Monday, July 24, 2017

The Art of Finding Confidence

confidence (n.)
a feeling of self-assurance arising from one's appreciation of one's own abilities or qualities.

When I was younger, I had a habit of walking with my head down. My eyes were always busy scanning the floor and the shuffling of my feet. When I grew taller as a child, I felt lanky and odd, always seemingly out of place. I never stood or sat up straight. In middle school, I'd brush my hair and wear it down the entire day. I wouldn't tie it back, nor clip it to the side. I kept bangs for a long time. "It shows less of my face," I'd say. 

I couldn't think of a time from my childhood where I ever felt beautiful.

When I entered high school, my perception of self worth slightly shifted. It's no longer only what is seen, but also what is countable. The strange, awkward transition from being un-confident, to trying to feel slightly decent about myself. Embarking on a path of figuring out who I was, and whether or not I liked it. So I relied more on things that hold certainty; numbers. Numbers on a scale, grades on a report card, likes and comments on a photograph. My self worth was defined in digits.

Maybe people who read this would laugh and think, What's she talking about? Of course she's confident, she's got a whole blog. Or something like There are pictures of her on her Instagram, if she really was so self-conscious she wouldn't share them in the first place. It's a strange paradox; being an introvert who writes her thoughts and shares it on the bloody Internet. Bloggers are typically stigmatized as being sociable, outgoing, carefree, and quite full of themselves.

But if there's one thing that I've struggled with my whole life, it's that; finding confidence.

My closest relatives will tell you how they always sigh in annoyance whenever I frown at a dress I'm trying on because I didn't think I looked good in it, even when they saw nothing wrong with it. They can tell you how I always utter my insecurities under my breath whenever we're shopping. My friends will tell you how indecisive I can get about the simplest choices. My mom will tell you how bad I can be at socializing and opening up to people.

Even though I (thankfully) came out of high school with eight times the confidence I had when I first walked into it, such "transformations" can only go so far.

Having a blog doesn't break down the mental shield I keep around myself, wrapping me like a shell. It doesn't silence my inner critic, doesn't instantly push all my deepest insecurities away. If anything, the pressures in my life as I grow up seem to enhance them.

I'm starting to think that perhaps I never have come out of that shell. A shell that has always made me self-conscious, uncertain, insecure, but also a shell I've always kept around me just to feel safe. I can write a hundred posts and I would still never crack it open.

But I know that we shouldn't spend the rest of our lives feeling inadequate. We shouldn't take on every opportunity, action or decision in life based on the thought that we're not good enough. I don't know if these words resonate with any of you, but if it does, I hope you can imagine a life without that imaginary shell. A life where you make peace with whatever you are, or however you look. A life where you break free.

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Learn to accept compliments. Over the course of my life, I've mastered the skill of deflecting compliments. Dodged them like bullets. I never knew how to react to them properly, because I could never wrap my head around them. Every nice thing anyone says, my mind would just warp it into: "They're just being nice" or "They probably just have low standards". It took a while for me to start saying "Thank you" instead of a "No I'm not!" To this day, I still have a habit of saying the latter.

Find people who make you feel good about yourself. Friendships aren't meant to drain you. It's a red flag when a group of people makes you feel like shrinking when you're around them. This doesn't mean you should find friends who shower you with compliments. Rather, find people who understand your feelings. Uplifting friendships; people who respect you, appreciate you, and are honest with you.

Learn how to become selfless. More often than not, insecurities stem from our fixations on ourselves. We overthink about our imperfections, we don't feel good enough, etc etc, all leading to a fractured self-esteem.

Try doing things for others. Fill your life with spending time with or helping people. Find passions, activities, things you can act upon. Have a heart for other people. Slowly, your life will revolve more around what you're doing, what you're investing in, and less around how you're feeling. And once you distance your mind from thinking about yourself so much, your insecurities will no longer feel so significant.

