, but I have had first-hand training on how to cajole money out of someone by having him/ her suggest it too. Seeing this in action is fascinating and scary at the same time, and I had issues beating myself up for learning and using these tactics while I was working there. But now I see that everyone is responsible for their own decisions, and mine is to operate with the highest level of integrity, while being aware of all these tactics in the market. Greed is the biggest factor why someone ends up being conned. Be wary of anything that sounds too good to be true, do your own due diligence, and seek third-party counsel before making decisions in areas you are unfamiliar with.

3. There is no such thing as a short-cut to success
Ah. The delusion of all gamblers and con-men, wanting to get a better deal from the world. Being only willing to pay $1, yet expecting $100 return; work an hour but be paid for 10. There is no such thing. Taking short-cuts cost a price dearer than gold – your character, and self-respect. And it gets you nowhere worthwhile for very long.

4. Be in possession of your own mind
You know all the jazz about NLP, mind influence, etc? Well, take full responsibility for your own decisions and thoughts, and you’ll never have to worry about someone influencing you to do something that is detrimental to you. Everyone and everything in your daily life IS trying to influence you, you can’t avoid it. So don’t be a passive about this – own your thoughts! It’s 100% your call, all the time.

5. Stand for what you believe in
So shit happens. My con-men Directors disappears, I’m next-in-command, and the shit’s hitting the fan. And yeah, I was still 22 – but by then I was feeling 52. So what? Deal with all the mess you find yourself in in a manner that you won’t regret. Stand up to it, and fight for what you believe in. Own up if you made a mistake – face up to those you indirectly wronged. I learned that it’s not your gender or age that determines whether you’re strong or not – it’s your values and the courage to stand for what is right when it’s the toughest to do so. It’s about whether you’ll walk the right path, even if you have to walk it alone. And that’s a choice and it’s always worth it to take the higher path.

6. Learn from every experience
This was probably the only way I could pick myself up, move on & make different choices that can move my life forward. This philosophy is now indelibly ingrained onto my soul because of painful experiences like these. And truly, for that, I am grateful.

Sometimes, like tonight, I wonder what became of these men. I hope they are well and have found their peace. I still believe in the inherent goodness of people, probably more now than I ever did before, even after experiences like this.

It is a beautiful thing that the human condition is so varied, textured, and rich with both positive and negative experiences – offering us the opportunity to make different choices, in the pursuit of defining who we really are.

So, if you’re in a position where you felt that someone did wrong by you, or you felt that you did wrong by someone – find the graciousness in your heart to forgive, but forget not the lesson it has wrapped within.

Without fail, our biggest trials are truly our biggest gifts, just choose to see them as such and you’ll see that it is true. And whether it accelerates your personal growth or stunt it, that is your call – therein lies the magic of each of our lives.

xoxo

The Art Of Flirting

So, I was at a couple of singles party in the last few months, accompanying a girlfriend who’s scouting the local scene for any potential hot, rich, intelligent, compassionate, humanitarian male bachelor – who will make a great husband and dad, with a fabulously understanding mom that’s not big on scrutinizing all the shortcomings of her future daughter-in-law.

Result: He don’t exist. At least maybe not in KL.

Ok maybe we haven’t looked long & hard enough.

But seriously. That singles scene. I don’t get it.

Hang on. Let me get some personal facts straight first.

#1: I am happily single
#2: I am not looking
#3: I am uninterested in the marriage & kids finale
#4: I don’t buy into the biological clock story, and…
#5: I don’t feel any moral/ filial obligation to provide grandkids (my parents have now pinned their hopes on my 3 younger siblings.)

I’m 32, going on 23. And most of my girlfriends are around the same age, except that most of them are only growing older in their minds. A majority of them are comfortably nestled at home, in between babies, hubbies, pets, domestication and careers (I salute); and the few that are not are generally in 2 camps – camp 1 is where i am (see above 5 points) and camp 2 is the ones where they are needing, yes, needing to get into the majority. And no, I am not being offensive. Just factual.

And although I would never understand them, as they probably would never understand me; I kinda get it…in a mental way, that desire to make a home with a mate. Before their eggs run out.

So. Back to the point of this post & story. Why am I writing this at all?

