What does loving your body really mean? Malaysia’s short track speed skater, Anja Chong shares how she’s had her fair bit of ups and downs when it came to accepting herself and how she found the strength to go against her insecurities and stand where she is today.
“For someone like me, who has always struggled with being kind to myself, learning to love my body has been an ongoing journey. When people think about loving their body, they always look externally. Oh yes! Buying a cute top, having a great makeup day or even losing five kilograms helps. But being happy with your body externally is really only putting a band-aid on how you feel internally. You see, you can be the most beautiful person on the outside and yet still feel fat and self-conscious on the inside.
In my journey towards body-positivity, I went through long periods of hating my body. I went on extreme diets only to find myself putting the weight back on. I restricted myself, starved myself and eventually realised that looking better on the outside didn’t really change how I felt on the inside. In my journey towards being a SEA Games gold medalist, I realised that I had to put my vanity aside and focus on being an athlete inside. It means learning to love my big muscular thighs for the incredible power they gave me, instead of hating how easily I bulked or how ‘un-athletic’ and un-lean I looked. I turned my focus away from my displeasures towards how my body looked and focused on what amazing things my body was doing for me. I decided to turn my focus to what I could do and accomplish, and how I could give and add value.
Loving your body starts with the mind. It starts with understanding who you are and accepting that. It’s okay to not always love the way you look. Loving yourself also means learning to be kind to yourself. It means accepting that you aren’t perfect and you’re never going to be 100 per cent happy with how you look, but loving yourself anyways. Of all my time spent learning to love my body, and as an offshoot of that, learning to love myself, this is what I have learnt:
Out of the millions of things that I can be, or if I can create a lasting impact on others, none of those depend on my being pretty. Am I kind? Do I volunteer and give back to others? Do I find ways to nurture my intellect and what I put out into the world? Do I spend time with those that matter? Do I bring to joy to others? Will I have left this earth better than when I came into it? Use your body to facilitate you, not to hold you back. Use yourself and your difference in how you see, think, or feel, to move the world in a way that only you can.
In the grand scheme of things, does it matter if you’re pretty? Or does it matter more that you’re strong, intelligent, curious, kind, loving and confident. It matters more that you are happy, whole and driven, than if you have a little extra belly fat. And it’s okay to not always feel great, but I challenge you to steer your mind away from thinking about the parts that don’t matter.
Don’t dwell on your stretch marks, and instead focus your attention on more important, useful things. We cannot deny our difference or where we fall short, but we can choose not to give it too much time and space, and instead focus on what truly matters, and maybe even make ourselves feel better in the process.”