Don't be so hard on yourself. Being a perfectionist, my inner critic finds flaws everyday. I spend most of my days thinking that what I am is something that needs to be "fixed". But regardless of your imperfections, inside and outside, regardless of what you've done or could never do, you have to be brave and declare that you are enough.

In the words of Taylor Swift, "You are not your mistakes. You are not damaged goods or money from your failed explorations. You are a product of the lessons you've learned, and you are a person who survived a bunch of rainstorms and kept walking."

Sweater: H&M // Glasses: Karamata
It's not something you "find". Lastly, my verdict is that confidence is a tricky thing to find. It's something that you can grasp, but then one split second of comparing yourself to others will simply make it slip through your fingers. Knowing that, I realized that confidence isn't something you "find". Not in good looks, followers, or academic achievements. It's not "found". It's practiced.

Sometimes, it takes a little bit of faking it. You force yourself to put on that mask of being confident, and go out into the world and if you're lucky, that confidence seeps right into you. Other times, it's something you develop over time. Something that takes practice, trial and error, adjustments to settle into. Changing a whole mindset, whole habits where you constantly degrade yourself, is not an easy task. But regardless of what your mind tells you, regardless of who you are, regardless of who you've been, I urge you, friends, to at least

try.


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Many people have been sharing their "stories" or "tips" on how to become confident and whatnot, but I guessed that maybe people needed to hear it from someone other than a famous blogger with this glamorous amazing life, perfect bedroom, all smiles in front of a camera, telling you how she "achieved confidence".
Maybe some needed to hear it from something like this. Someone struggling, just the same.
So whether or not that be the case, I truly hope this helped you on your path.

See you around.







Thursday, July 20, 2017

BOOKS | Currently Reading

I've always loved to read, for as long as I can remember. But with enough tasks and distractions, it's astounding how I can completely neglect my books for months on end. However, upon taking a week off of social media, I started to re-connect with this bookworm inside of me. 

Since then, I've been catching up with several books kept on my bedside table, and started to continue my "book flow" (reading, finishing, buying more books, and repeat.) Re-incorporating reading into my daily activities is one of my best decisions. I'd forgotten how much I missed being lost in the pages of a good story. Listed below are the books that I'm currently in the middle of and still reading through to this day.

Indonesia, Etc. by Elizabeth Pisani
This is one of those books that's very complex to explain. Every time someone asks me what it's about, I end up talking a whole mouthful. That's because Indonesia, Etc. features Elizabeth Pisani's many, various, eventful experiences surrounding Indonesia. When she was working together with Indonesia's Minister of Health on issues surrounding HIV/AIDS more than a decade ago, she visited the country frequently, mostly spending her time lobbying or finishing up jobs in Jakarta (including being exposed to the prostitutes, drug users, and transgenders living in the capital city's slums.) For this book, she'd flown back to Indonesia; this time with her journalistic skills, determined to travel to its islands and experience every part of the country, immersing herself in the different cultures and norms found all across Indonesia. Seeing Indonesia through her eyes and through her writing is both relatable and revelating, so much so that it got me scribbling on some of its pages.

As an Indonesian, I have so much love for this book. It's so fascinating that through reading about her travels, I could learn so much more about the parts of this country that I'd never even heard of before.  When she talks about the social situation, or the little quirks Indonesia has, I would laugh and think "how true!" I also love how she entertains the readers by providing well-written summaries of Indonesia's history, government, and chaotic bureaucracy. Now, I'm still in the middle of the book because it becomes hard to keep up with some of the challenging vocabulary, and her chapters surrounding heavy politics, finances, or import-export policies. But through this book, I'm re-learning about my own country in a very interesting, unconventional way.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just For Teenagers
Believe it or not, this book was actually given to me by one of my favorite teachers on my 17th birthday. That's more than a year ago. It's been sitting in my room, untouched, for more than 365 days. How the hell have I been spending my life?