Well, because being at those singles’ parties have been a bizarre experience for me. Why? Well, since I’m there as a companion, I refuse to turn into a competitor (to the other chicks), so the majority of my time there is spent watching the proceedings. And you know what I noticed? No one there seems to know how to actually flirt effectively.

Yup. I said it now. If I am shot dead tomorrow you’ll know why.

People think that attraction and finding the love of your life is like an act of destiny, that fireworks will happen the moment you lay eyes on the *one*, and hence with a minimal amount of mutual conversational exchange, you just have to do the scene enough and one momentous day, at one fated moment, you will bump into the *one*, exchange some shy glances, fumble up with each other on the dance floor dancing to some slow number, meet the parents – get married and live happily ever after.

Sorry. That’s only in the movies. And that formula of it being a numbers game, that’s only for business.

When it comes to romance, attraction, chemistry and physical heat – it all starts in the mind. Literally.

And nothing is more attractive & sexy than a witty mind, wrapped in a well-turned out body – delivering comments with the same measure of poise and lighthearted jest; in passing conversations that you wish would last just a little bit longer.

You’re at a singles party guys. Mingle, converse, connect, smile, laugh, flirt! And when I say flirt, I don’t mean bat your eyelashes, dress like a tramp, or do a lap dance on the guy. And lads, I seriously don’t mean dropping cheesy pick-up lines, being overly touchy, or telling the girls how amazingly capable you are, in all capacities.

I mean, be intelligent, be present, be attentive, be real, be fun, be YOU! Smile & shine baby! And do everyone a favor – don’t curse, get drunk, smoke, shout, play incessantly with your iPhone/ BB, or get on the bar top.

Flirting is not some complex art that needs to be demystified. It’s just an act of showing someone you like them more than friends in a fun way, and maybe might want to get to know them more. And masterful flirting is doing all that without looking like you’re flirting at all.

It’s just attractive because you’re finding someone else attractive and showing him/ her in a genuine, natural way.

So, have conversations like you would just like any other, except that you do have to show that you’re attracted to the person you are talking to. Listen, ask questions about them, look into their eyes, lean forward. Geddit? And if you want to see that person again, just ask for the digits.

Drop all the cheesy pick-up lines about the stars in her eyes, and the heavens missing an angel etc (I’ll probably do another post later on the ones I’ve gotten) – and just ask for it. “Hey, i really like you, can I see you again?” Try it, it’s not gonna kill you. I haven’t seen anyone really doing that at all the singles’ party I’ve been to.

So in a nutshell – be gracious and subtle, and if you really like someone you met – get to the point. How else are you going to move this thing forward if you want to eventually get married?

Or if all else fails, just engage a professional dating agency. Or Facebook. My sis met her fiancee there, and I haven’t seen any couple happier. 🙂

But if you’re gonna be doing the singles’ party scene….please, read this post before you go. It might help.

Some final pointers on stuff I noticed that drove me nuts: Ladies – shave your legs and underarms, and wear the g-string, not the granma panties. Guys – match your socks, clean your nails, don’t do a deodorant overkill or fiddle with your crotch.

How do I know all this? I read a lot. Meow. 😉

The Poetry Series – Exhibit #1

I moved again to another place. A new home, and it’s beautiful. A perfect fit for my spirit. Will post some pix up for you guys once its ready.

While moving, I again found some old scribblings – a bunch of poetry I wrote when I was younger. Reading them now made me realized that I have come a bit of a way, experiencing much darkness and pain in those years. Poetry helped me deal with those emotions – as a channel for release.

Now I can recognize that those experiences were all self-inflicted, but it was a part of me and I can’t deny who I was; for without being there, I would not now be here in a much happier and enlightened space.

The darkness only made me appreciate the light I live in these days. So I’ve decided to log them all down in my blog as a series of poems under one title (Encapsulation of Pain); for posterity and a reminder that; to be a woman, one must first be a girl – to understand love, one must first embrace pain. And that it is ok. 🙂

I hope you’ll enjoy them as I post them out.

To you, to life, and to love!

Encapsulation of Pain Series:
Poem #1: Journey Across The Desert of Love.

The plains of a barren soul,
mock me,
every step of the way,
the sun beats,
its scorching rays.
The heart sways,
the body bleeds.

Swirling waters,
offer no reprieve,
instead it pulls,
the mind deep;
where chaos reign,
and blood stains,
a white sheet,
once clean.

