10 steps to believe you’re beautiful


How you perceive yourself has a much bigger effect on your day than you might think. Plus, it’s so easy to feel unpretty in the face of roadside billboards and the pages of glossy magazines (especially on bad hair days).

My hair is fine today, thanks, and this morning I want to share my personal battle with self-esteem. I still attempt to overcome it on a daily basis, and there’s a whole dark side to the story that I’ll be sharing next week. But for now, let me just run through what I do to pick myself back up again:


1. Read the Bible and know your worth.


I’m a believer, and a big part of how I finally said goodbye to self-sabotaging was Jesus. But just in case we’re walking on different faiths here, go ahead and move on to Step 2.


2. Define what’s beautiful for you.

Not for your ex, not for the beauty industry, not for the mean girls who never let you to sit with them.

It can be anything as abstract as the sheer sincerity that some people live their lives by to that cute fringy loafers you saw at the thrift store. Doesn’t matter if your frenemy said it was ugly, or the fact that Anna Wintour will never run it in print, or if after everything your crush said you’re “just not his type”  – what’s beautiful in your eyes is unique1It’s your own thing, not anybody else’s, so you should be treasuring that vision above everything else.


3. The mirror is a mirror is a mirror. 


Look into the mirror and see it for what it is: It’s an inanimate object where light bounces off to reveal the appearance of things. It doesn’t show judgment, criticism, or any other opinion that you get in your head – it’s just a medium that reflects light, and you are that light.

Appearances constantly change. But you see, you have two eyes, two ears, one nose, one mouth, and all the necessary limbs and muscles to make you move in all the ways that you can.

Why not be so amazed by them that you use them all to shine? A large population of the world don’t have them all. Consider yourself fortunate.


4. Change – and get comfortable with it.

Let’s face it – everyone has their bad days. The worst thing you can do about it is talking negatively about yourself, blaming how much of a fool you are, and feeling guilty for that last cupcake you just ate. All that these things will do is only exacerbating the pain, and if you continue to do so, it’ll eventually lead to hating yourself.

Now this is both the most powerful weapon you have in your beauty arsenal and also the hardest truth that most people prefer not to swallow: Everything you need to to feel beautiful is already within you. That thing that you need is a willingness to change.

If we’re still talking about appearances here, then it’s simple: If you’re not happy with how you look, then start doing something about it. Sweat much, eat produce, do yoga – whatever. All that time and energy spent on fat-talking can be used to make you feel good about yourself instead.

It takes time, it takes effort, but aren’t the shiniest diamonds born out of the roughest roughs? And aren’t the best cups of tea those that’s just steeping out of hot water?


5. Discover your flairs, your forte, yourself.

I’m not just talking about the things you’re inclined to or the things you kinda-sorta like about yourself – I’m talking about the things that which you excel at and the specific traits that leave people hanging with positive emotions. You can only find that with lots of experimentation, so be curious. Perhaps it’s your ability to truly listen to others and feel their joy and pain, making them feel they can trust you, and we all know trust is hard-earned. Perhaps it’s your diamond determination that makes you finally run a 4:00-minute mile because you simply, simply never give up, and then inspire others by all the hard training that you’ve done. Perhaps it’s your simple take on photography, and that you always seem to capture details that nobody else noticed.

Own that strength, and find ways to highlight that strength everyday.


6. Use affirmations.

I don’t mean the nebulous ones you hear all the time and feel like you’re only fooling yourself whenever you say it in front of the mirror. I mean this as a realistic way to give yourself a leg up during a nervous situation – like before taking an exam, or when you’re about to ask for a pay raise, or while you’re on the starting line of a running race.

Provided that you’ve done all your homework, telling yourself “I am going to nail this” and “I have everything I need to achieve” literally makes you chin up. Stand tall while you say it in your heart, and others will smell that confidence from miles away.

On a side note, I think every woman should learn Maya Angelou’s phenomenal poem by heart. This is true affirmation:


Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,   
The stride of my step,   
The curl of my lips.   
I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,   
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,   
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.   
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.   
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,   
And the flash of my teeth,   
The swing in my waist,   
And the joy in my feet.   
I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered   
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,   
They say they still can’t see.   
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,   
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.   
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.   
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,   
The bend of my hair,   
the palm of my hand,   
The need for my care.   
’Cause I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.