But when I finally picked it up and started, I read through probably 20 stories before stopping. The  diction and tone of the writing are very simple (probably because it's meant for teenagers), but I quite enjoy the short stories packed into this book, and it makes it easy and weightless to read. The stories are parted into different segments (like "love and relationships", "reaching your goals", or "liking yourself".) They're all written by different contributors, and each one gives a different lesson to learn. 

I think that's the important part of the book; that's also why I keep reading it despite its lack of details or climax. It simply inspires me. It's not the most ~*fascinating*~ book I've ever read but some of these stories managed to make me smile. Now, it's usually the book I read every morning during breakfast, and if not, I basically just read at least one story a day. It doesn't "change my life" but little by little, it helps me re-evaluate.

Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Library by Brittany Rubiano
As an avid fan of Beauty and the Beast and a loyal, inspired follower of Belle, purchasing this book was a biased move. But it's one I do not regret. I didn't know what to expect when I bought it, but the hard cover was not only pretty, but- alluring. It intrigued me so much that I ended up buying it, rather spontaneously.

It turns out that the book is this very adorably-illustrated curation of quotes and thoughts, all strewn together as if you're flipping through an actual literary journal that belongs to Belle herself. I loved the concept, even though I still haven't really delved into it yet. The words are presented in these very whimsical, pretty, animated layouts; giving you that storybook essence you can expect to find in any Disney children's book. Looking through it felt very lighthearted and entertaining, but still, I want to get the most out of this book. I've thought about doing so by looking up all the stories/books that are referred to (at the very start of this book.) I've always wanted to learn more about literary pieces from all over history anyway, so this book gave me a good start. So once I finish my two other books and get into this one, I'm determined to broaden my literary horizons by looking up the origins of these quotes one by one. Who knows? I might just become a Shakespeare know-it-all by the end of the book. I guess we'll see.


What are some books you've been reading lately? Are there any you'd recommend?
Leave your comments below, I'd love to hear what you have to say!

I'll write again soon.












Saturday, July 15, 2017

BALI | Motel Mexicola

We visited many places on our 7-day trip in Bali, but I gotta say, this place was one of the most vibrant and unique spots we got to experience.

Demographically speaking, Indonesia is a country with very little to no Mexican influence in its people. Unlike Americans who thrive on Taco Bell and embrace their many Mexican joints found at every corner, our country's overtaken by cultures and cuisines from our Asian counterparts instead. So when I saw that there was a restaurant in Bali called "Motel Mexicola", I knew it was totally worth a look. (Apparently not an actual motel, though.)



Walking in, I was impressed with the elaborate mix of patterns, portraits, and Mexican art decorating the colorful walls. You see crosses and flowers and grubby mirrors and framed quotes and paintings of people I assumed were famous (politicians, artists, musical icons in their day.) Unlike most of the hangout spots in Bali, I'd say the owners did not put a lot of thought into their interior designing. Nevertheless, it worked.

After a lousy security bag check, we entered and found ourselves in the face of this huge, cavernous centerpiece. We opted for a table upstairs, as the ground floor was filled with tourists chattering away at the bar.



The food in itself wasn't bad at all. Among a choice of tacos, tortillas, fritangas, and many other foods we mostly never even heard of, my friends ordered a couple glasses of mocktails, while on the table we had a plate of quesadillas and churros. It tasted great, but then again, I don't have many other experiences with Mexican cuisine to compare it to. Although I will admit those were the best churros of my entire life. They also served some Indonesian dishes or flavours, served with a Mexican twist, so I'll give them credit for that. The mocktails were fitting as well, perfect to freshen us up in a hot sunny Bali day.

As decorative and vibrant as the place felt, it looked a bit half-abandoned in the hours we'd visited (a few hours after noon.) I then learned that it was quite too early; Motel Mexicola is a "cool spot" in daylight, but it actually comes to life at nighttime, with their bar parties, more lights, music, and dancing. In retrospect, I would've totally bought an extra night in Bali just to be in that scene.