Golden shades,
and jovial play,
is now but a memory;
of happier days.

– Jamie Loh, 14 October 2004.

The Poetry Series – Exhibit #3

Encapsulation of Pain Series:
Poem #3: Sinking

Whither I wonder
Joy has flown?
Dragged me asunder
With sighs and moans.

– Jamie Loh, 16 December 2005

The Poetry Series – Exhibit #2

Encapsulation of Pain Series:
Poem #2: Despair

I have given up
The many beaten path
To risk my heart
And challenge destiny’s chart
Seeking for love
While wading through pain
On days like these
I wish
for more familiar plains.

– Jamie Loh, 12 February 2005

Book 1, Page 115

One of my favorite paragraphs from Conversations With God, Book 1 by Neale Donald Walsch:

“Seek not to make of your love a glue that binds, but rather, a magnet that first attracts, then turns and repels, lest those who are attracted begin to believe they must stick to you to survive. Nothing could be further away from the truth. Nothing could be more damaging to another. Let your love propel your beloveds into the world – and into the full experience of who they are. In this, will you have truly loved.”

So, how do you love?

Truly loving is about empowering the one you love – not to be forever in love with you, but to fall in love with who they really are.

That’s what we’re really here for – to cause another to see the beauty of their existence, mirrored back to them, in our eyes.

And then, projected back to the world as a gift, by leaving many indentations in the universe; each stating that – yes, because they existed, lived, & loved – the world was made more beautiful.

And that is the truth. The world is more beautiful because you are here. Now be here, and be love.

Namaste.

xoxo
Jamie

PS: And yes, if you’re ready to challenge some personal beliefs about all manner of topics; pick up all 3 Conversation With God books by the above author. I do advocate them. You can get them here: http://amzn.to/uqXhDv

Transforming Regrets – for my brother.

I rarely ever regret anything. But my biggest regret is that my chain smoking and alcohol-abuse in the past set an example for my baby brother to follow. I’m writing this for him before it’s too late.

He’s 6 years younger than me, very good looking, intelligent and sharp. He dropped by my place this morning to pick up some stuff so we got to chatting. He was telling me that he was waking up everyday with lots of flam and facing breathing problems because of smoking. He’s only 26 with the whole world in front of him. He tried quitting but kept going back to it after a couple of days.

He asked me how I did it 3 years ago.

Well, I decided that I was worth it. And I got information, made a plan, prepared for it and then just followed through. I quit on 1st March 2009. Before that I must have tried quitting over 7 times.

People tell me that I am so disciplined and that my willpower is so strong. I believe that is true for everyone if they dig deep enough to discover why they are doing what they are doing. Smokers are disciplined about smoking every couple of hours right? So it’s just a mindset. Just get disciplined about another discipline and then you’ll find that it really ain’t that hard.

Because being disciplined is just choosing consistently the same activity to back up a commitment. The real reason for my stickability to achieve my quit smoking goal is that I was sick of being sick. And sick of being a slave to a toxic substance. And I was a slave – 2 packs a day for the better part of 11 years.

My new commitment to myself was to be well. That replaced the old commitment I held about being a smoker.

I was also unemotional about it. I looked at my body like it was a machine – and did what i needed to do to hard reset it to a much better working condition. If you’re a heavy smoker or been addicted to any substances before you’ll understand what withdrawal symptoms really are – and if you don’t get a hold over your emotions and find some mental anchor to hold on to when your body is racking hell when you quit – it’s going to be so much tougher to get through it.

Non-abusers can never really understand. So yes, I get it. You feel like dying. But that’s better than actually getting to the point that you have to die because of your addiction. And die painfully too.

Think of your body as a machine and maybe it would make as much sense to you as it did for me. You can program and reprogram it. And that’s what quitting a toxic substance is about. It’s a reprogramming of your system. And the process to reprogram it will mean a lot of changes and clearing – there’s no other way.

So here’s what actually happens when you take nicotine into your system. Besides the tens of thousands of toxins that is deposited into your system with every drag – what it actually does is it incapacitates your brain’s ability to produce a naturally-occurring chemical substance in your brain called “Dopamine”. Dopamine is released by our brains naturally to help calm us down when we are stressed, help us focus and generally just relax us.