7. Accept compliments (even the cheesy ones).

You’ve affected someone positively in some way that he or she cannot explain. You might think you know why so you said nah, I’m not all that great as you’re making it out to be.

It’s called grace (see step 5), not a sum to discount or a loan you’re obliged to return.

Robert A. Heinlein once said that man is not a rational being, but a rationalizing one. In relationships, we humans can never truly reason our way into liking someone – we just do, though we can’t always tell why. So stop justifying others and get all apologetic about it – they hold a high opinion of you, and they want to show you that affection. Receive, smile, and say thanks.


8. Listen to James Blunt.

Or read Pablo Neruda. His words contain some Jedi-like force that can make any woman feel beautiful.


And when you appear
all the rivers sound
in my body, bells
shake the sky,
and a hymn fills the world.


9. Take selfies.

It may take more than 5 to finally get a decent one. But who cares? Nobody has to see them, if at all.

Just summon a smile (and force yourself if you have to) till you see yourself smiling your best. Just as how we feel influences how we act, the reverse is also true: How we act influences how we feel23.

It seems ridiculous to practice smiling in front of the camera, but remember there’s a whole industry that relying upon that skill. After all, a light deserves the best angles to expose itself.


9. Count your blessings, particularly the little ones.

IMG_7540 copy

Think of something you’re blessed with at this moment: There’s beauty in it you can’t deny. It can be the color of the dress you’re wearing. It can be the blooming flowers on the street. It can just be the two feet you’re walking with (see step 3), or the beautiful light in your friend’s eyes when she’s talking about her dog. For me, it’s the lines across my mother’s eyes when she laughs at my stories – the lines she complains about but I secretly enjoy watching because I don’t get to see it everyday.

You’re there to witness all that. These are all priceless moments we often overlook.

If you just see just how abundant you already are, you’ll realize that everything you are is enough, and everything you have is above and beyond. You will miss all that beauty when they’re gone.


10. Inspire others.


A light that shines so bright wasn’t born to shy away from the spotlight – it’s meant to radiate warmth and beauty on to everything it touches.

Don’t cease to exist just because what the pop culture thinks is beautiful is different from what you feel is beautiful.

Live your definition of beautiful (see step 2) and reach out to your circle with that beauty. The world doesn’t need another media outlet to tell them they’re not good enough yet and never going to be so – the world needs a positive change like you (see step 4).


P.S. Have you read Liu Wen’s VOGUE essay on the changing beauty ideals today?



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  1. An overused word, really, but doesn’t change the depth of its meaning. []
  2. Emotion-Specific Effects of Facial Expressions and Postures on Emotional Experience, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1989. []
  3. Keep Smiling: Enduring Effects of Facial Expressions and Postures on Emotional Experience and Memory, Cognition and Emotion, 2003 []
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Chill in 5 minutes or less



I’ve always done this ever since I was little. I would lose myself into the pages of Harry Potter for hours as I watch my inhales and exhales, witnessing how the story affects them from moment to moment. I guess it’s a way to remind myself that I’m still living in a muggle world. Otherwise, it soothes me to whiff the smell of fresh print and feel the grainy textures of paperback. I never knew until recently that this is considered meditation.

Like most folks, I’ve always had this notion that meditation is what only Buddhist monks, yogis, and new age hipsters do. Unless you’re still living in the cavemen era, you’ll realize there’s a mindfulness movement going on on a global scale. Everyone from Bill Gates, Hugh Jackman, Keanu Reeves, Gisele Bundchen, Hillary Clinton, Ariana Huffington to the hedge-funders of Wall Street practices meditation as part of their daily lives, not to mention how the body of research on the health and brain-boosting benefits of meditation just keeps growing – you fear less, stressed far less easilyhappier overall, focus better, become more resilient, can better tame the demons in your head, and best of all: You grow a thicker and bigger brain1.

Thing is, you don’t have to find a specific place of total quietness to start meditating. Heck, you might already be doing it without knowing it.