There were only a couple of things I did not enjoy about the place, though. 1) The very confusing layout where you enter and it's relatively dark, and you come upstairs (or walk a few steps down onto the outdoor area) and then it's so bright it's blinding. It was just confusing for me, but then again, I suppose it was a place meant for nighttime entertainment as opposed to afternoons. 2) The service was not enjoyable. It wasn't hard to sense how much they favored white tourists as opposed to- well, every other customer. They were fine with their jobs, but just not the friendliest staff (they even mocked our group for taking "too much photos"). Even if my friends did spend quite some time taking photos, it's still very low and unprofessional to call your customers out like that. So we did leave feeling slightly irritated by their attitude. But hey, if you're a foreign tourist, they're probably gonna pull a good face.

Is this how you pose? I have no idea.

So! (Why did this post become a little shady hahaha) That's all the impressions and commentaries I can give. More or less, it's a cool experience. For a look at the menu or basically any other info, they actually have an awesome website here. I'd simply recommend you to come in the evening or night time instead, if you ever find yourself in Bali's Seminyak region and are looking for a trendy spot to enjoy yourself in!

I'll write again soon.

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Long overdue? Perhaps.
But I'm still determined to share onto this blog every tiny bit of memory I have from Bali. 
Our trip was at the start of June, but there are still many I have yet to write about. So bear with me. 
In the mean time, catch up with me through these links below. Have a great weekend!

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Monday, July 10, 2017

I Quit Social Media For a Week


I finally did it.

Over the last few months, I started to notice how dependent I'd become towards social media. How it was the first thing I'd reach for in the morning, and the last thing I'd fiddle with at night. How I'd enjoy breakfast while scrolling through Tumblr, or spend hours on my bed, aimlessly going through Instagram. There's a lot of talk about how we're "getting addicted to social media", to which I'd usually answer, well yeah, but we can't just live without it.

Or can we?

The thought came like an epiphany. I began to think back and wonder what (or who) in this world ever suggested to me, and everyone out there, that we desperately need social media. Do we really? Is it really that crucial for us to have a social media presence, or to constantly be in touch with it day by day?

I decided to challenge the idea. I admitted that even though I don't obsessively spend every waking minute on social media, my relationship with it was borderline addiction. So finally, I made a commitment to go off all my social media sites for a whole week.

Why the sudden change?
  • Social media has the terrifying power to permanently reduce the brain's ability to focus on one thing for a long period of time. To make it simple: It shortens your attention span. I learned about this through this Ted talk by Dr. Cal Newport; one of the key reasons as to why I finally decided to quit. It made sense, because none of us spends 5 whole minutes looking at an Instagram photo. Our habit is to scroll at a quick pace. Stories give us a chance to look at three-second photos, but even then we still tend to tap through just to get to the next photo quicker. These apps are designed to be addictive and fast, and that's why we can't just let it go. Once I knew it was damaging, I fully wanted to sign off.
  • We live in a world where people are drawn to gadgets more than they're drawn to other people. How phones have intervened into real life situations among us, began to scare me. Cafe meet-ups turn to Instagram-worthy photo sessions. Hanging out with friends only involve a group of people enjoying each other's phones; together. Birthday surprises with one person holding the cake, one blowing out candles, and the rest of the group recording it on their phones is just not authentic. Is it really that necessary to record everything that's happening around us? If we don't post it online, does that mean it never really happened? I wanted to start living, not for the sake of likes or comments, but for the sake of being there.
  • If there's one system that contains every person's highlight reel, every peak of their lives, every good and special moments only, it's social media. It's not a secret that what we see isn't always real. Everyone will seem like they have better lives if you look at them through the eyes of Instagram. Comparison is toxic, and social media is one of the tools that make it much worse. At the end of the day, it's not healthy to think "I wish I looked like her" or "I wish my life was as good as theirs" every day for the rest of your life. 