So your body is smart. When you took your first cigarette it reacted violently to this unnatural and very toxic substance – and when you continued taking it, it adapted to it, and finally, it found a way to make use of it.

The nicotine is a trigger for the production of more dopamine, so your body decided to stop its own production efforts, channeling it instead now to other more pressing needs in other parts of your body (like detoxing now obviously), and just trigger a notice to you in the form of a craving every 30 minutes or so when the dopamine levels in your brain goes lower. And the cravings gets more and more urgent the longer you do not respond to it.

Trust me, I know the feeling. I walked out for about 20 minutes by myself at 3am before years ago when I had a cigarette and no way of lighting it – looking for a lighter. I was almost at the state of panic. That’s actually your brain’s defense mechanism to “protect” you based on the programming you’ve installed in it up to date. Which is nicotine dependent for the nicotine addict.

So in short, the point is to get your brain to start producing its own dopamine again. And to do that, a hard reset is required. That means give it no more nicotine – and your brain will eventually restart its own production of dopamine again.

Here’s some tips that helped me:

1. Total cold turkey from nicotine.
That philosophy worked best for me. That means no nicotine replacement products like gums, patches etc. This forced my brains to get back to work producing its own dopamine faster. A bit more drastic but hey I’d rather get it done faster than slower.

2. Understanding & mentally preparing for the withdrawal symptoms.
The first 3 days will be your worst withdrawal symptoms ever, and the next 7 days your body will go through some massive cleansing so you really won’t feel very well. Healing crisis also starts to happen, means you will smell as your body excrete nicotine from your blood stream, dizziness, migraines, fatigue, etc. But this is normal and necessary – I didn’t know that before so I always caved in around day 4-5 of the quit.

3. Conquering cravings
Another important tip: the craving will be at its most urgent for the first 3 minutes, and then it will subside. It will also be more frequent in the first 3-10 days, and then it really gets less and less, till you don’t get any cravings anymore. That’s just the way your body tries to get you to consume nicotine. Deal with it by drinking water, sucking on gels, etc. Do whatever as long as you don’t inhale nicotine. My mantra that whole time while I was quitting was “I won’t put nicotine into my bloodstream.” It wasn’t even about having a cigarette. That made a lot more sense to me & was a stronger commitment to uphold.

4. Rest
If you can, take 5-7 days off and stay home to rest, sleep, detox and drink lots of water. This was critical to me as my body was being readjusted. It really gets a lot harder if you have to try and operate normally when you are quitting.

5. Prepare
You can never win a war if you don’t plan and prepare for it. My style is to get mental anchors to hold on to – if i can understand something, I can commit to it. So my striving has always been to learn and understand more on the whys and the whats – this website truly helped me get through the whole quitting period, what i’ve written here is my understanding of the facts on this site: www.whyquit.com – please, check it out. You might find other more relevant pieces of info to help you better.

6. Incremental Progress
Say no – one cigarette at a time. Understand that there will always be people who smoke around you – so there’s no way you can avoid the urges and offers. Don’t avoid it. Face it and master it. It’s much simpler to take it one decision at a time.

One of the best decisions I ever made was to quit smoking. I don’t have to stress on how much I have benefited health-wise. That’s pretty common knowledge.

The real gift was the self-empowerment I achieved for myself by mastering an addiction, and the new-found respect I developed for my body as a miraculous machine, able to heal and regenerate itself without limit.

The absolute knowing that there will always exist in my decision the possibility to transform, grow, heal, and be better – no matter how bad any situation is.

Because with that knowledge comes real joy and real power. That’s what I want for my brother to experience.

And that’s what I want for anyone struggling with addictions of any sort – whether of the body, mind, or spirit.

It is within all our reach – just make the same decision every single time.

Jamie
XOXO

PS: Reminder – please visit & pass on this site: www.WhyQuit.com. Thanks & be blessed!

Dry your eyes…

Why doth you cry,
For a heart that would not trust,
For promises to only try;
Or a love that never was?

~ Jamie Loh

A love poem from the Japanese…

One for the elusive, tender, memories of a once exquisite love.

***

From the beginning,
I knew meeting could only
End in parting, yet
I ignored the coming dawn,
And I gave myself to you.

~ Fujiwara no Teika

Extracted from Kenneth Rexroth book “Love Poems from the Japanese.”

***