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I have decided that anything that questions my sense of self-worth is a lie. A huge fucking lie brought to me by no other than that part of me that’s too afraid to move forward in life.

Over the last couple of weeks, I had been the recipient of too many thinly veiled insults I don’t care much for.

People said I was too fat for my age. They said they had a 24-inch waistline when they were my age, so perhaps I should have that too.

They said I ate too much, even though I had reduced my daily caloric intake to 1200 calories eating fruits, vegetables, proteins, and, yes, my favorite desserts every day after seeking help from a fitness and nutrition coach.

They said I exercised too little, even though the only reason I am sedentary is because I had life-changing eye surgery a couple of months ago and haven’t had the go-signal from my doctor to work out yet. They didn’t even bother congratulating me for the success of the surgery. They were more focused on the fact that my medication contributed to me gaining extra weight.

They mocked me for saying doing the laundry by hand is hard work, yet they said I was making life harder for myself because I didn’t get a washing machine.

They snickered at my partner for wanting to become a better English speaker and practicing English at home. For the life of me, I just don’t get why anybody would ridicule anyone who wants to learn a useful skill.

They criticized my muffins for not having puffed enough, my pinakbet for not having ginger, and my baked crispy pork belly for not being deep-fried—despite the clear and undeniable fact that my muffins, my pinakbet, and my crispy liempo all taste good, all achievements in themselves, especially considering the fact that I couldn’t even toast bread five years ago.

And while all of those things irritate me on the surface—because who doesn’t get annoyed when you’re living such a good life and people keep wanting to dampen your spirits when they could very simply join in on the fun?—the sting doesn’t really get any deeper than that.

Like the ant that gets slapped to death after it bites you or a mild itch that goes away after the first scratch, it’s not that big of a deal anymore. In the grand scheme of things, these irritants no longer matter as much as I used to think they did. I was simply used to making them matter so much that I thought they still did.

But I asked myself, “Why does this matter so much to you? What part of you is hurt? What do you need to feel better?” After not getting much of an answer, I realized it didn’t really matter that much to me. No part of me is hurt at being called fat, especially since I know I’m not. And I didn’t need much to feel better about my staggeringly improved even if imperfect cooking skills, except to see that I had been making a big deal out of nothing.

It’s not that people don’t keep pointing out whatever flaws they think they see in me. They are—perhaps not intentionally so but because it’s the only way they can cope with the mad, crazy world that’s just gotten madder and crazier in a snap. It’s just that whatever they think of me doesn’t have much of an effect on me anymore.

People like me, and perhaps people like you, depend so much on other people’s opinions of ourselves. We grew up craving for their approval, so we’ve tried so hard to paint a picture-perfect version of ourselves hoping nobody sees through the cracks in the picture. So when somebody does see even the slightest smudge, scratch, or nick in the glass, we feel hurt, as though they just exposed our biggest weaknesses instead of pointed out forgivable flaws.

Maybe because that’s our biggest weakness—relying so much on what others think and say about us to our faces and behind our backs that we end up covering up all the things about ourselves we think may be too awkward, too intense, too much for everybody else to approve of.

I write too much. I write about myself too much. I expose too much of the inner workings of my mind. And yet, that’s part of who I am. I was born writing, and I need to write more, write from the heart about my not-so-boring boring life, write even though I’m scared of other people’s opinions of what I wrte and how I write it.

And I explore my inner and outer worlds. I learn new things every day. One day, I’m learning how to make siopao. The next day, I’m working on a video about the ancient supreme being of the Tagalogs. The next day, I’m enrolling in a painting class with grade school children as my classmates. And the next day, I’m making crystal bracelets using red jasper, carnelian, and pyrite beads.

It’s not the most focused or specialized life. It’s not the kind of life that career advisers, Internet gurus who keep telling you to focus on just one thing, or even my mother approve of. But it’s the kind of life I approve of for myself. I may or I may not make changes, but if I do, those changes are going to be decided and made on my own terms.

And isn’t that what matters the most? That you approve of who you’re being and you live life on your own terms? Otherwise, if you let other people’s ideas of what you should be doing and how you should be doing it, in the process allowing them to dictate how you should be living your life and how you’re going to feel on your deathbed, you might as well head straight for the deathbed right away.

So to anyone who’s been calling me fat, weak, and not doing good enough, thank you but you can go away now. I have learned the lesson you have helped me learn. That is whatever makes me think or feel I’m not good enough is basically a huge, fat lie.

Because I am sexy, strong, and good enough. And I am more than good enough. I don’t need to live up to someone else’s standards because mine are high enough, thank you very much. I don’t need to do anything else or be anyone else. I only need to be just the way I am.

And I’m so good this way there’s no going back. And I’m even getting better every day just because. The crazy thing about everything is I’ve actually felt good about myself for quite a long time now, and anyone whose role it is to remind me of my past weakness has overstayed their welcome.

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