When I mention to people that I'm quitting social media, they look at me like I just saved a child from a burning building. As I was announcing to everyone that I'll be off of social media for a week (so they can reach me through my phone number instead), multiple people were quite surprised. They messaged me and asked me for the reasons behind this "big decision".

Part of me found it hilarious (I mean, gosh, I'm just deleting my apps for 7 days, not getting married), but a part of me also found the reaction quite reasonable. It clearly defies the We Can't Live Without Social Media implication. By "detoxifying" myself from social media, I've committed to detaching myself from the endless, constant stream of information and communication that ties our society together. 

Well, hey, someone has to try, right?

For someone like me, who would post and share quite frequently, this social media detox was actually very much needed. Going into this, I thought that I'd totally regret it. Can I really do this? What's gonna happen while I'm away? What if I miss out on things? What was I supposed to do with myself?? Live??

And live I did.

The most common question I got asked was, "So how will you spend all that time?"

After deleting all my apps (Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Tumblr, Line, and Pinterest) on Sunday night, it felt bizarre to wake up on Monday morning and find my phone- well, empty. Because of this blog, I'd spent a lot of time on those many sites networking, and building ways to share links and self-promote. I'd always try to maintain a good presence throughout all of these sites solely for that reason. Now, with all of them gone, I felt like I needed to find another purpose; another way to fill the void of my days. Something that didn't require scrolling, tweeting, posting, commenting, or double tapping anything. 

Not gonna lie, I felt like a BuzzFeed experiment.

As I woke up and finished my morning devotionals (distraction-free this time), I stood up and headed for breakfast. Standing there, I realized my hands were empty. Usually, I'd already have my phone on hand, my eyes fixed on the many things I'd missed among the 7 or 8 hours I was off sleeping. With that out of the way, I opted for a book instead. A book that's been sitting on my table for far too long (accompanied by 2 to 3 other books). I then learned that starting the day with a book was ten times better than catching up on any latest news online.


So how did my week go?

Strangely, it was one of the best weeks of my whole summer. Social media is one of the main reasons I procrastinate so much. Without it, I instinctively became more productive. Other than that, it also gave me a lot of peace. I genuinely enjoyed how my days went. After being so hung up on social media all this time, finally granting myself that solitude felt like pure bliss.

As my sister was staying at my home, a week off of social media gave me the time and chance to spend a lot more time with her. I spent mornings and afternoons playing with my little nephew. We went out to the mall and not once did I get so hung up with my phone that it runs out of battery, like what usually happens if I go out. In short, it improved the quality of our quality time. 

When I get restless at night, instead of jumping into hours of scrolling through social media as an escape, I simply continued my book. When I still wasn't tired, I listened to podcasts and wrote notes about it in my journal. Just because I can. 

So last week, I went to a dinner gathering without documenting anything.
I celebrated both my sister's and my good friend's birthday and did it without holding down a Snapchat button; I'd learned to be present in social situations.
I finished my small book and am now reading two other books.
I started taking walks and running in the morning again.
I resumed my internship after summer break.
I dealt with moments of anxiety better than I ever had.
I finally got back to learning Dutch, this time while taking actual notes (8 filled pages and counting).
I finished digitally coloring a drawing that I'd started the week before.
I somehow managed to consistently practice my piano everyday.
I finally decluttered my bedside table (a small step towards decluttering my whole room).
And I'm having the time of my life, by making the most of it.

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This post will be published on a Monday; my first day back into social media. I'll probably need to catch up on some things, but this time, I won't let it overwhelm me, or take up too much of my time. I don't necessarily think social media is a problem (it's actually very useful and beneficial in our modern society), but I think it all comes down to how much we let it control our actions. I might even quit again soon, just because of how liberating it felt.

If you're thinking about doing this, I totally suggest that you try. 
It won't change your life to the point where everything becomes perfect overnight, but it could make you feel like a different person. And if you try, it'll give you room to discover and learn new things, and to pursue a life that you'll be proud of.

See you around.