Meditation is simply a state of consciousness where you place your attention onto something. While you’re at it, you consciously shift from the immediate and random thoughts that arise, observe how they fleet, and come back to that something. This usually involves focusing on your breath – inhaling slowly, belly rise, exhaling even more slowly, belly falls. Don’t think about your muffin top – just breathe like you don’t exist and it’s just you, your breath, and your spirit.

Another way to meditate is just walking. It’s something I love to do everyday while I was living in SF. You just sync your footsteps with the rhythm of your breaths and, if it makes you feel better, take pleasure in visualizing yourself catwalking on a VS runway.

For me, the easiest way to meditate is to let yourself feel the brief tingles, gentle rubs, and other little sensations of things that are presently around you. It’s convenient because you can sense things anytime, anywhere, if only you truly attend yourself to the present moment. Even in the most humid forest your skin can feel where the tiniest winds is blowing, and buried in the sandiest beach you can still sense the cool air each time you lift your feet.

As a Christian, I know that that inner calm in me is actually the Holy Spirit2, so to me meditation isn’t about “emptying the mind”. In fact, it’s the opposite: You let things come as they are and learn to become compassionate about it. Out of surrendering and letting the spirit overflow you you become more open, more accepting, and less judgmental. Out of contemplating its presence as a lifestyle you just get better at keeping calm and carrying on, because you know there’s always someone who has your back.

But I digress. Back to the point: Meditation is really that simple, so simple that it’s almost unbelievable to see that it can transform well beyond your daily habits – it changes your very being.

To get into that Zen-like state right now, there are a few places to start:

  • Focus on your breath. Count it, watch it from afar, realize that it’s deep within you. Judgment comes, criticism comes, let them be. Observe them without your own judgment or criticism. Gently return to your breaths again and count. Keep on it for as long as thoughts arise – watch the thoughts in the air and always come back to your breath. Inhale … exhale. Distractions will always be around, but you don’t have to be consumed by them.
  • Walk steady, perhaps slower than usual; pace yourself and absorb your surroundings. Listen to the faint, clacking sound of your heels in the midst of the bustling city. You smell the onions of a Subway sandwich somewhere, you overhear someone’s getting a divorce near a cafe, you see a kid coming toward your direction that’s about to fall, and you’ll instinctively know how many footsteps it takes to hold the boy’s hand so he doesn’t fall. #truestory
  • While driving, turn off the radio/music player. If the road is clear, drive at a steady speed and at every turn, feel the engine pulling your body from side to side. If the road is congested, come back to your breathing and watch the surrounding cars, trucks, buses, and motorbikes passing each other by. Even if you get angry about it, you’re still stuck in that position. Accept the emotion inside, detach yourself from the voice that says it’s a wrong emotion, and realize that you don’t have to express that anger. Thoughts can only be things if you allow the substance of it to take shape.



  • While in the shower, breathe in and breathe out as you lather your featherlike soap against your skin. Exhale long and deeply under the warm rush of water. Feel it, get lost in it, let it run all over your body and soothe you.
  • While you’re about to eat, take a few deep belly breaths. Then eat. How fortunate you are to be able to eat such nice things. Savor every bite, let every taste you can sense titillate your buds, and swallow. A new Facebook notification pinged your phone, and all that taste from your food vanishes the instant you’re about to check your phone. Don’t. It’s most likely not the end of the world, and you’re having a serious foodgasm. Notice your default reflex to check your phone every time there’s a new notification, realize how easy it is now for things steal your attention like this, come back to the delightful taste of your food, and continue chewing its colorful textures.
  • Mantras. Recite them in your heart, repeat, match the syllables of the words with your strides. Keep running.



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  1. First evidence of the altered physical structure of brains: The 2006 data from esearchers at Yale, Harvard, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology []
  2. John 20:21-22 [AMP] []

There’s a new breakfast menu at CARNIVOR in Pantai Indah Kapuk


I tried some stuff from CARNIVOR’s new menu last Saturday. If you’re an early bird, you might want to try these breakfast items too.


Big thanks to Adriantomo for inviting us foodies :) It was a pleasure to meet even more foodies in the region to enjoy foodstuffs together. Without this gathering, I don’t think I’d be able to taste so many items from the new menu in one visit.

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